Not all ski resorts are equal when it comes to end-of-the year festivities. When choosing where to ski for New Year, your ideal destination will depend on how you want to celebrate the occassion.
New Year Skiing France: Fireworks, Spiced Wine, Foie Gras
New Year holidays in France, also called le revéillon or la Saint Sylvestre, are synonymous with all-night partying, DJs, ice bars, huge firework displays, hot spiced wine, and fine dining. All these festivities make a French ski resort a fun place to kiss the old year au revoir.
Most ski resorts will have fireworks the night of Dec. 31., a torch-lit descent by ski instructors, and plenty of hot spiced wine or hot chocolate to toast in the new year (resorts like Val Thorens, Montgenèvre, and Les Contamines-Montjoie offer these drinks free to guests).
Food plays a big role in any French fête. Many resort restaurants, like those at Super Besse or Chamrousse will be offering special menus de revéillon Dec. 31. These luxurious dinners often include foie gras, high-quality meat like Bresse chicken or Salers beef, and a special dessert. Many places often include a glass of champagne so that guests may toast the New Year.
Resorts that cater to a younger clientèle host huge parties that continue to rock well after midnight. La Plagne transforms its base station into a giant dance floor with the annual Nuit du Pompon Rouge while Tignes hosts the Fire Mix Party, often with famous DJs mixing at 2100 metres altitude. Ax-les-3 Domaines and Val Thorens also turn their base stations into outdoor nightclubs with DJs and ice bars, so guests can dance right into the New Year.
La Plagne's Pompom Rouge (credit: B-Koumanov)
For skiers who plan to take advantage of the holidays to undo a year's worth of stress, a relaxing resort would be a better option. Places like Avoriaz and Arc 1950 are safe bets. These resorts run car-free, for a sense of calm that modern cities abandoned centuries ago. Both also offer quality relaxation facilities. Without any in-your-face events for New Year's Eve, these stations make ideal backdrops for a cosy New Year's night.
Families wondering where to ski for New Year will find a number of resorts offering celebratory activities for even the youngest guests (even if they don't make it to midnight). Montgenèvre gathers the kids for a torch-lit descent at the end of the day, with help from the station's ski instructors. Puy Saint Vincent also has children in mind for its New Year's events, which often include an enchanting spectacle at the foot of the slopes, followed by fireworks and a traditional torch-lit descent by ski instructors.
Others may prefer a more romantic setting to seal the new year with a kiss, snuggled in for a sleigh ride with the majestic Mont Blanc in the background. France offers several options for a love-up end of the year. Courchevel and Megève come to mind for their elegance, while smaller resorts like La Toussuire or those of the Vercors mountains offer an intimate setting for New Year's with your one and only.
When midnight strikes it is custom in France to kiss all of your friends once on each cheek and to wish each other bonne année! Merrymakers sometimes run or drive through the streets making all sorts of noise to welcome the New Year before continuing with their party, be it with just a few friends or a dance floor full of strangers.
Not surprisingly, the sun of a new year comes up on rather deserted slopes in France. While some skiers doze off the preceding night's festivities, others may want to take advantage of the first descent of the year on pleasantly empty pistes.
New Year Skiing In Austria: Pagan Parties, Open-Air Concerts
New Year‘s Eve in Austria can mean: party, tradition, or something completely different. In Innsbruck, Tyrol's capital, local and international music bands perform in the historic centre all evening long before the fireworks are ignited on the Seegrube mountain at midnight.
In St. Johann in the Kitzbühel Alps the party starts already on Dec. 29 when the pedestrian zone is filled with food stalls, live and DJ music. Dec. 31 there is a traditional New Year‘s show at the cable car‘s valley station.
Ischgl, Tyrol‘s top party destination, has a good range of nightclubs - which you'll find even more crowded on New Year than they are normally - as well as five firework displays and open-air music concerts.
New Year fireworks in Lech-Zuers
A more traditional way of spending New Year's Eve is watching a torch-lit procession of the local ski school, for example in Kaiserwinkl, at 5 p.m., with brass and alphorn music and gunfire salvos. If you prefer to see a more spectacular version, go to Kitzbühel: Jan. 1st at 6 p.m., the world-famous Streif slope is set on fire, with a torch procession, burning of witches and fireworks.
If you are really brave and frost-resistant, you can participate in the New Year's Eve swimming contest in Achensee: jump into the icy water, swim 25 metres, ring a bell on an iceberg and swim back.
In Styria the snow groomers start dancing Dec. 31: you can watch them waltz under the fireworks in Schönberg-Lachtal after 6 p.m.
Perhaps the most cosy way to start the new year is to celebrate it in an alpine farmer's house, with good food and enough to drink. You can do that one day early at the Bratl Alm in Wenigzell, with must and stelze (pig‘s leg) instead of posh champagne.
