The cozy cabins, the bubbling hot tubs, the endless supplies of hot chocolate… Indeed, that otherworldly sensation of being in a remote location is synonymous with skiing and snowboarding.
But travelers are constantly looking to maximize their experience – so why not combine the thrill of sport and the relaxation of après-ski with the buzz of a city break?
Here, we look at eight such gateway destinations for your consideration, all accessible from London’s Heathrow Airport…
Population: 194,565 (2015)
Switzerland’s second largest city after Zurich epitomizes the country. Culture, cuisine and cleanliness are the order of the day, with the stunning 580 km² Lake Geneva serving as a backdrop. The sight of The Alps blending into the clouds is unforgettable.
Another of Geneva’s selling points is its close proximity to equally suave neighbors. The lakeside Lausanne and Montreux are, respectively, half an hour and an hour away by train. The capital, Bern, is less than two hours.
Also within driving distance are countless picturesque ski resorts – Praz de Lys, La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand to name but three.
Population: 146,631 (2014)
Immortalized in all its sun-drenched, full bloom beauty in 1964’s The Sound of Music, Salzburg is even prettier in winter – especially at Christmas, when the markets come alive and snow envelops this immensely walkable town.
The hilltop 11th-century Hohensalzburg Castle is a must-see, as is Mozart’s birthplace from the 18th century. For a modern art infusion among all the history, head to Museum der Moderne.
Pitztaler Glitscher, Ischgl and Goldegg are just three local ski areas. Furthermore, Salzburg straddles Austria’s border, so you could use it as a base for skiing in Germany, Switzerland or even the Czech Republic.
Country: USA (Utah)
Population: 193,744 (2016)
Flanked by the grandeur of the Wasatch Mountains, SLC is known as a religious capital while also being famously LGBTI-friendly.
The Pride festival is one of the biggest in the state, attracting over 25,000 participants annually. The town also boasts an openly gay mayor, Jackie Biskupski!
The largest city in Utah, and host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, offers close proximity to 14 ski resorts. Alta, 25 miles away, gets the heaviest snowfall in the state.
Population: 899,455 (2014)
The Alps lie to the north and west of Turin – another former host city of the Winter Olympics (they were held here in 2006).
Turin is the fourth largest city in Italy after Rome, Milan and Naples, with a sizable metropolitan population of 1.7 million, and is unsurprisingly steeped in culture and history.
Check out the sphinxes and mummies at Museu Egizo and the manicured gardens and stately rooms of the Palace of Vernaria one day before heading to nearby resorts such as Valle di Susa and Sauze d Oulx.
Population: 124,579 (2014)
The smallest city on our list, Innsbruck is another chocolate box-perfect European city, a couple of hours from Salzburg and nestled on the German border.
It’s known for its impressive ski jump, Bergisel, which stands tall at an amazing 746m, as well as the opulent Goldenes Dachl, built in 1500.
We flew into Innsbruck last winter, before driving two and a half hours to the gorgeous arlberg1800 RESORT – read our review here. There are 465 resorts within three hours’ drive of Innsbruck!
Population: 647,540 (2014)
The 2010 host city for the Winter Olympics is one of the most picture-perfect in the world. Vancouver’s good looks are no doubt elevated by its coast-and-mountain-side setting.
Top attractions include the interactive Science World, the retro Playland amusement park and of course the beaches – which are dotted all over the city!
Snow rarely falls in Vancouver, but conversely, it’s sprinkled over the next-door Grouse Mountain (1,231m). Head here with or without skis for the best views of the city!
Population: 155,637 (2010)
Back across the Atlantic and to France, the most popular country in Europe for winter sports, and also home to the Alps’ highest point: Mont Blanc at 4,810m.
Grenoble is located in the south of the country at the foot of the Alps. Like many of the cities on this list, snow-capped mountains are part of the furniture here.
Explore the city’s many museums – such as Arhome, Museum of Industrial Innovation, and Domaine De Vizille, the French Revolution Museum – before heading to the slopes. There are 24 ski resorts in the Arrondissement of Grenoble in total.
Country: USA (Colorado)
Population: 682,545 (2015)
It’s slightly bewildering that one of the best bases for US winter sports enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year – but then, it’s also bewildering that snowboarding and skiing often leaves you with a tanned face!
Located near the very center of America, Denver is immersed in rugged, mountainous Coloradan scenery. The snow-capped Pikes Peak for example, measuring 4,302m, is visible from multiple points of the city.
Meanwhile, Echo Mountain, Loveland Ski Resort and Eldora Mountain are all roughly a one hour drive from downtown.
With over 35 bars, restaurants and cafes, including the new Gordon Ramsay Plane Food outlet, and dozens of designers stores, Heathrow is the perfect place to start your holiday or business trip. To book your trip, visit go.heathrow.com.
Heathrow Airport is a partner of Gay Star News.
Photos courtesy of Heathrow Airport via Shutterstock.