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Special ski holiday for grown up family

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi there. Am based in UK and I'm looking for ideas for a special ski holiday to celebrate retirement and take our grown up lads (in their 20's) with us. Perhaps something involving 10 days in all with 6 days skiing and 4 days of other activities/sight seeing. Have been looking at Canada/USA but not really found enough information and have uncovered some issues which raise doubts. Here are my precise questions but feel free to reply with any ideas at all - needn't be North America.

1. Is the Canadian/USA experience worth the extra cost and travel time over European destinations? (we have been to several french resorts)
2. Family like ski-in/out which allows easy return to base for a short break or to pick up that forgotten piece of gear. Big Canadian resorts seem to bus you in - am I right and if so are there any exceptions. Buses seem to have limited timetables and are not short journeys (5-15 mins)
3. Failed to find affordable activities for non-skiing days - any ideas? I know its nowhere near the ski resorts but can you tag a trip to Niagara falls onto the start or end of the holiday for example?
4. What are the prices of drinks? - want to be able to enjoy ourselves!
5. Lift pass prices? Are they more than Europe?
6. Is the length of season greater than Europe making later holidays possible without the dreaded slush?

Appreciate your thoughts

TIA

Wallport
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Welcome to snowHeads @wallport snowHead

1. It depends. There are advantages and disadvantages. Personally I prefer n american resorts because everything in the ski area is avalanche controlled, meaning I can ski a wide range of terrain (glades, chutes, pillows, bowls) safely without the need of a guide or equipment. If you are solely interested in piste skiing its not really any advantage. Other advantages are: more snow, organised queuing, better customer service. Some say n american resorts are less busy - but it depends on resort choice and dates.

2. Whistler requires no bus if you stay in the village. For lake Louise and sunshine most stay in Banff which is considerably more than 15mins. Not sure about Fernie. Some of the interior bc resorts have short shuttles, but they are a little smaller and less developed (although have some fantastic skiing).

3. Niagara falls are a bit out the way. Would be possible to do it with flights but may cost more. Most places have other activities but a bit hard to offer advice as would be location specific. I would probably look to do 6 days skiing in one location and then 4 days in a city e.g. fly into Denver and do all the skiing, then fly to new York and do a couple of days there then fly home. Often possible to get these kind of stopover flights for no extra cost.

4. Again, it depends where you go.

5. Yes, more than Europe. Usually best value is through a pass (epic, max, or mountain collective). Earlier you book the cheaper.

6. Depends on resort and can never be certain what the weather will do! There are places open late e.g. araphoe basin doesn't close till June.

Personally I think whistler is a good choice for a first trip and can be coupled with a few days in Vancouver. If your strong skiers Jackson hole with a day trip to Yellowstone, and then a few days in nyc on the way home is worth a look. Or Japan - 6 days skiing in the north followed by a few days in Tokyo. Lots of options!
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What dates are you looking at? There's plenty of choice in Europe. Sightseeing suggestions - The Aiguille du Midi cable car in Chamonix (highest in Europe, stunning mountain/glacier scenery, but you need good weather and warm clothes), Salzburg (specially if you like everything Mozart...), Vienna, Annecy, Innsbruck, Briancon.

If you choose a date outside the relevant school holidays (say mid March if in France) you could afford to leave the choice of resort fairly late and see how the snow is falling. It's not always better in the US......

If going to N America I'd not bother with Niagara (I did once drive through, but it was 2 am and I didn't see the Falls, or regret them - Victoria Falls much better). Would prefer to continue to "do" the mountains, but perhaps activities other than skiing. Or stop over somewhere like Vancouver or New York. Or Boston. If you've not been to the States one of the cities would provide a really different environment.
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Hmmm...
1. Depends on the snow. Booking a long haul flight means you have to do it months in advance and when it comes to it the conditions could be dire. That's what has happened to us going to North America.
Have you thought about a trip to Japan?
2. Whistler ticks the box if you want North American ski in/out..it rained when we were there the second time. Have you thought about a trip to Japan?
3. A. No idea. Am complete ski addict. Why not ski? Unless, of course, you are in Japan...
3. B. have you thought about a trip to Japan?
4/5. Beers! Poss cheaper in NA, Lift passes definitely cheaper in France. but....have you thought about a trip to Japan? Lift passes seem ridiculously cheap.
6. No idea..but.. have you thought about a trip to Japan?

