By Julia Dilworth, HotelsCombined.com
Calling all powder hounds! The winter ski and board season is in full swing and if you haven't already, it's time to get a move on booking that mountain getaway. But which flavor of slope will you choose? Are you more about the cosmopolitan mega-resort, or the terrifying and death-defying thrill? From world-famous celeb magnets to quirky and humble haunts, here is our list of the world's top spots for skiing and snowboarding escapes:
Vail, Colorado, U.S.: Tivoli Lodge
With more than 5,200 acres of skiable terrain, 147 trails, three terrain parks and a world-class village, Vail is the largest ski resort in the U.S. and a must for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. Vail is also home to the 2015 World Alpine Championships, Olympic Champion Lindsey Vonn and the Burton US Open Snowboard Championships.
A snowball's throw from all the world-class shops, restaurants and bustling après-ski spots, the Tivoli Lodge is the place to hang-up the old ski boots after a hard day's ride. Coincidentally, ski storage for lodge guests is complementary. The Golden Peak and Vista Bahn lifts are a three-minute walk from your door and the Rocky Mountain views and friendly staff keep visitors coming back year after year.
Cervinia, Italy: Principe Delle Nevi
The breathtaking landscape at Cervinia, located in the heart of the Italian Alps, secures it as a top ski and board spot. Where else can you ski with the world-famous Matterhorn as your backdrop and go between Italy and Switzerland on the same ticket? This picturesque location is where the Italian national ski teams train and is home to three snow parks and the longest run in the Matterhorn valley (Reine Blanche at 22 kilometers). Moonlight skiing is also an option for the romantic types.
When it comes to lodging, the luxury boutique hotel, Principe Delle Nevi, or "Prince of Snow," is your best bet. This ski-in/ski-out gem sits at one of the highest points in the village, guaranteeing panoramic views of the Matterhorn mountain range. To ensure guests get the full Italian experience, four-course gourmet meals are included with the price of the room -- there are two expert chefs in charge, specializing in homemade pastas, pastries and desserts. Pushing the experience over the edge is the gambit of spa facilities, including a Finnish sauna, two treatment rooms, a steam room, gym, heated indoor and outdoor pools and a Jacuzzi. This hotel doesn't aim to please; it aims to spoil.
St Anton, Austria: Hotel Montjola
World travelers flock from all over to experience the region's 340 kilometers of marked runs plus 200 kilometers of off-piste (a great spot for intermediate-to-advanced riders). Plus, there are more than 90 restaurants and over 20 bars to indulge in throughout the ski village, including the notorious Mooserwirt, dubbed "the mother of all après ski bars" by Playboy magazine.
When frequenting St. Anton, stay at the friendly family-run Hotel Montjola. This modern abode sits in a quiet wooded area overlooking town, yet it's a mere five-minute walk from the ski lifts and high street. Originally built in 1932, it has plenty of Austrian charm and its 2012 update has introduced contemporary comforts like big flat screen TVs and a signature outdoor hot tub (with one helluva view!). A sauna, steam room and massage/treatment room round out the hotel's facilities.
Whistler Blackcomb, Whistler, B.C., Canada: Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler
Whistler (a town of two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb) has everything a ski or board enthusiast could fancy. Two mountains are definitely better than one, and together they satiate the powder-hungry with a combined 8,171 acres of skiable terrain, receiving around 39 feet of snowfall on average.
Only a three-minute walk to the town's Upper Village stands the grand Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler, its timber and stone aesthetics lending it a wonderfully ski-chalet chic.
The Four Seasons' outdoor pool (with dual-mountain view) is heated year-round as is the pool deck. There are also three hot spring-style whirlpools perfectly suited for an after-slope Jacuzzi party. But the best part of all is that the hotel offers its very own ski concierge!
Niseko Japan: Niseko Northern Resort An'nupuri
Niseko is one of Japan's top five mountains and is routinely singled out as a favourite for its quality powder and off-piste terrain. Seasoned tour operators even recommend skiers and boarders take special precautions, such as longer snowboards and carving skis, because the snow will be deeper than anything previously experienced.
For accommodation, the Niseko Northern Resort An'nupuri offers close proximity to runs so you can ski in and ski out. The hotel also showcases one of the area's most unique highlights -- "onsen" -- which are natural hot springs. You will also find a restaurant and bar, sauna, spa facilities and a library, should the literary urge strike.
Åre, Sweden: Copperhill Mountain Lodge
Host of the 2007 Skiing World Cup, Åre has more than 100 runs and 70 kilometers of interlinked slopes with guaranteed snow from December to April.
For an unforgettable stay, check into the Copperhill Mountain Lodge. Designed by the same architect known for crafting Apple stores, the Copperhill doesn't disappoint with sleek, earth-toned suites atop Mount Förberget. You'll also find a swanky spa, indoor and outdoor hot springs, two saunas, a gym and two "top-shelf watering holes" in-house.
Heli-skiing (the helipad is located right outside the hotel) and cross-country are also options in Åre as are tours with mountain guides to uncover hidden gems throughout the backcountry.
Jasna Nizke Tatry, Slovakia: Hotel Grand Jasna
One of Europe's fastest up-and-coming resorts, Jasna is a hit with young skiers and boarders thanks to its budget-friendly appeal -- there are plenty of cheap places to eat and drink and a one-day pass goes for only $48 USD. Located in the Low Tatras, Jasna has the usual resort mix of runs for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers. There are also 12 freeride zones and two illuminated slopes to get in some night skiing.
At the Hotel Grand, you can walk, hop or stumble to the hill as it's parked directly at the base of a ski slope and cableway boarding station. This picturesque four-star property also provides all the necessary accoutrements, such as a bar, restaurant and wellness spa, and staying here is an unbelievable bargain. The hotel offers different ski packages for three, four and seven nights --including breakfast, dinner and a ski pass -- starting at $98 USD per night.