Good resorts for pre-Christmas skiing
With autumn arriving, the skiing season is getting nearer. If you can’t wait till late November or December when winter should really arrive, head for the glaciers that are open most of the year. This mainly means Austria, with Hintertux open 365 days a year, Stubai from 13 September, Kaprun (Kitzsteinhorn) from 3 October. In Switzerland Saas-Fee and Zermatt both have glacier areas open most of the year (as does Cervinia in Italy). And in France, the Tignes glacier is due to open on 4 October.
If you are content to wait till November and December for the opening of significant areas of slopes and a lively atmosphere in the resorts, the main North American places all try to have lots of terrain open for the Thanksgiving holiday (27 November this year). My preferred options for then would be Vail, Aspen/Snowmass and Breckenridge in USA and Whistler and Banff in Canada.
Few alpine resorts spring into life much before Christmas. Major exceptions include
Val d’Isère, France. Home to World Cup races every December, so the resort gets lively before most other Alpine destinations. Neighbouring Tignes is higher and usually has even better snow and the link between the two is due to open on 29 November.
Val Thorens, France. The best bet in the Three Valleys for early season snow; opens on 22 November.
Obergurgl, Austria (above). About the most snow-sure of Europe’s non-glacier resorts, which starts its season on 14 November. Sölden, just down the valley, has its glaciers open now and plans to open its other slopes from 15 November.
Selva/Val Gardena, Italy. Home to a World Cup men’s downhill race on 20 December, the season starts on 5 December and the fabulous snowmaking system should ensure decent skiing even if natural snow is lacking.