Seriously...take a look at Japan. Skiing is fab, and there's no need to go to Hokkaido. Take a look at Hakuba and base yourself in Happo One where the cost of skiing is about £25 per day and add in the touristy stuff by spending 3-4 nights in Tokyo.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
1. Never skiied in Europe but US and Canada is great - particularly when comparing against lowly NZ and Australia.
2. Whistler, Silver Star, Sun Peaks, Big White and Fernie have on hill accomodation. Others are shuttle bus and are not a problem.
3. Vancouver is a nice side trip to Whistler. The other areas have fantastic scenery and landscape close by - not much in the way of 'cities'. The US has a more diverse landscape and more iconic cities close to the ski areas.
4. Drinks are reasonable and there is a great range of quality beers.
5. Lift tickets definitely more expensive but there is no need for guides. There are deals to be had.
6. Most mountains are north facing and some are know to preserve snow well into April, May and even June. Stand outs for spring skiing are Whistler (mid mountain up), Lake Louise and Sunshine near Banff, Mt Bachelor in Oregon, Mammoth in California, Snowbird in Utah, Copper and A Basin and Telluride and Crested Butte in Colorado. Most Canada hills are not particularly elevated so are not ideal.
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Quick answers:

1. Yes.
2. Plenty of exceptions
3. Take an indirect flight and stop over in your gateway city - Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, NY, etc
4. Cheaper, much better and much more choice of beer than in Europe
5. More expensive but no-one pays the full advertised price
6. Depends
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If this is sort of a once in a lifetime trip, and money is not a particular object: I would go to Whistler/Blackcomb. If you are bound and determined to do some sightseeing, how about Seattle/Vancouver? Or, flying to San Francisco first or afterward?

I haven't priced a US trip from the UK, but I'm pretty sure it will cost much more than the Alps (airfare alone, never mind lift prices and accommodations), and you will lose 2 full days in transit, plus there's the jet lag issue (also case with Japan)

If you are wanting the most value from the UK, I would choose Europe. I like the idea of Salzburg or Innsbruck -- have been to both and easy to pass a few days in each.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
The slightly longer answer is that NA skiing is in many ways a different experience from Europe. I love it; some hate it.

The big positives are typically:

- Much higher annual snowfall in low humidity at low temperatures means that statistically you have a much greater chance of extraordinary powder

- Higher average sunshine means bluebird powder days are more common

- In-bounds off-piste means powder, glades, steeps, chutes, gullies, rocks and jumps are common challenges on black runs with no need for a guide

- A less aggressive approach to grooming means that huge moguls are abundant

- Lower footfall means crowded runs and queues are rare except at weekends in most resorts

- Accommodation is typically of a very high quality with vast rooms and outdoor swimming pools

- A microbrewery culture means that the beer is probably the best in the world
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The downsides are that if you want to stay on the groomed runs, youíll find most resorts quite limiting. You never get to enjoy the experience of travelling from village to village, and youíll struggle to find decent on-mountain food. The lifts close early and the tickets are more expensive. Itís a long way, jet lag can be a nuisance and you may get unlucky with the weather despite the statistics.
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and maybe you don't like moguls..... Twisted Evil

Having read the last few posts I think the idea of Japan is great - perfect for the purpose. Somewhere really different.
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Iím doing a similar thing for my 50th. The kids are son and his gf mid 20ís and mrs Endo coming for first time skiing.

We are going to whistler stopping literally on the piste. Kids lived there for 2 years which influences us.

Would fancy Japan but maybe not for a first timer?
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
To be fair, @pam w, no-one has to ski moguls in Most North American resorts: thereís always a mogul-free alternative, either on a different run or a groomed path to the side of the bump run. But moguls are almost always there for the taking if you want them instead of being hidden away in a couple of itineraries like you often see in Europe.

But, as I said before, why travel so far if you want to carve turns on the corduroy? You can do that just as well in a small uncrowded European resort for half the price with better food (albeit worse beer).
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IME for trips like this the accommodation is more than half the recipe for success. If you can find a big apartment on (or within boot-walking distance) of a lift, everyone will be much happier and in a mood to celebrate. Doesn't really matter where it is.
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I was going to recommend Japan but @Perty's said it all.

Proper memorable experience stuff!
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Quite a few microbreweries in Europe these days.

Eric at the Belvedere above Champoluc even gets one brewed to his own specs.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Jonny Jones wrote:


- Higher average sunshine means bluebird powder days are more common


Honestly never heard that before - and often heard the opposite (hard to both have more storms and more sun, especially when the periods the Alps don't get snow are usually due to blocking high pressure and weeks of wall-to-wall sun). Not saying you're wrong, but do you have any data on that?
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Many thanks for all the replies - very helpful and do keep them coming.

