Top winter destination 2012: Mayrhofen

Mayrhofen in Austria makes a wonderful choice for your 2012 ski holiday as it has a perfect balance of traditional Austrian buildings and cuisine.

But venture out at night and you’ll find the liveliest après ski scene in the region, with an abundance of bars and clubs for you to enjoy yourself after a long day on the slopes.

If however, you are wishing to avoid the après ski hype, this versatile place is still perfect for you as the bars are present but not dominating and if a nice meal and a bottle of wine is more your thing this Tyrolean town is more than happy to oblige with the abundance of fine eateries in the town.

There are three main ski areas for you to explore including the Hintertux glacier which guarantees somewhere to ski all year round.

There are plenty of pistes perfect for beginners but also enough to satisfy the intermediates and for the experts among you what a treat; if you think you can handle it you can test your skills on the famous Harikri run which at a 78% gradient is the steepest piste in Austria and translates as ‘suicide’ in Japanese!

Mayrhofen has been the first choice for skiers and boarders for years due to the endless pistes, Austrian charm and in some bars in the high street you can buy a pint for €2 but there is also plenty to do for non-skiers as well. Think horse drawn sleigh rides, tobogganing, ice skating and there are plenty spa facilities, for those who fancy a bit of pampering.

No matter what your age, the charming Austrian resort of Mayrhofen has something offer for everyone and will make the perfect choice for your 2012 ski holiday.

Article by Lauren Probert

Top 5 Must Visit Ski Destinations for 2012

With Christmas just around the corner, now is the ideal time to book your ski break for early 2012 so here are some of our top ski destinations for the New Year for you to enjoy some time on the slopes and  après ski!

Mayrhofen, Austria

The beautiful resort of Mayrhofen is one of the most popular resorts in Europe and it’s not hard to see why! With plenty to do for skiers and non-skiers alike, the resort has slopes for beginners, intermediates and experts alike as well as excellent ski schools for you to brush up on your skills. It’s also renowned for its nightlife with bars, restaurants and live music every night.

Meribel, France

Trendy yet traditional, Meribel is a purpose built French resort full of charming chalets with slopes to suit skiers of all abilities. It’s ideal for families with plenty of activities for the kids and a number of slopes adapted to make them safer for younger skiers.

Arinsal, Andorra

Andorra is one of the smallest countries in Europe and is set in the heart of the Pyrenees. It’s an ideal location for beginners due to its gentler slopes and excellent ski schools, and if its après ski you’re after the resort gets very lively of a night time.

Nevis Range, Scotland

If money’s tight, stick to the UK! Scotland is a great place for a ski break and the Nevis range is home to Britain’s only mountain gondola. There are 24 runs in total with ski and snowboard lessons available for skiers of all abilities and ages.

Aspen, USA

Famous for its slopes for decades, if you’re heading across the pond for your ski break Aspen in Colorado is a must visit. Popular with the rich and famous (many celebrities have holiday homes here), the resort has varied slopes to suit all abilities and is rich in history and character. There are 4 peaks, with plenty of trails so that you never have to do the same run twice.

At NetVoucherCodes.co.uk we have plenty of offers and deals to help you with the cost of booking your ski break, including Thomson discount codes so you can get the holiday you want this winter for less!

Switzerland: Higher, sunnier, and snowier

Ski closer to the sun. 

The sun meets the Alps in Switzerland. It’s home of the highest and most snow-sure pistes in Europe, with many above 2,000 and even 3,000 metres, magnificently ringed by Switzerland’s signature 4,000 metre peaks (52 of them, at last count). When it comes to skiing, boarding, sledging and all things snowing, grab your sunnies and head for the hills.

Meet you on the sun terrace – 450 of them.
Yes, we counted them. With nearly 500 picture-perfect sun terraces at our world-famous mountain
restaurants and huts located right on the piste, they make the perfect place to relax and enjoy the view. Check out the high-mountain outdoor hot tub at Davos’ Jatzhütte 2530m, slide down the 3km toboggan run after lunch outside at Berghotel Hahnenmoospass in Adelboden, or raise a glass of crisp white wine beneath the Matterhorn at Chez Vrony. Whichever terrace you choose, you can bank on high quality and top service. So rise up, lie back and think of Switzerland.

Franc-ly, we understand. And we’re doing something about it.
Apart from telling you that a Swiss holiday always represents top value for money (which it does) we are also delighted to announce that Swiss destinations are offering special franc-fighting offers to attract and retain their loyal guests. For example: in St. Moritz, 30% savings are to be made when booking for selected weeks outside the main holiday season. During Engelberg Ladies’ Week from 14–21 January, women who make reservations for four or more nights get a free lift pass. In Leukerbad, get a free lift pass on many dates in December, January and March. In Davos it’s ski for free until December 23. There are many deals from UK tour operators: Inghams and Crystal offer 2-1 on Swiss lift passes (as long as stock lasts). And from Crystal, 7 nights at Chalet Annie in Zermatt catered chalet board departs January 22 from LGW for £585pp online or 7 nights at Central Hotel Wolter in Grindelwald on HB basis departs March 17 from LGW is just £537pp online. Swiss International Air Lines is the skiers airline of choice as they will transport your first set of skis/snowboard and boots free of charge. Once on the ground, children under the age of 16
travel for free when accompanied by a full paying adult on the Swiss Family Card by the Swiss Travel System.

