A Winter’s Tale in the Alps

Winter is a way of life in the Alps with sunbathing in the mountains, dog sled excursions, torchlit skiing by night and fondue around the fireplace. Here are five ski resorts in five countries.

Preserving its European identity despite long years in the Eastern Bloc, Slovenia has, perhaps for this reason, remained the Alps’ best-kept secret. Making Bled, one of the country’s leading spa towns, your hub, you can enjoy a reasonably-priced winter holiday in Slovenia. Twenty kilometers from Bled, Kobla and Vogel are safe for beginners. And Kranjska Gore, which attracted attention during the world cup in Alpine skiing, is the country’s most popular winter sports center. The Planica Ski Jump here was also the scene the first-ever 100 and 200 plus meter jumps in skiing history.   

Bled / Bird’s-eye view of the Adriatic

By all means
Slovenia boasts a hybrid cuisine subject to the influences of many countries. Khan-type restaurants serving traditional dishes are widespread in the mountainous regions.

Getting there
Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Ljubjlana-Istanbul flights daily except Tuesdays and Saturdays. Bled is about an hour from Ljubljana.

St. Moritz the height of luxury
Smack dab in the center of the Upper Engadine, St. Moritz lies surrounded by mountain lakes in the foothills of a 4,000-meter peak. It’s 20 minutes to the center of St. Moritz, the farthest of the nearby ski stations. You can enjoy all of them on a day pass. The first special piste reserved for snowboarding in the Alps is also here. And the frozen lakes in the region are ideal for skating and ice hockey. Achieving fame in the 1928 Winter Olympics, St. Moritz boasts the infrastructure for a vast array of activities thanks to the international competitions it has hosted. Among them toboganning, glacier-climbing and heliskiing, which involves being dropped by helicopter at near-inaccessible points in the Alps and skiing down. Most of the hotels in the area are four and five-star. For more economical alternatives, you may choose the mountain villages in the vicinity.

By all means
Serving guests for more than half a century, St. Moritz is renowned for its pastries, chocolates and ice cream. The honey and walnut concoction known as the Bünder Nusstorte is especially famous.

Getting there
Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Zürich-Istanbul flights daily. The approximately 200 kilometers from Zürich to St. Moritz takes four hours by train.

Kitzbühel Hansel and Gretel’s village
Dating back to the 13th century, Kitzbühel is the pearl of the Austrian Alps with pastoral winter landscapes and lively entertainment. It is known as Hansel and Gretel’s village for its steep-roofed ‘gingerbread’ houses. This region, which has played host to numerous international events, among them the winter Olympics, has ski runs for skiers at every level of skill. The world famous Hahnenkamm Run is for advanced skiers. One of the village’s most popular winter activities is the ski safari. A wide range of accommodation alternatives from five-star hotels to economical bed&breakfasts is available at Kitzbühel. The mountain restaurants near the ski runs are popular with gourmets. Besides gigantic portions, these eateries, which serve traditional Alpine specialties, also offer sunbathing on chaise longues. Children love Kitzbühel too. The ski schools in the area offer maintenance and instruction for little skiers age three and up till five in the afternoon.

By all means
Kitzbühel is a drawing point for cravers of Heidi nostalgia. Some hotels and travel agents in the region organize chalet tours and hikes to neighboring villages.

The most practical way of getting to Kitzbühel is to fly to Vienna or Münich. Turkish Airlines has flights in both directions to both cities every day of the week.

Cortina la dolce vita Alpine style
Cortina d’Ampezzo is just the spot for encounters with fashionable Roman and Milanese regulars, long Kaffeeklatsches and superb Italian cuisine in mountain-view restaurants. One of the best resorts for ski instruction in the Alps, Cortina is chock full of easy and intermediate-level pistes where you can ski in inimitable Alpine landscapes.  Ski runs reserved for advanced level skiers on the other hand twist and curve around the rocks and hills. Local businesses meanwhile offer guide services for exploring the off-piste areas. Dog sled excursions, snow rafting and frozen waterfall climbs are some of the other activities on hand at Cortina, which first attracted attention at the 1956 Winter Olympics. Most of the hotels in the area, which boasts an 80-kilometer trail for ski touring, are ensconced in historic buildings. Italian specialties dominate the menu in this town, where eating has been turned into a form of entertainment.

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Shopping is very enjoyable in Corso Italia, a mountain town typical of the Italian Alps. There are dozens of stores from the boutiques of the famous Italian designers to the shops of the local artisans.

Getting there
Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Venice-Istanbul flights daily. Cortina is about 150 kilometers from Venice.

Garmisch – Partenkirchen spirit of the olympics
This winter sports resort in Upper Bavaria on the German-Austrian border was formed by the merger of two settlements, Garmisch and Partenkirchen. Home to the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak at 2,964 meters, it hosted the Winter Olympics in 1936. A town of about 26,000, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is known as Gapa for short. Pistes at the center, where skiing is possible to the end of April, total 60 kilometers in length. The snowboard pistes are also popular at this center where the 41st Alpine Discipline World Skiing Championship was held last year. Known as one of Germany finest ski resorts, the region has also been a source of inspiration to many European painters for its natural beauty. Regarded as the botanical garden of the Alps, the region is home to several rare species of plants.

By all means
The Bavarian King Ludwig II’s chateau called the King’s House on Schachen is definitely worth seeing. Perched high on a hill south of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, this country estate was completed in 1872.

Getting there
Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Münich-Istanbul flights daily. From Münich it’s about an hour to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.