Am looking at Japan but difficult to get quick pricing as no-one seems to do package ski hols to Japan with online pricing.

We have tended to go half board in Europe as cost of eating out is high but many places don't seem to offer this in US/Canada/Japan? Is this right?

The pricing I have done for Whistler at end Feb is high but as a one off experience could be afforded - the difficulty is working out if it will be special enough to justify.
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@wallport, Someone on here used to big up "Big White" resort in Canada. (see what I did there wink ).

Family oriented place. Appears to be all ski in/out. Fly via Vancouver. A few videos on youtube.

Check out www.bigwhite.com

Also have a look at Canadian Affair if you want to mix things up.
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I too like the Okanagan resorts of Sun Peaks, Silver Star and Big White.

Alberta is sunny, so lake louise and sunshine are quite sunny resorts. The rest less so.

How about Whistler and the island for a few days?
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@wallport, I'm off to Whistler for the first time this year. Many prices (passes, much accommodation, some rentals, etc) rise on 15 November, so don't hang about too long. Take a look at American Ski Classics who often have some really good deals.

Although I'm yet to get there, I hear that Whistler has some significant drawbacks compared with some other NA resorts: being coastal, the powder is likely to be heavier then inland, and it can get really busy in peak season. We're going in April so the crowds won't matter, and I'm keen to see for myself whether it lives up to the hype.

In late February, if your family are aggressive skiers (surely all lads in their 20s are aggressive skiers?), you might want to look at Jackson Hole which has the reputation of being possibly the best resort on the planet for challenging in-resort slopes and will give the lads an opportunity to take on the infamous Corbet's Couoir. Jackson would also give you the chance to visit Yellowstone for a day's snowmobiling mid-trip. There are no direct flights to Jackson from the UK, so your connecting flight would give you a chance to take a day or two as a city break somewhere in New York or possibly LA. I wouldn't do Jackson as a late season trip, though, as almost all the slopes face south. I'm a multiple repeat customer of Jackson Hole, so can probably give you some hints if it interests you.
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clarky999 wrote:
Jonny Jones wrote:


- Higher average sunshine means bluebird powder days are more common


Honestly never heard that before - and often heard the opposite (hard to both have more storms and more sun, especially when the periods the Alps don't get snow are usually due to blocking high pressure and weeks of wall-to-wall sun). Not saying you're wrong, but do you have any data on that?

I've seen data on it before but can't lay my hands on it now.

It obviously depends exactly where in the Alps and where in North America.

The sweet spot for skiing across the pond is the eastern Rockies in a line from Alberta down to Colorado. It's so far from the sea that it takes a really big storm to make an impact, but the mountains are so high that when a storm arrives, it tends to dump massive amounts of snow. So the weather typical pattern is a massive dump of snow (1-2 meters in 24 hours) followed by a week or more of blue skies with the usual light overnight dusting of a couple of inches as the temperature drops. In February it tends to be colder than the Alps, too, so the snow will almost always fall below the all-important -8C cut-off where snowflakes form, giving extraordinary light powder that I've personally very, rarely encountered in the Alps.

The air is then so dry and cold that the high powder bowls never really suffer a freeze-thaw cycle. Skier traffic tends to be quite light, so the powder generally just gets rearranged until the cycle repeats itself. It makes no difference on the groomers, of course, but the ungroomed runs can be utterly blissful.

I understand that anecdote isn't the same as data, but my skiing has been split 50/50 between the Alps and North America (I love both!). Across the course of a holiday, the best snow that I've had ion the Alps has been worse than the worst snow that I've had in North America. And I've skied powder in the sunshine far more often in NA than in Europe.
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Whistler doesn't do "chalet" hols there used to be a couple of UK based firms that did it but i have not looked for 10 yrs or so. Hotels have restaurants you decide eat in or eat out you would need to book. Apartments with access to hot tubs and pools full kitchens and laundry you can order groceries before you go. Some places do a complimentary breakfast some don't some hotels in Whistler have rooms with a kitchen or you can rent 3-7 bedroom house with hot tub a couple of kitchens and games rooms and media rooms.
We tend to do the smaller resorts in BC and a few days in Whistler.
There a snow mobile tours 2-4-6 hours, dog sledging, ice hockey, trips to see ice hockey, Whistler you can go down the bob sledging track. If you go to the Okanagan resorts you can go in wine tasting tours. Sun Peaks has a week long wine festival in January, with tasting and meals classes and all sorts. The progressive wine tasting on the Saturday is .. uhmm interesting. You are give a start point on your ticket and when you turn up you get a glass and a map and a list of wines you could try and 3 hrs to walk around. Wine masters dinners 7 course and 16 wines .......Chocolate and wines cheese and wines, fruit wines there was even a class on coffee last year.
Whistler there is a walking tour of the village restaurants, with or with out wine.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Jackson Hole would be pretty special I think.

