If you’re a keen skier, waiting for the season to begin can feel like agony. You’d do pretty much anything to be soaring down those mountains again. Why not consider an early season skiing in Europe which can be extremely rewarding and a fun way to avoid the crowds. There are a number of high altitude ski resorts that tend to get consistent snow coverage from as early as November. Here’s our guide to Europe’s best early season ski resorts where you can get out on the slopes before everyone else.
Tignes-Val d’Isère, France
Together the ski resorts of Tignes and Val d’Isère make up the Espace Killy ski area of over 300km and a winter season that typically lasts from late November until early May. The majority of runs are located between 2,300m and 2,900m and their two glaciers reach up to 3,456m, meaning that snow conditions are usually superb during the early season. The varied terrain is a little more challenging than at some of the neighbouring ski resorts. Two snow parks, great lift-served off-piste routes, and a bustling social scene make this area an advanced skier’s dream.
The Matterhorn itself is a great reason to visit Zermatt. However, it’s early season skiing opportunities are also a big pull. With three large, inter-linked ski areas with good snow-making installations and an extensive glacier, it’s an early season favourite. Zermatt has access to the highest lift-served terrain in Europe at 3,820m. From the top of the Klein Matterhorn glacier you can experience one of the best long cruising pistes in Europe called the Ventina run. It takes you 14.5km down into Breuil-Cervinia. There are green, blue, red and black pistes aplenty here, as well as cross-country terrain. Even non-skiers will be perfectly occupied within this scenic alpine village with plenty of après-ski and hiking on offer.
Val Thorens, France
Where better to head for a spot of early season skiing than Europe’s highest resort: Val Thorens. Sitting at an impressive 2,300m, its north-facing slopes help to guarantee good quality snow right from the start of the season. Val Thorens ski resort is linked with Méribel and Courchevel to form the Three Valleys. With over 600km of pistes this makes up one of the largest ski areas in the world. The ski resort is suited to all levels of skier. There are gentle, rolling slopes for beginners, blue cruisers for intermediates and plenty of tough terrain for those looking to push themselves. Along with great snow, Val Thorens is a dynamic ski resort with lively après kicking off daily from mid-afternoon. There’s an abundance of mountain restaurants with panoramic views of the surrounding peaks for those seeking a more relaxed end to the day.
It won’t feel like an early season skiing trip if you arrive at Ischgl at the start of December. With deep snow covering its 210km of pistes, an annual free pop concert featuring the likes of Rihanna and Lionel Ritchie, and lively bars offering après-ski entertainment until the early hours; you’ll soon forget that most ski resorts won’t be opening for a few more weeks. Most of the slopes are above the treeline, and some are as high as 2,900m – factors which contribute to the area’s snow-sure reputation. This purpose-built ski resort on the Austrian-Swiss border has been popular since the first lift was built in 1963. It’s a particular favourite amongst German and Scandinavian skiers.
So, if you’re looking to be home by Christmas but you still want to catch some action, don’t despair. There are plenty of opportunities for incredible early season skiing before winter is in full swing. To find out more about the best early season ski resorts, speak to one of our experts on 0207 471 7700.