Come for the mountains, stay for the cities.
In such a small and tidy country, it’s easy to combine a city break with a ski holiday. Choose from a wide range of hotels — atmospheric, rustic, pampering, or classic luxury from “Typically Swiss Hotels”, “Swiss Historic Hotels”, “Design & Lifestyle hotels” and “Swiss Deluxe Hotels”. In November and December, tradition comes alive at Christmas markets in Zurich, Lucerne, Bern, Montreux and Basel. Schuss meets ho-ho-ho. www.MySwitzerland.com/winter

Why Swedish Lapland is not just for Christmas

After a December that was the coldest in Europe for 100 years – many of us dream of heading south to the warmth.

Some adventurous Britons, however, have moved in the opposite direction, setting up home in Swedish Lapland in a string of remote communities straddling the Arctic Circle.

The area (Lapland comprises the northernmost parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland and part of Russia) is sometimes described as Europe’s last wilderness, and it is certainly cold; this winter, the first snow fell in the first week of October. Temperatures can plunge to minus 30C, and snow covers the ground until at least April.

Patricia Cowern traded the West Midlands for the village of Porjus (population 400) after visiting the area in 1995 with her son, Toby, who was on an outdoor survival course.

“The space, quiet and proximity to nature just overwhelmed me,” says Patricia, a photographer who runs a gallery (pictures of the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, are her speciality) and rents out four self-catering flats in the village.

Toby, 31, also decided to move permanently to Porjus, and now makes a living as a tour guide, taking visitors on snowmobile and dog-sledding trips. In the short Lapland summer, he offers canoeing and hiking, and helps out as a part-time fireman. His two daughters, aged six and nine, go to the village school and speak perfect Swedish.

“Lapland gives the girls freedom to be children,” says Patricia, of her grandchildren. “The village is simple, but it’s safe. Weather permitting, they are out on their bikes all the time, and only come home when they are hungry. In the winter, they love to ski. You could call it a rather old-fashioned kind of life.”

But Patricia has advice about putting down roots in Lapland: “First, you can’t live here and not like the outdoors.  Secondly, you need to be resourceful and make your own job.” Meanwhile, brown bears, lynx, elk and the ubiquitous reindeer roam the hills and forests. In the warmer months, fields are full of flowers, and huge mushrooms and tiny wild strawberries abound.

David and Kerstin Carpenter, both from Essex, have helped a number of British expats set up home in and around Jokkmokk. With 3,000 people, it is the capital of a municipality of less than 6,000 permanent residents spread over an area larger than Northern Ireland.

Jokkmokk is well known for its Sami (indigenous Lapp) crafts fair, which has taken place every February for 400 years. The fair features reindeer racing and traditional singing. A wide selection of pelts and furs are on sale.

Homes in Lapland are traditionally painted red with white trimmings around the door and windows. “The vast majority of houses are made of wood,” says David. “They are not just timber-framed, they are made entirely of wood.”

Wooden houses can last for decades in the predominantly dry climate. Homes have large grounds, often with saunas.

Snow on the roofs might be picturesque, but it can be a problem because of the weight. “In the early spring, snow begins to melt in the day,” says David. “Then it freezes overnight. As a result, it turns to ice and of course becomes heavier and heavier if not removed.”

Transport problems experienced in Britain after a light coating of snow are unthinkable. Ploughs clear main roads as soon as snow falls, and locals use tractors to clear minor roads and tracks. And what about airports shut down because of wintry weather? “I’ve never heard that Lulea airport [115 miles from Jokkmokk on the coast] has had to close in the winter for any reason other than fog,” says Patricia.

While depopulation is a problem in Sweden’s far north, communities are becoming multicultural. There are up to 30 different nationalities in Jokkmokk town, which has about a dozen British residents. Patricia estimates that there are now 14 different nationalities in Porjus. German, British and Dutch incomers are the biggest national groups.

“In the long term, these communities are declining,” says David. “For every 200 people who move in, from southern Sweden and abroad, we lose 225 as the older generation dies, and young people move out to a University or job in the south of Sweden”.

In an effort to reverse the trend, the local council, a regional bank and Vattenfall, the nationally owned power company, have set up Emigrate2Jokkmokk to attract new residents, particularly young families, and offer help when they arrive.

David administers the programme: “We have a lot to offer here: lakes with water fresh enough to drink, wonderful fishing in all seasons, and peace and quiet. Prices for many things are similar to the UK.”

But some things you can’t easily buy in Britain, cold winter or not. In Swedish Lapland, for as little as £500, you can be the proud owner of a second-hand snowmobile.