I was fortunate enough to have a month's gardening leave a few years back in November, the sole constraint being that I had to be in San Francisco for training when I started the new gig.

My mother toured the states for ~8 years in the 50s hitting most states and when asked what should I visit, given I had one week I could allocate, and she said that Hawaii was probably too far so Wyoming and the Tetons.

Which was absolutely the best plan as I arrived just after a monster storm and just pre-season and managed to blag myself some touring skis and had two exceptional powder days.

When I asked my guide how often they got snow like it, she looked at me puzzled and said, "uh, most days?"

Can't say what it's like when it's open but Jackson is beautiful and still a blast when it's closed wink I must go back.
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@clarky999, I think you are leaving out the "powder" part of the equation when you are referring to blocking highs that last for several weeks. Bluebird, yes, but after just a day or 2 most of the powder is gone.
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@wallport, we have done both package and DIY to Japan - it's not that difficult in fact. The first time we did use an agent - japanskiexperience. The most expensive bit is the flight, but if you go to Hakuba it's one flight to Tokyo only, then a transfer to the resort which you can book as a shared taxi. Takes about 4 hours. We went there as my stepson worked his first ever season as an instructor in an English speaking ski school in Happo One (the main resort).

Accommodation is good value, food even more so. Eating out is definitely NOT expensive (even allowing to the current lower exchange rate), it's also part of the whole experience. The first time we went, the plan was to spend 3 nights in another resort, Myoko, but there was so much snow we couldn't make it!! I'd love to go to Nozawa Olsen. There are no snow cannons in Japanese resorts...they don't need them!
The return flights tend to be in the morning, so you have to spend at least one night in Tokyo before heading home. Best way is to get a bullet train from Nagano, which is an easy hours shared bus from Hakuba and the hub for links to other ski areas.
Though English is not widely spoken, in places like Hakuba they are geared up for English speakers as lots of aussies go there, and the websites have English pages.
Skiing in Japan is a different, sometimes quirky, but wonderful experience. The resorts around Hakuba Happo One aren't pretty (bizarre clash of architecture and a bit shabby) and the lifts can be a little clunky, but the snow is amazing and the overall experience is fantastic . I think there is some more investment going in now as they tap into the overseas market a bit more. Best skiing ever in the powder between the trees at Hakuba Cortina -30 mins up the road-ave annual snowfall 13m as opposed to the "measly" 11m at Happo.
For a fully Japanese experience, you would want to book a hotel or guest house with traditional rooms and its own onsen.
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@Jonny Jones, thanks that makes sense - for some reason I had it in my head we were talking about BC rather than all of of NA.

mr. mike wrote:
@clarky999, I think you are leaving out the "powder" part of the equation when you are referring to blocking highs that last for several weeks. Bluebird, yes, but after just a day or 2 most of the powder is gone.


Deliberately wink I only wanted to ask about the amount of sunshine side
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
wallport wrote:


Am looking at Japan but difficult to get quick pricing as no-one seems to do package ski hols to Japan with online pricing...


I'd be surprised if you could, given the tiny market for it, maybe try an ANZ site. Give Ski Safari a call, https://www.skisafari.com/japan . I've used them to go a lot closer to home and been happy to use them again. Talking to their Japan people may well turn out to be quicker and more informative than trawling the internet.
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If you were thinking of doing Whistler, Iíd definitely consider doing a few days in Vancouver too, great city. Or, go to Vancouver island and head over to Torino or Ucluelet, though the later in the season you leave it the better I suspect, can be pretty wild there in the winter. Oh and if you wanted to see a big waterfall, Shannon Falls just outside Squamish are pretty big.

The coast mountains are more spectacular than the Okanagan range too, depending on how much you like nice views. The resorts mentioned like Big White and Silver Star are all very good mind.
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There are two or three good trip reports on Banff/Louise - I wrote one and there were one or two other good ones too. I actually really liked the bus.

