When to Ski Europe

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Brenta Dolomites, Italy.
Brenta Dolomites, Italy.
Aosta Valley, Chamois ski resort, Italy.
Aosta Valley, Chamois ski resort, Italy.
Skiing below the Matterhorn in January.
Skiing below the Matterhorn in January.
Mid winter blizzard in Davos, Switzerland
Mid winter blizzard in Davos, Switzerland
Cold February snow in Austria.
Cold February snow in Austria.
Early morning at Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Early morning at Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Deep powder in France.
Deep powder in France.
Beautiful Aletsch Arena, Switzerland.
Beautiful Aletsch Arena, Switzerland.
Scoring the goods at Sainte Foy, France.
Scoring the goods at Sainte Foy, France.
Great snow at Tignes, France.
Great snow at Tignes, France.
Perfect powder at Kuhtai, Austria.
Perfect powder at Kuhtai, Austria.
Arosa ski resort, Switzerland.
Arosa ski resort, Switzerland.
A gloomy day at Laax, Switzerland.
A gloomy day at Laax, Switzerland.
The Tarentaise valley, France.
The Tarentaise valley, France.
Wonderful snow in Austria.
Wonderful snow in Austria.
St Moritz Switzerland skiing.
St Moritz Switzerland skiing.
Heavy blizzard at Lauchernalp.
Heavy blizzard at Lauchernalp.
Les Arcs lunchtime crowd!
Les Arcs lunchtime crowd!
Apres ski time.
Apres ski time.
Soaking in the rays at Madonna di Campiglio, Italy
Soaking in the rays at Madonna di Campiglio, Italy

When to Ski Europe

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When is the Best Time to Ski Europe?

The second question asked about skiing Europe after 'Where is the best place to ski?' is 'When is the best time?' There are a few rules of thumb, spelt out below.

Europe has a large population living near the Alps. To maximise the enjoyment of our European skiing experiences, the main factors we consider are:

  1. Crowds;
  2. Snow quantity & quality;
  3. Open lifts & terrain;
  4. Price.

Factors 2 & 3 are often beyond our control due to mother nature, but crowds (Factor 1) can make even the greatest powder snow day a disappointment. So, we try to AVOID CROWDS AT ALL COSTS.

The other lovely element associated with the question of ‘When to ski Europe, is that one can be safe in the knowledge it is possible to ride a ski lift & schuss a piste every day of every month of the year. Read on to find out where is best and when.

Best Times to Ski Europe with Low Crowds

It should go without saying that sleeping in until 10am & starting skiing at 11 is not a good crowd avoidance strategy. Dress for the cold, get to first lifts & let it rip for a couple of hours of bliss. Have an early lunch & then hit it again when everyone else heads in for theirs.

In a broader sense the following is rule of thumb for the best times to ski Europe with low crowds:

  • November & December before Christmas;
  • January after the first week;
  • Middle two weeks of March; and
  • April whenever Easter isn’t!
Times to absolutely avoid if you don’t like too many humans sharing your powder:
  • Christmas / New year period (everywhere);
  • French school holidays – particularly when Zone C (Paris & districts) is on holiday (mainly for French ski resorts);
  • *Weekends.;
  • Competition events;
  • Mid to late February (It is high season in ski resorts for a reason!).

*A general rule for any self-respecting Powderhound is ski backcountry on weekends & avoid the resorts. Note that Saturdays are often a changeover day. If the nearby local population isn’t large, it can be surprisingly good resorts on a Saturday – go figure!

Europe Skiing Month by Month

Europe is the only place in the world that has lift assisted skiing all year round. Here is our guide to tick off the ‘I skied every month last year and avoided the crowds’ list.

December

Christmas in Europe at the snow fields is major affair. Prices are up & crowds are aplenty, but it can be a magical time to visit, especially as a family. Expect decent snow mostly everywhere, however it can be hit & miss. Austria is generally a very safe bet. Italian resorts are particularly nice with their night markets, especially those around the glorious Dolomites & Madonna di Campiglio. A Swiss Alps family Christmas at Aletsch Arena would be hard to beat. For the more energetic the Arosa & Lenzerheide combination is wonderful at Christmas time.

