It’s one of the great modern-day dilemmas for holidays at this time of year: shun the shivers for sunnier climes or embrace the cold and hit the slopes. It’ s time to choose…
Daylight hours are short, invariably grey, damp, dismal. Christmas always passes in a blur of twinkling lights and belt-straining over-indulgence. Equally, the New Year sails past ina symphony of popping corks and already-broken resolutions.
Of course, the antidote to January and days when you can’t feel your toes is to slide those same toes into a warm, azure sea or thick socks and snug snow boots en-route to a day on the slopes.
If the bank balance can take the strain, there’s nothing quite like the boost of a mid-winter break for recharging batteries run down by excess and extravagance. But do you blow the Christmas bonus and annual pay-rise or do it on a budget?
Brits have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Tenerife, largely because in summer it’s hot, tacky and rammed with tourists. In January, it’s almost the opposite: average temperatures have recently been 20 degrees C, there are four wet days during the month, and it’s easier to get out and see the real Canaries’ culture. Carhire is reasonable, making the Teide National Park and Siam Park waterpark accessible. Plus you can get flights from £54 (Ryanair.com) and plan your break while TUI’s seven-day holidays start at £330 per person (tui.co.uk).
Just as Britain is shivering in January, one of our outposts, Barbados, is similarly suffering one of its coldest months – at a mere 28 degrees C. If island culture is your thing, slurping a rum cocktail while lounging on a white sandy beach takes some beating. Imagine colonial splendour against a cloudless sky and you’re halfway there. It’s not as eye-wateringly expensive as you might think with seven-night breaks from £891 (britishairways.com) – you may even catch some cricket where rain, possibly on ten days a month, stops play.
The sky’s the limit here. Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building, the staggering 828m Burj Khalifa, some of the world’s most opulent hotels, amazing shopping, both traditional and modern… and skiing. In the desert, or to be precise, at the Mall of the Emirates. With penguins. So, you get the best of both worlds. As well as average temperatures of 24 degrees C, the Dubai Shopping Festival runs throughout January to test your retail resilience. As for hotels, tropicalsky.co.uk offers five nights at the Doubletree by Hilton on Marjan Island for £759. Alternatively, if there’s someone in your life you really need to impress – or grovel to – Tropical Sky can get you five nights in the seven-star rated Burj al Arab for a princely £3,249 per person.
Most armchair skiers will be familiar with Kitzbühel but only the enthusiasts will know Söll, which shares some of its famous neighbour’s ski area. The Kitzbüheler Alpen AllStarCard covers 10 Austrian ski areas including Kitzbühel, St Johann in Tirol and the new area of Alpbachtal and Wildschönau –more than 1,000km of piste – for £188 for six days. Right in the centre lies Söll, which has a lively après-ski atmosphere and where seven nights B&B in mid-January will cost from £485 (crystalski.co.uk). The slight disadvantage is the slopes are about 1km from town.
With the magnificent Matterhorn as a backdrop, Zermatt is a winter sports enthusiast’s dream with 350km of trails and slopes. Here you can ski over a mountain pass in Switzerland and down into a trail in another country –the Matterhorn’s southern face is in Italy, and skiing over the Theodul Pass leads into the immense trail system of Breuil-Cervinia in the Val d’Aosta. Transfer time from Geneva is more than two hours but the skiing is well worth it. Igluski.com have some good offers with seven nights in mid-January setting you back £969 for a mid-range hotel.
The resort to be seen in, whether you intend to tackle the slopes or not. The sport in the iconic Colorado town matches the resort’s celebrity status with four separate areas – known as the Aspen Snowmass – to challenge skiers of all standards. The adventurous head for Aspen Mountain, the beginners tackle Buttermilk, and the hung-over stick to the centre of the Victorian town with its posh boutiques and replenish their calorie intake in the wide-ranging restaurants. There is, of course, an area the locals frequent where prices are a little more reasonable. Hotels are equally far-ranging, with americanski-classics.com offering January holidays from £2,113 to £3,231, which includes ski rentals and lift passes.