Can't say I'd recommend Calgary for a four day trip though, but perhaps gryphea would expand on it?
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This talk about North America gives me an excuse to (again) post a link to my favourite skiing video featuring an awesome soundtrack of a Pink Floyd remix by Pretty Lights:


Tiny Jackson Hole from Tristan Greszko
https://vimeo.com/channels/tiltshiftstuff/21864555
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@wallport, Whistler & Vancouver fits the bill.
1. Yes huge place loads to ski yet all hers back to a single centre (will 3 sub centres but we have always stayed in the village so easy to go up either mountain. They have the peak-peak chair to so you can switch mountains much easier.
Been going for 10years and never had an issue with skiable snow. Yes it can be better or worse but always plenty to ski on.
2. There is ski-in/out but we have never used it. Village is fully pedestrianised and leaving the skis at the end of the lifts is easy way to enjoy the acres etc.
3. Vancouver has loads of cheap/free things to do. Whistler has great walking later in the season, as they keep the valley trail snow free.
4. Depends where you go. Longhorn in the central plaza is going to be expensive but then you only have to walk 5 mins for much better prices. We stay down at the Delta which is a easy 10min stroll and there are loads of pubs down that end of town, or sensible price food/drinks combos. The hotel has a kitchen in the room so we do breakfast in the room and then eat out the rest of the time. Prices for cheap to crazy.
5. Bloddy Vail have bought WB so last min stroll up prices are going to be daft. However if you get in early they are not that bad. As mentioned above you have missed the best prices (Aug) but there is a price hike due Nov 15th so need to get wiggle on if you are going. Can do it diy use Aluradirect.com for a place and lift tickets. We find a package is difficult to beat and so much easier.
Also it there is the option to not ski at a weekend in your timings that will be much quieter. Loads of locals drive up at weekends. Look for the "Discovery weeks" on the WB website and those will be the quieter ones hence cheaper.
6. You can ski on until May in Whistler if you really want on limited terrain but no problem to end of April. Ok so very self low down but you only go there at the end of the day and if you don't like it down load on the Gondolas.

Best reason to go there is the staff everywhere. Easy to talk to and so happy (pretend it may be!) but they can make a trip there so much more pleasant than trying to negotiate in foreign languages that I am hopeless in.
The travel is not that much hassle as you have a day going (yes it can be 20hrs door to door) but it takes a best part of a day to get to Europe. Coming back you can ski until lunch and the pickup takes you down to the airport (unless you have done the Vancouver option in which case you are even better off) as the flights leave late and fly over night. So you get most of the last day there too.
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Quote:
Bloddy Vail have bought WB so last min stroll up prices are going to be daft.


Bloody Vail, bringing in the epic pass making skiing for most cheaper than last season and giving free days at euro resorts wink
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Tahoe? could combine with a trip to SF?
Or Boston is great City if you want to learn about American History. Plenty of resorts an hour or 2 away.
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Boston is a great city, but east coast skiing can't compete with the resorts out west.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Boston is a great city, but east coast skiing can't compete with the resorts out west.
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Agree with @boarder2020, don't even think about east coast skiing. Chance of disappointment very high.
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boarder2020 wrote:
Boston is a great city, but east coast skiing can't compete with the resorts out west.

Itís often easy and cost-effective to break a flight to/from the Rockies in a city far from the slopes. Over the years Iíve changed flights in NY, LA, Chicago, Dallas and Cincinnati amongst other places. Most of those cities have more than enough to keep any reasonable person entertained for a few days.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
The best snow in the world is in Northern Japan.

Go there.
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Are you all seasoned skiers who would enjoy powder skiing wallport?

If so, you could include some catskiing in Canada. Same untracked powder and fresh tracks as heliskiing but a fraction of the price. Just you and 11 other guests (plus two guides) in hundreds of square miles of powder.

From experience, I can recommend:

- A day tour operator near Fernie (Fernie Wilderness Adventures). Been with them on two separate ski hols for a total of four days.

- A wilderness lodge operator near Revelstoke (Mustang Powder) where you stay in very nice accommodation in the middle of nowhere for three or four nights. We did three nights. Not cheap but, again, far cheaper than heli and an amazing experience.

I would recommend both of the above operations very highly.
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I am doing a Rome, Tuscany and skiing trip next year. you could maybe drop the Rome bit and do skiing and then 4 days food and wine tasting plus culture
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