Early December can see huge snowfalls in the southern Alps. If snow hits the south, look at Serre Chevalier, Alpe d'Huez and Montgenevre in France pre-Christmas.

Hintertux Glacier & Zermatt (& Mölltal Glacier) are open. As is Saas Fee. You will notice a theme here!

January

January is the best time to ski the Austrian ski resorts with low elevation bases (600m+). All the smaller secret stash locations should have wonderful snow and the valley runs will be open. Resorts like Diedamskopf, Krippenstein, Zell am See and a host of others south of Salzburg like Loser & Tauplitz are worthy of a massive ski safari road trip. All the Innsbruck ski resorts will be great, especially the Powderhounds favourite of Kuehtai.

As it is quieter after the first week of January, it can be a good time to hit some of the Austrian mega resorts like in the Zillertal (Mayrhofen & Hochzillertal), Skicircus Saalbach, Ski Arlberg (St Anton, LechWarth Schroecken, Zurs) & Vorarlberg's snow magnet Damuels Mellau.

Similarly the huge Tarentaise valley ski resorts in France are very good in mid-January. Tignes, Val d'Isere, Les Arcs, Sainte Foy & the 3 Vallèes (i.e. Courchevel et al) are ripe for the picking.

In Switzerland, ski the behemoth of the Portes du Soleil the amazing Jungfrau or the stately Gstaad.

Head to the Balkans or Georgia for great value cat skiing & ski touring.

Hintertux Glacier & Zermatt (& Moelltal Glacier) are still open! As is Saas Fee.

February

Snowpacks are deepening. Generally, the start of the next ‘high season’ will coincide with the beginning of the various school holiday periods throughout the month. Know that the price of lift tickets and lodging are higher accordingly. But not everywhere. To avoid the February costs of the Alps, head to the Balkans for resort, cat & ski touring in North Macedonia & Kosovo or further afield to the Caucasus and Georgia. For something completely different check out the skiing in mountainous Greece.

In the Alps, ski the Via Lattea (Sestriere, Oulx etc) in Italy for best value lift pass price in western Europe & low mid-week crowds.

As resorts get busy in the Tarentaise (time to avoid the French mega resorts), head instead to the Haute Maurienne valley. The gorgeous La Norma, Bonneval sur Arc, Aussois & Val Cenis are world class, but without the reputation & corresponding popularity.

In Italy check out the Aosta Valley’s quieter resorts like Crevacol, Pila & La Thuile. Down south, head to Spain & Andorra for something different.

In Switzerland, the plethora of smaller 'forgotten resorts like Brigels, Bivio, Savognin & Disentis in Graubuenden plus Belalp, Lauchernalp, Grimentz Zinal & St Luc Chandolin the Valais are the go to locations.

Hintertux & Zermatt (& Mölltal) are still open! So is Saas Fee.

March

Everywhere is glorious, but the Dolomites are particularly nice in early March. Resorts above the Arctic Circle (like Riksgransen, Abisko & Bjorkliden in Sweden) are just fully opening.

The Mont Blanc massif (Chamonix & Courmayeur) is at its best towards the end of the month but can have loads of humans in the backcountry.

Freeride routes in Switzerland around Verbier, Davos Klosters, Andermatt Sedrun, St Moritz. Monterosa in Italy can be amazing in March.

For a bit of adventure, head to Gudauri in Georgia.

Hintertux & Zermatt (plus Moelltal) are still open!

April

April can bring some huge snow dumps to the higher elevations but expect lots of milder temperatures and ego corn snow. If it does snow, get out there as the crowds have gone & prices are low.

The vast majority of ski resorts will close in the first two weeks of April. The sun is out, snow is soft, days are long, and partying is definitely on. Head to Ischgl for the best on-snow parties in Europe & perhaps the world!

