Wednesday, 22 October 2008

How to extend your winter season

Many people I speak to seem to think that the ski season lasts from Christmas until February. There is a mad rush to fit everybody's holiday into a few short weeks. Even seasoned skiers often seem to think the season is basically late December until mid March. In fact it is quite easy to make a winter season last six months or more in Europe. This year I am planning to do five months (mid-November to mid-April) but it will be running out of money and work that ends the winter, rather than running out of snow. Similarly, most ski resorts shut in April when the customers dry up, not when the snow melts.

To start the long winter, plan some warm up weeks in a high resort with a glacier. I'm heading to Tignes in November for four weeks race training, but there are other options. No resorts will be fully open, but some will have quite a few runs. In late November and early December, watch out for resorts opening early, especially if there is good snowfall. Last year several Austrian resorts opened a few weeks earlier than planned to take advantage of good conditions - the publicity was probably worth more to them than the actual tickets they sold.

Opening dates proper are spread throughout the first half of December (with one or two exceptions) so from then until April it's easy. Take your pick of resorts or travel between them.

Into April, and resorts start to close as they run out of customers. Most of the bigger resorts will be open until late April at least. Some, such as Val D'Isere or Chamonix are open until early May. After that it is time to get out the skins and start hiking, as the only way up is under you own steam. May is the height of the ski touring season - spring snow, longer days, safer conditions and no crowds mean ideal conditions for gettting away into the back country. Most years ski touring will be possible well into June.

After that, well if you want to keep skiing it's back to the glaciers for summer skiing. Or up to the Arctic Circle to ski under the midnight sun. Or down to NZ, Oz or South America.

Hopefully this might give some of you some ideas, either to extend your ski season, or to slip in an extra holiday or long weekend. Of course there is a whole world out there - there are lots more places to ski in Europe than those I've mentioned, let alone North America and Asia.

By the way the photos are from Tignes last November and Chamonix in May.

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