Nature of the piste: Alf Alderson's first resorts
With more than 1,000 to choose from, which ski resort best suits your needs? Alf Alderson gives his pick of winning winter wonderlands
La Plagne, France
La Plagne consists of a number of ski "villages" dotted around a huge alpine bowl, along with more rustic satellite villages such as Champagny-en-Vanoise (the prettiest accommodation option), and it offers a vast array of terrain that is well suited to every level of skier and snowboarder. However, for beginners, it has the added attractions of at least one free ski lift in each village and easy accessibility to the beginners' slopes.
The Ecole du Ski Francais (ESF) also has a ski school in every village, and its instructors are well regarded and speak English. ESF has six-day group lessons from €217 (HK$2,146) and private lessons from €147 for 2-3/4 hours for up to five people (esf.net). Once you've progressed beyond the beginners' green runs, you can practise on the numerous slightly more challenging long blue runs, which offer fantastic mountain views. la-plagne.com
Getting there: Cathay Pacific flies from Hong Kong to Lyons via London starting at HK$10,132 return. It's best to rent a car for the 193-kilometre drive to the resort carrentals.co.uk
Staying there: Club Alpina (clubalpina.com) apartments beside the ski lift in Champagny-en-Vanoise from €295 per week.
Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
For expert skiers, it's all about powder. The resort of Niseko on the island of Hokkaido is famed for its bountiful harvests of waist-deep powder, which seem to fall almost incessantly from December to February. And while this means visibility can be limited, there are lovely tree runs that allow you to make the most of all this crystalline munificence even during the heaviest of snowfalls.
Niseko is made up of three linked ski areas, with the most popular, Grand Hirafu, open from 8.30am-8.30pm, thanks to one of the world's largest night skiing operations, so you really can ski yourself into a stupor. That said, take time out to enjoy a traditional onsen, or hot bath, which may often be in the form of a natural volcanic pool - the perfect tonic for tired muscles after a day in the powder. nisekotourism.com
Getting there: Korean Airlines flies from Hong Kong to Sapporo via Seoul from HK$5,030 return.
Staying there: the Hilton Niseko Village (hilton.com/Niseko-Village) at the foot of the slopes has luxury rooms from HK$4,215 per night.
Red Mountain, British Columbia, Canada
We're used to seeing images in the ski mags of skiers and boarders enjoying impressive airtime above some spectacular mountain backdrop, and there's a good chance the location where the pic was taken in this hard-core little Canadian resort.
Red Mountain is small, particularly by European standards (although it has big expansion plans), but if you're looking for challenging skiing in deep powder, this is the place. It offers steeps, trees and cliff drops along with a funky downhome feel to its satellite town of Rossland, and regularly wins awards from North American ski mags for the quality and challenge of the skiing on offer. redresort.com
Getting there: Horizon/Alaska Airlines flies from Hong Kong to Spokane, Washington from HK$15,035 return. The resort offers a 2-1/2-hour shuttle service from Spokane.
Staying there: slopeside two-bedroom condos are available from HK$2,160 per night.
Deer Valley, Utah, US
Do you find carrying your skis to and from the ski lifts a hassle? Are you really happy only when skiing on perfectly groomed powder? And are five-star hotels and restaurants a must?
Welcome to Deer Valley.
Here, the lifties will unload your skis from the lifts, the pistes are renowned for their impeccable grooming, and the hotels and restaurants are among the finest in Utah. You also get generally excellent snow conditions; winter precipitation hereabouts is referred to as "the Greatest Snow on Earth" by the local tourist board, with characteristic American hyperbole. And if you're one of those skiers who just can't get along with snowboarders, then you'll absolutely love Deer Valley, since boarders are banned. deervalley.com
Getting there: Delta flies from Hong Kong to Salt Lake City via Tokyo and Portland, Oregon, from HK$17,383 return. There's a transfer service for the one-hour drive from the airport.
Staying there: rooms at the slopeside five-star Stein Eriksen Lodge (steinlodge.com) start at US$699 per night.
Monterosa Ski, Italy
Monterosa Ski consists of three appealing alpine villages - Champoluc, Gressoney and Alagna - that are linked by ski lifts and offer an impressive mix of piste skiing and, for those in the know, some of the best off-piste in Europe.
The area attracts a range of skiers from families to experts, offers some excellent dining options both on and off the mountain and a good range of hotels with charm and character, and it won't break the bank (unless you decide to go heliskiing). Yet it is still relatively unknown to non-Italian skiers, so while the slopes are busy at weekends with visitors from nearby Milan and Turin, on weekdays they can be remarkably quiet. Add to that impressive alpine vistas (the iconic Matterhorn included) and what's not to like? monterosa-ski.com
Getting there: Qatar Airlines flies from Hong Kong to Milan from HK$9,115 return, from where it's a short transfer to the resort.
Staying there: the traditional, four-star Hotel Breithorn (hotelbreithorn.com) in Champoluc has cosy rooms from €195 per night.
Situated literally in the shadow of Mont Blanc, Europe's highest mountain, with the Alps' biggest glacier cascading down towards the town and spectacular sunsets on the mighty, needle-like peaks which soar up into the skies all around, Chamonix is bursting at the seams with scenic magnificence.
The dramatic alpine landscapes that surround this mountain town are the winter playground of some of the world's most high-profile extreme sports stars who ski, board, climb and paraglide amongst the crags and precipices, but you don't need to be an adrenaline junkie to sip a café au lait at a local brasserie whilst watching the sun rise over Mont Blanc. Better still, take a ride in the Aiguille du Midi cable car which will deposit you at a viewing platform in heart of all this alpine glory. chamonix.com
Getting there: Swiss Airlines flies from Hong Kong to Geneva return from HK$11,569, from where it's a 1-1/2-hour transfer.
Staying there: Hotel Le Hameau Albert 1er (hameaualbert.fr) in the centre of town mixes modern design with a traditional alpine lodge. Rooms from €234.50 (HK$2,370) per person.
Skiing is officially Austria's national sport, but après-ski can't be far behind. The Austrians certainly know how to enjoy a knees-up after a day on the slopes, nowhere more so than in Ischgl - some of the mountain restaurants, such as the Paznauner Thaya, hit après mode before the lifts have even closed, while in town, the Trofana Alm, the Schatzi Bar in the Hotel Elisabeth Arthotel and Nikis Stadl offer a crazy mix of skiers funking it up in ski boots, scantily clad dancing girls and a bizarre mix of Euro-pop and traditional Austrian oompah music. Deer Valley this is not.
On top of all this there's also some excellent skiing for every level of skier on dependably good snow - assuming you don't have too big a hangover. ischgl.com
Getting there: KLM flies from Hong Kong to Innsbruck, Austria, via Amsterdam return from HK$11,971, from where it's a 1-1/2-hour transfer.
Staying there: the five-star Trofana Royal (trofana-royal.at) has rooms from €240 per night.