Turn an eye to a ski tour along the Urner Skiers Haute Route between Andermatt and Engelberg or on the Monte Rosa massif from Alagna. Skin & ski the high peaks around the Oetztal & Pitztal in Austria.

Heliskiing is in full swing in Kamchatka in far east Russia and in the mountains above the Arctic Circle near Riksgransen & Abisko in Sweden is in full swing. April is also high season for other heliski & ski touring locations including Iceland (March to May) & Greenland.

There are some many peaks in the Alps worth climbing for great spring turns.

Hintertux and Zermatt (and Mölltal) are still open!

May

Scandinavia is the place to go for midnight sun skiing. For something completely different, try Riksgransen in Sweden. In Norway during a big snow year, resorts like Hemsedal are open into May and the small but reliable Fonna Glacier opens in late April until the end of summer. Most Scandinavian resorts are closed by the end of May but boat or land-based ski touring in the Lyngen Alps is at its best.

Italy's Stelvio Pass summer ski area will open early in the month, assuming the road has been located & cleared! It will be available for sliding until November.

Party central Ischgl ski resort in Austria will be having its last hoorah, as will Andermatt, Engelberg, Livigno & Val Thorens.

Hintertux & Zermatt are still open! Sadly, Pitztal Glacier & Moelltal Glacier close in the middle of May (Mölltal only for a month) – they deserve a break!

June

June can be the best time to ski the backcountry around Zermatt (& undertake climbs above the lifts up to the summit of Elbrus in Russia to get away for some adventure). Norway’s Svalbard is perfect for boat-based ski touring among polar bears & walrus!

Depending on the quality and quantity of the snow during winter and spring, several of the higher elevation resorts will still be open. Glacier based resorts and those with north facing terrain above 2500m are still a good chance. Stelvio Pass is perfect in June.

While some Austrian glacier resorts are just closing to skiing for the summer (Kaprun-Kitzsteinhorn, Stubai Glacier et al), several high elevation ski resorts with small glacier are opening for a short summer ski season. Tignes and Val d'Isere in France, plus Cervinia in Italy are open.

The very strange resort at Passo Stelvio in north east Italy opens in summer as the snowpack decreases(!) to a reasonable level for summer skiing. It closes in early winter as snow levels become unmanageable – go figure.

Hintertux & Zermatt are still open! Yay, Moelltal Glacier opens in the middle of June.

July

High altitude Glacier based skiing is all the go. Val d’Isere closes its short summer ski season. Saas Fee in Switzerland opens its glacier skiing and doesn’t close until April!

Hintertux Glacier & Zermatt (plus Mölltal) are still open!

August

Lean times but Hintertux and Zermatt (and Moelltal) are still open! As is Saas Fee. Tignes closes its summer skiing.

September

The Austrian glacier resorts including Kitzsteinhorn & Stubai Glacier will be trying to open as will Val Senales and a few other high glacier-based resorts in Italy.

Hintertux and Zermatt (and Mölltal) are still open! As is Saas Fee.

October

Cat skiing is in full swing in Siberia with Pri Freeride plus more glacier ski resorts are all starting to open like Soelden, Pitztal Glacier & Kaunertal in Austria, plus Solda-SuldenTonale & Val Senales in Italy. Non-glacier ski resorts like Obergurgl-Hochgurgl and Kitzbϋhel are opening.

Hintertux and Zermatt (and Moelltal) are still open! As is Saas Fee.

November

By the end of November, many ski resorts are operating, although some will only be on weekends and with limited lifts. Try the larger ski resorts of Andermatt, St Moritz, Verbier, Tignes, Val d'Isere & Cervinia.

The Italian summer ski resort at Stelvio Pass will close early in the month as the snows increase, but the likes of Livigno will open!

Hintertux Glacier and Zermatt (plus Mölltal) are still open! As is Saas Fee. Yep, Hintertux and Zermatt are open all year, Moelltal Glacier does 11 months.

And now it is just getting cold again for the snow to drop right down into the low valleys. Winter is back. Yay!