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Can’t decide between a day at the beach or hitting the slopes? There are a few special places around the world where you don’t have to choose. In these five cities and towns, the ocean and the mountains are located less than a three-hour drive apart, so spending your morning catching waves and hitting the powder the same afternoon isn’t just a possibility — it can easily be reality.
Biarritz is a beach town in southwestern France that reflects the sophistication and natural beauty of Basque Country. The long sandy coastline of Biarritz sees impressive swells, especially during the winter months from December to March, and is considered one of Europe’s surfing capitals. Locals and international surfers alike flock to the beaches here for their chance to catch a ride at one of Biarritz’s famous breaks.
Approximately 100 miles east of Biarritz (a little over a two-hour drive) lies Station Gourette, a popular winter sports resort in the French Pyrenees. With an altitude of over 8,000 feet and 40 slopes designed for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, Station Gourette offers one of the largest skiable terrains in the Pyrenees. Aside from skiing, Gourette offers snowshoeing, ziplining, and dog sledding — promising an adventure-filled afternoon after a sun-soaked morning.
Christchurch, New Zealand
Travel to the edge of Pegasus Bay in Christchurch — the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island — and you’ll find a few different surfing opportunities for those who know the ropes. Taylors Mistake and New Brighton are the sites for advanced surfers in search of barrels. Beginners and intermediate surfers might feel more comfortable at Scarborough Beach or Waimairi Beach (both of which have surf schools).
Seventy miles west of Christchurch (a one-hour-and-45-minute drive), Mount Hutt Ski Resort is located on a 7,000-foot-tall mountain with panoramic views over the surrounding Canterbury Plains. With more than 900 acres of skiable terrain, Mount Hutt was been crowned New Zealand’s best ski resort by the World Ski Awards. Just remember: It’s located in the Southern Hemisphere, so the resort is open for the winter season from June to October.
You have to be a little surf-obsessed to test the icy waters of the Northeast in winter, but the Atlantic swell draws dedicated surfers from all over New England. Of course, surfers (and regular beachgoers) in Maine have no shortage of options any time of year, but many of the best waves can be found near the town of Scarborough, just seven miles south of Portland (Maine’s largest city). Higgins Beach, Pine Point, and Old Orchard Beach are a few of the most popular spots.
Mainers also love the ability to catch a few waves in the morning before hitting the road for one of several ski resorts nearby. Shawnee Peak is a quick one-hour jaunt northwest of Scarborough and offers 40 trails, three terrain parks, and even nighttime skiing (if you have the energy to keep going after dark). Drive a little farther and you’ll find Sunday River, which has eight interconnected peaks and 135 trails to explore. Pro tip: Make the trip to Maine in early April to catch the tail end of spring skiing — you’ll be grateful for the warmer water and air temperatures.
Visit Chile between June and October and you’ll have both surf and snow at your fingertips. Start in the Valparaíso region at Reñaca Beach, a popular weekend beach getaway destination for Santiago residents, where avid surfers can paddle through waves up to 12 feet in height. If mellow is more your speed, El Canelillo is a small but popular white-sand beach with calm, turquoise waters.
About 100 miles to the east, through the Chilean capital of Santiago, is the largest ski resort in Chile (the biggest in the Southern hemisphere, in fact). Nestled in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, Valle Nevado covers 23,000 acres and boasts a picturesque ski-in, ski-out base village. Valle Nevado sits at the highest elevation of any ski resort in Chile, which ensures the powder is plentiful and stays fresh.
A mecca for big wave riders, Portugal is heralded as a top European surf destination. Nazaré beckons with world-class waves for those seeking the ultimate rush, but most surfers find more easygoing breaks up and down the coast from Lisbon to Porto. Aveiro is a small city 45 minutes south of Porto known for its colorful houses and traditional food, but surfers love the laid-back waves that roll in on Costa Nova Beach.
From the Atlantic coast, it’s a two-hour drive inland from Aveiro to the Serra da Estrela mountain range. Serra da Estrela Ski Resort is Portugal’s best bet for powder hounds eager to hit the slopes after a surf session. The resort falls within a protected nature area and sits on Torre, the highest peak on mainland Portugal. At 6,500 feet in elevation, Torre is surpassed only by Pico Mountain in the Azores.