It’s been a slow, slushy start for the European ski season. Unpredictable weather patterns and uncertainty about snowfall have been trickier to navigate than a series of black runs. But a recent flurry of frozen flakes – with more forecast – has primed peaks for the weeks (and hopefully months) ahead.
“Snow – or rather the lack of it – has been a bit of a killjoy in the Alps these first few days of the new year,” say the Swiss tourist board. “But things are looking up for Switzerland, as quite a bit of snowfall has now been reported in the Swiss Alps.”
While they admit resorts are “working day and night to groom the pistes and make winter holidays as memorable as possible for guests”, fortunately, most of the 221 winter resorts in Switzerland are at an altitude above 1,800m, making then ‘snow safe’.
It’s true, higher slopes have been much more popular this season. Mountain specialists Inghams report an increase in online searches for high-altitude resorts, a trend they believe is likely to continue.
Inghams make a point of only featuring resorts with reliable snow records and access to high-altitude ski areas (even if the resort centre itself is low). This means, whilst not impossible, the chances of their resorts or ski areas fully closing due to lack of snow, are small.
It’s certainly been business as usual at French resorts such as Val d’Isere (1,800m), Meribel (1,400m) and Courchevel (1,850m). Tour operator Ski Beat, whose portfolio focuses on French Alpine resorts – mainly in high-altitude areas – say they are having the busiest season in the company’s 34-year history.
In Switzerland, the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz and sister hotel in nearby Pontresina in the Engadine Valley (1,800 metres, with 82% of the slopes above 2,000 metres) report there has been good snow – even in warmer months. All downhill slopes are open, as is the biggest cross-country skiing infrastructure in all Switzerland (with about 140km of tracks). Take a look at a live web cam (stmoritz.com/live/webcams) to see for yourself.
Not every ski resort area has been so fortunate, however. Where snowfall has been frustratingly low, resorts have been promoting alternative activities and facilities, such as saunas and indoor aqua centres. At La Clusaz in the Aravis, the number of open lifts and slopes is restricted, while skiing at the La Balme sector been limited to the base.
Meanwhile, in Trentino, Italy, high-altitude resorts are taking no chances. By using artificial snowmaking equipment, they guarantee 90% of their 380km of slopes will be open.
Take advantage of the snow while you can with these deals…
Esprit (espritski.com) offers seven nights chalet board in La Rosiere, France from £2,919 per family (based on two adults and two children under eight) – saving £1,000, including flights from Gatwick. Departs January 28.
Inghams (inghams.co.uk) offers seven nights in Val d’Isere, France, in the Hotel Ducs de Savoie, half board from £4,538 per family (based on two adults and two children under eight), including flights from Gatwick. Departs February 18.
Ski Beat (skibeat.co.uk) offers a seven-night catered chalet stay at the Chalet Arpette 1 in Plagne 1800, part of the vast Paradiski area in France, from £1,096pp (two sharing), including flights from Gatwick. Various departures.
Scott Dunn (scottdunn.com) offers seven nights B&B at Hotel Kristiania, Lech, Austria from £2,600pp (two sharing), including flights and transfers. Various departures.
TIP: Keep up to date with the latest weather at snow-forecast.com.
TIP: The quietest period on European ski slopes is generally mid-March. Avoid peak Saturday changeover days by looking for chalets with Sunday to Sunday availability – such as those featured in Consensio’s portfolio (consensiochalets.co.uk).