Early Season Skiing
After the start to the last two ski seasons in Europe, you may think it’s crazy to risk an early season ski holiday. In someways you would be right but there are viable options through November and even October, if you really can’t wait for a ski holiday.
Powder hounds might be better saving money and vacation days for January onwards. Perhaps leave the avalanche kit at home and don’t put the sunglasses into storage just yet, piste cruising and park laps can be found with a little digging. The holiday prices will be cheap, rock bottom, if you will pardon the pun. The ski areas will be much smaller. Not to worry though, as the crowds are yet to appear.
The vast majority of ski resorts will remain closed until mid December but the autumn weather does bring with it cooler temperatures with freeze levels lowering and snow capped peaks returning.
Early season skiing in October, more like pre season. The game at this time of year is to find a suitable glacier. There may well be snow falling at lower altitudes but it is not going to stay around for too long. Do not get to excited when your favourite resorts starts filling you social media with fresh snow fall, they are still a month or longer from turning on their chair lifts. It is extremely rare for a non glacial ski area to turn the lifts on in October, although it has been known in exceptional conditions.
France boasts some great pre season and even summer skiing on it’s glaciers. Tignes and Les Deux Alps are both available with a few runs. Freestyle skiers and snowboarders will enjoy the snow parks on offer here.
Austria has the best offering and can even keep skiing on offer all year round at the Hintertux Glacier. Their other resorts do rely on snow conditions for opening with Stubai, a great option for the freestylers, and Solden which generally gets going in late September.
Switzerland can offer Zermat and Saas-Fee while Italy will have Cervinia which all turn their lifts on from the middle of October.
The cold has arrived and the nights are getting longer. In recent years, it has been poor for snow which has stopped the mountains gaining an early base layer for the resorts to work. The glaciers are your best bet for guaranteed snow and the selection for these will be decent across Europe.
The main resorts also will start to open up, certainly by the month’s end. The air is cold enough for snow canons to be deployed giving nature a helping hand. The higher altitude resorts will be ready to get going.
The Three Valleys will see it’s first switch on, over in Val Thorens, which boasts an extended season with it’s ski calendar running right through to mid May. Obergurgl in Austria will also get moving towards the last week in the month.
Next open will generally be Val d’Isere, which is linked to Tignes to form France’s Espace Killy and Ischgl being the next to roll out the red carpet in Austria.
If the snow is good, you may see some other areas open up for a day or weekend. Great for the locals and whoever else is around. Sort of a pre season taster and sometimes its free. Free skiing but not freeskiing.
It is still wise to pick a snow sure area in December even if the resorts have got opening dates lined up, there is little they can do if temperatures are mild and the snow clouds have gone astray.
2014 and 2015 saw many resorts opening late and the only snow was man made for Christmas week. Your best option is to pick a resort that opens up in November. It provides the best chances of decent snow and then hope you are lucky enough for snow to fall at lower altitudes, giving you a larger ski area to explore.
A resort like Val Thorens is a great option. Early season skiing is highly lightly to be available and should there be decent snowfall you could be lucky enough to ski or at least use the lift links through Meribel and Courchevel during a good December.
Early Season Skiing Conclusion
Skiing at anytime is reliant on nature, at the very least air temperature must be low enough for snow canons to operate. More so through autumn and early winter conditions and snow fall can be erratic. 2015 saw large snow fall in November but by the time Christmas had arrived temperatures had risen and many resorts were struggling to operate.
Base layers may have been laid and can often be hard and icy with only thin layers of fresh snow falling at a time. The sun’s low angle can give bright and cold skies creating a lasting icy layer. Any rain and mild weather will sap the snow pack quickly.
If you’re looking for a big ski holiday then it you should probably wait until the New Year but for those looking for their fix and a mountain retreat while the villages are still quiet, it could be perfect. A weekend away in November or early December is a great idea and a cheap option, with flights on offer from around £30.
The sport will offer no definite. It will pay to do a little research into where is looking best. Last minute bookings are important when conditions can change in days or even hours. If you are really keen, do what any skier worth his salt does, and become an amateur meteorologist.