Cheaper, sunnier and quieter, early and end of season skiing can be ideal if you get it right. Plenty of ski resorts open their lifts in early December and keep them open well into the last week of April, or even the first week of May.
The general rule when selecting a resort to go late season skiing at is: head high, head north, or head to a glacier. The higher the altitude of the ski area, the colder it is, and therefore the longer the snow lasts. Ideally, skiers should aim for resorts that have skiing at 2,000m or above. If the resort has access to a glacier all the better, meaning skiing may be possible almost year round – even if it is on limited terrain and shorter pistes.
Here are our picks:
Holding the title of Europe’s highest ski resort means Val Thorens in France is your best bet for late season skiing. It has more than 140 km of pistes above 3,000m, and the majority of the rest of the skiing is over 2,000m. With direct access to the massive Three Valleys ski area, there are 600 km of pistes to attack. The season runs through to May, and re-opens for glacier skiing in the summer. Low season accommodation and lift ticket deals are available from mid-April.
High altitude Tignes used to be open every day of the year, but now closes from 8 May before reopening for summer skiing. At 2,100m, it sits in a hanging valley with direct access to a glacier. The resort links with Val d’Isere to form part of the Espace Killy ski area, which includes 300km of slopes ranging from 1,550m all the way to 3,455m – the base height being higher than in many other ski areas. Summer skiing on Tignes glacier starts in June and offers 20kms of runs and a vertical drop of over 750m.
Offering late-season skiers plenty of snow, Saas Fee sits between 1800m and 3500m. Unlike some other high altitude ski areas, this resort retains a beautiful traditional alpine charm. It has 140km of pistes, and a good number of these are on the glacier. Those that aren’t are topped up by snow cannon. On 16 April the resort's ‘Schneegaudi’ Easter party is staged at 2,400m.
Ischgl is a great choice for late-season skiing. Ninety percent of its high, north-facing slopes sit between 2,000m and 2,872m. Generally speaking you should be guaranteed snow until the start of May – and they know how to celebrate it. Known for its good après ski, Ischgl holds a series of free top of the mountain concerts at dusk. Past big name performers have included Elton John, Diana Ross and Tina Turner.
The advantages to skiing at Zermatt during March and April are clear – the days are longer and warmer, yet the slopes still get new powder. The famous Swiss resort has lifts that take you to 3899m, and 85 per cent of the resort's ski area is above 2,000m. Summer skiing is great on the glacier, making it a year-round ski destination.
Sitting on the other side of the looming Matterhorn to Zermatt is Italy’s Cervinia, which some say gets better snow. Reaching 3,480m, its one of the highest resorts in Europe – and more affordable than many. It gets a lot of late afternoon sun, but still has great snow conditions late in the season. Intermediates will love the long, cruisy, well groomed pistes – and you can swing over to Zermatt anytime you like.
A high, snow-sure, buzzing resort offering good spring skiing. With an altitude of 2811m above sea level and many north-facing slopes, the resort manages to hold snow well, despite strong sunshine. South facing slopes are helped out by snow-making cannons. The White Thrill is the spring sporting highlight of the St Anton am Arlberg ski area and takes place April 25. Hundreds of skiers, snowboarders, bigfooters, and telemarkers meet on the Valluga at 2650 metres for the mass start.
Duty-free Livigno in Italy is a great choice for a good value spring ski holiday. The food and drink are cheap, and the resort is known for its sunny location. With pistes to 3,000m and a good snow record the area is pretty snow sure. Skiing lasts until late April /Early May and over 136 snow cannons ensure artificial snow making covers 82km of ski trails.
Val d’Isere is another high altitude resort, linked with Tignes to form the Espace Killy. The highest lifts will take you to over 3,400 meters (11,155 feet). Snow usually lasts into May and the Pissaillas Glacier is ski-able throughout the summer. The off-piste is great in late spring – you can enjoy an awesome mix of powder and spring snow.
There’s no glacier at Lech, but the top slopes are high enough to hold snow until late spring time. The upmarket Austrian resort may not match the après ski atmosphere of neighbouring St Anton, but when the days are long, the streets are filled with people sunbathing and drinking. You can get a good discount on most ski trips if you book your holiday for late March or April. Lech offers discounts on lift tickets and accommodation during these months.