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Just as black diamond runs exist for truly fearless skiers, there are also unsung resorts and mountain escapes that are made for really discerning snow lovers. Ski and travel writer Gabriella Le Breton uncovers seven snowy hideaways where you can really escape the crowds.
Hardly known outside of Austria, this small resort has recently been linked by lift to its famous neighbours Lech, Zürs and St Anton. This is one of Europe’s highest and snowiest resorts and is also this winter’s top tip for secret powder stashes. Join the Pfarrer Müller Freeride Tour, a new guided, off-piste tour of the area, which follows in the footsteps of Johann Müller, a priest who pioneered skiing here in the 1890s.
Though resorts in North America are rarely crowded by European standards, for a real chance to escape the crowds, ski on your own private mountain at Scarp Ridge Lodge. Mount Irwin has over 1,000 acres of chutes, glades and bowls doused in virgin Colorado powder. A customised snow cat, complete with reclaimed timber interiors, a plasma screen TV and minibar, transports you from town to a fire-warmed cabin on the mountain, where more custom cats whisk you up the mountain for day-long first tracks.
Although just over 20km from Val d’Isère, the sleep hamlet of Le Miroir feels a million miles away, and is also home to one of the best off-piste lunch spots, Chez Mérie. Housed in an ancient farmhouse, it has been run by two local sisters for around 20 years. Whether you drive here from Val or ski through the orchards from neighbouring Sainte Foy, exchange your boots for slippers, settle into a sheepskin-clad chair, and tuck into home-herbed foie gras and locally farmed beef cooked over a roaring fire.
St Moritz is best known for its lavish hotels and boutiques but locals will tell you that Diavolezza – the farthest mountain from the resort – is their favourite part, particularly when it’s Glüna Plaina (full moon). Bring your swimwear for a panoramic après-ski Jacuzzi at 3,000m above sea level on the terrace of Berghaus Diavolezza before skiing down to the valley under the light of the full moon.
The area of Alta Badia encompasses a cluster of six towns in South Tyrol at the base of the Dolomites. For a touch of virtually deserted Dolomiti splendour, grab a taxi from the town of San Cassiano to the Passo Falzarego cable car, which whisks you up to the 2,778m peak of Lagazuoi. Soak up the views before taking the long red run to Rifugio Scotoni, a rustic mountain refuge serving fortifying pasta and grappa on its sun-baked terrace.
Attracting the international jet set, Courchevel is regarded as the glossy icing on the Three Valleys cake, but you can indulge your inner explorer here at Le Portetta. Immerse yourself in the pristine beauty of Vanoise National Park by learning to ‘mush’ on a sled pulled by a team of husky dogs, then retreat to the hotel’s Petite Marmotte lodge, a timber hay store converted into a luxurious retreat for two, for the ultimate ‘takeaway’: dinner cooked by Courchevel’s Michelin-starred Chabichou chefs, served beside your wood-burning stove.