New Year in Italy: An Endless Flow Of Food And Prosecco
End the year ‘a la grande' on the Italian slopes. New Year's in Italy means fireworks, snow sculptures, and numerous outdoor aperitivos followed by pampering beauty treatments.
In Val di Non Predaia, near Coredo, celebrating the arrival of the New Year has been an unmissable event for many years now, it's known as the "Official New Year's Valley Festival". On the snowy slopes, you can celebrate New Year's at one of the most popular events in Trentino with some of the biggest fireworks and best DJs. For those looking for something a little more reserved, book dinner at one of the many fine restaurants.
When deciding where to ski in Italy, it's hard not to factor in some delicious Italian food. New Year highlights in Val Senales in Trentino includes cocktail punch outdoors with canapees in front of a bonfire; a New Year's eve gala menu; live music performances; firework displays; and an endless flow of Prosecco and midnight snacks. And to make sure you are well fed . . . on the following day a New Year's brunch served until 4 p.m.
Fine dining in South Tyrol
In South Tyrol, the 'Flame of the Guest' is one of the annual events in the 3 Valleys ski area of the Dolomites. This torch-lit procession, with guest participation, starts at 5 p.m and travels from Caverson to Molino.
In Sestriere, Piedmont, they host an interesting New Year's programme that includes the 'Sky Show' and the candlelit ski procession organised by the ski teachers. On Dec. 31, as the clock strikes midnight, fireworks light up the slopes.
In Val Gardena, from Dec. 27-30, there is the annual Snow Sculpture Competition. The event will be held in the centre of Selva di Val Gardena and draws artists, sculptors, and students of the local art school. The award ceremony will take place Thursday, Dec. 30 directly in front of the statues, with a party open to all and live music. The statues will remain on display throughout the winter, night and day, illuminated by giant lights.
New Year Skiing in Switzerland: Wild Parties, Pig Races, Six-Course Dinners
Skiers headed for Gstaad and Laax can look forward to some great concerts at New Year's. Gstaad is hosting a music festival from Dec. 28 to Jan. 8 – a series of 14 classical concerts. New Year's Eve will feature a concert of classical Spanish guitar music. At Laax, on the other hand, you can get your groove on at the Riders Palace Club with T.C.H.I.K., a wild, zany electropunk band hailing from Berlin.
Tradition can sometimes mean taking delight in the utterly silly. In Davos, New Year's Day features an afternoon pig race. Enjoy a hot beverage and some local specialities while you watch to see which little piggy is the first to make it to the finish line.
New Year pig racing in Davos
In Leysin, you are offered the chance of a moment's contemplation on the brink of the new year: the local parish priest invites visitors to attend mass in one of the igloos in the Tobogganing Park, followed by an (optional) fondue. Champagne and fireworks await in the evening, with a large-scale party in the village that is resumed the next night.
With a bobsleigh championship on both Dec. 31 and New Year's Day (the Silvester Trophy and the Tulux Cup respectively) – hosted at what is both the oldest bob run and the world's only bob run made of natural ice – as well as two Cresta Run toboggan races, and the Bucherer Cup curling tournament on New Year's day, there are plenty of exciting events to attend at St. Moritz. Hotel Schweizerhof offers a glamourous New Year's dinner with live music.
New Year in the Pyrenees: Classical Concerts, Gala Dinners or All-Night Partying
Wise men, classical concerts and afternoon soirees dedicated to drinking thick hot chocolate, experience the Pyrenees's New Year celebrations, mountain style.
Baqueira Beret, located in a valley surrounded by peaks and an extensive forest, has a packed itinerary lined up for Noche Vieja (New Year's Eve). Starting with 7 p.m. mass at La Inglesia de Baqueira, the evening warms up with a special flaming torch descent and a firework display that will have children gazing in awe. Later, a huge party, which takes over several clubs, carries on into the New Year. On New Year's day the resort is throwing a classical concert at the Baqueira church which will feature pieces from Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Telemann and Bach. Other resorts, like Boi Taull, in the Lleida Pyrenees, will also celebrate the New Year with torch descents.
New Year's concert in Baqueira Beret
When deciding where to ski for New Year, it's worth noting than Jan. 6 is an even more important date in the Spanish calendar. Known as "The Day of the Kings" (El Dia de los Reyes) it recalls when three of the Kings: Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar, representing Europe, Arabia, and Africa, arrived on horse, camel and elephant, bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.
On Jan. 6, processions take place across Spain and Andorra, and many resorts put as much effort if not more into The Day of the Kings as they do for Christmas Day. The resort of Cerler, which always has events and activities galore, is expecting Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar to arrive on skis and to spend some time greeting the kids. The Kings will start their circuit at 10:30 a.m. in El Molino and will ski across Cota, La Colladeta, and Ampriu, where they'll stop to spend some time at the snow garden. The Kings will also be stopping at Formigal and Panticosa, both in the Valle de Tena, and at Javalambre and Valdelinares located in the province of Teruel, an hour and a half drive from Valencia and Zaragoza.