When the phrase ‘ski season’ is mentioned, what images or words come to mind? It might be the snow-lined mountains of Switzerland and France, or the gorgeous chalet you plan to stay in.
Or perhaps you get flashbacks to that disastrous trip down the mountain-side after a few hours après-ski.
Whether you remember the celebrities you spotted on the red trails, or how many Canada Goose gilets you counted in the bar, it’s likely that when you think of ski season, you think of Europe.
But is the continent still the best place to go skiing, or are there other worthier contenders out there?
We’ve compared Europe to three other skiing hotspots to see which one rules the roost.
Contender 1: Europe
It’s no surprise that Europe’s ski resorts are world-renowned. With resorts like Courchevel, Zermatt, Chamonix, St Anton, St. Moritz, and Zugspitze to choose from, it’s little wonder most Europeans stay here for the season.
Alongside this, the snow is perfect, food and accommodation are reasonably priced, and the travel is quick and cheap, not to mention environmentally-friendly if you can get there without flying.
But does Europe still beat all other contenders when it comes to skiing? Honestly, it really depends who you ask.
For some, a yearly ski trip is a reason to spend time with friends or family. It's less about skiing and more about making memories. Ski resorts are perfect for this, with big chalets for entertaining, eating and playing board games by the fire.
For others though, it's a prestige thing. Everyone knows Europe has the best slopes, so why bother visiting anywhere else?
Contender 2: Japan
If you’re getting a bit bored of the same old European slopes though, and you happen to be in Japan already, then Hokkaido might be the place for you.
This northern island is renowned for its snow and, with 117 ski resorts open to the public, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
The most popular resorts are Niseko, Rusutsu, Sahoro, Teine, and Kokusai - which are great for beginners.
A large number of these are reachable from the main city, Sapporo, via public transport.
A week-long snow festival is hosted in Sapporo every February with fun activities for both adults and children. In 2020 visitors to this festival surpassed 14 million, and organisers hope that 2022 will be even bigger - depending on COVID-19 restrictions.
And let's not forget the food. Hot bowls of ramen, Japanese curry, and gyoza are perfect for warming you up post-slope.
Time permitting, you can spend a few days in Tokyo or Osaka too.
So while there is no traditional après-ski, a large bowl of ramen followed by a dip in a traditional Onsen - a Japanese hot spring - makes an excellent substitute.
Price-wise, accommodation and food are the same as in Europe, while accommodation is typically a hotel rather than a chalet or apartment rental.
If you decide to stay in Sapporo, there are regular buses to and from the resorts, which are very cheap - though we recommend booking a stay at One Niseko. Its private Onsen is a joy, each room comes with its own kitchen, and you can ski right up to the hotel when you're done for the day.
The Niseko resort is one of the most highly-rated and isn’t accessible by public transport, so you would need to book a stay nearby.
Contender 3: The US and Canada
Meanwhile, if you live in America, resorts in Colorado and Canada do have après-ski, as well as great slopes. Like most things in America and Canada, when they do something, they do it big.
Après-ski is a huge part of their ski culture, so you can expect plenty of beer and lots of comfort food before you head down the slopes.
The people at the resorts are very friendly too, and you will often find yourself heading to a new acquaintance's accommodation to continue the party.
Skiing state-side really is an experience worth having, with Colorado offering more than just snow.
Cities like Denver and Toronto are ideal for two-day visits.
Contender 4: Argentina and New Zealand
If you live or work in the southern hemisphere, there are some great skiing options in July and August too.
Patagonia in Argentina is a favourite among professional snowboarders and skiers, with New Zealand following close behind.
Both have excellent steak and wine and offer more than just ski resorts.
So while Europe does have a long-standing reputation for hosting the best ski season, if you live in another part of the world, there are plenty of options for you too.