At My Swft, we’re always dreaming of a White Christmas. Frankly though, even Christmas seems a long time to wait to strap the skis on so we’ve put together this guide on where to ski before the masses arrive from late December.
Early season skiing can carry the risk of patchy snow conditions but with careful planning and clever resort selection, these risks can be mitigated and the rewards, of bargain accommodation and deserted pistes, can be unbelievable. Welcome to the My Swft Guide to Early season skiing.
The French Giants
The trick with early season skiing is always to aim high, and the French have a number of resorts all boasting skiing upwards of 3,000m. Readers of the My Swft Blog will know how much we love Val Thorens. Consistently voted the world’s best ski resort (at the World Ski Awards), Val Thorens is unsurprisingly an early season belter. Not just the best, also the highest, it’s the first of the Trois Vallées ski resorts to open and you can be sipping Vin Chaud from Mid-November.
Launching almost two months ahead of VT though, la Grande Motte Glacier in Tignes opens on the 30th September (it’s open, folks!) before being joined by neighbouring Val d’Isere in late November. The largest snow-maker in Europe ensures these are two snow-sure and reliable early season destinations.
Finally, Les Deux Alpes, another resort blessed with glacial foundations, opens for a 10 day testing/mini snow festival stint from October 21st, before opening for the season-proper in December. The slopes here are open for summer skiing from June to September so December, from the resort’s perspective, is child’s play.
Each year the trendy and sophisticated Ischgl kicks off the season with its famous “Top of the Mountain Opening Concert” which has seen the likes of Elton John, Rihanna and James Blunt perform and this year will be no different, with the concert scheduled for November 25th. All this makes Ischgl, too often overlooked by Brit skiers, a fantastic option for some early season apres.
Over in the Zillertal Valley, the glacier supporting Hintertux is open year round, making it the most reliable skiing in the alps, and when the snow is really good, neighbouring Mayrhofen provides huge variety and some excellent après.
Without question one of the prettiest and most exclusive resorts in the alps is Lech, which also boasts some of the most reliable snowfall. Despite being at a similar altitude to newly connected St Anton, a trick of the geographical conditions means Lech regularly receives almost double the snowfall, so it’s perfect for a leisurely early season trip. Zurs, further up the mountain from Lech, does even better and together the three villages form the most expansive ski area in Austria.
North American Shredders
Although perhaps a stretch this time of year given the costs of travelling, we should nonetheless doff our beanies in the direction of North America’s greats. While they can be hit and miss, when they hit, the east coast skiing found in Whistler and Lake Louise (Banff) can be staggering and when the Pacific storms role in, snowfall is measured in feet, not inches. Snow has already begun to fall across the rockies too, so the excitement is building!
There is less reason to wait than you realise. OK, you might not be guaranteed three feet of fresh powder but with the quality of the snow-makers these days, you can guarantee slope action and this can be the perfect time of year to hone your technique. Ski instruction generally becomes available when the resorts do and if you’re a park lover, Les Deux Alpes Glacier Snowpark is the perfect place to train year round.
Still not convinced? Why not wait for the snowfall and book last minute?