Ski Season Around the World
Most people would consider skiing to be a seasonal sport. Even if you’re lucky enough to be able to jet between hemispheres it seems as if there are still a few months between seasons where the best you are going to get is an indoor slope. Well fear not, if you look long and hard there is somewhere to enjoy real snow every month of the year.
If you want to hit the slopes all year round, here’s a ski destination for every month of the year.
January – Tignes, France
Tignes is a great resort pretty much all year round. The atmosphere is friendly, the scenery is completely breathtaking but a sneaky little tip is to hit the French resort in January. This is considered a low season at most ski resorts so it is excellent opportunity for advanced skiers to enjoy some clear runs. Tignes is a great choice for this as it is well equipped with extensive runs and plenty of off piste as well as more intermediate slopes for those looking to simply enjoy the lack of crowds. January has an abundance of beautiful clear runs and pristine snow and you can’t ask for much more than that.
The main airports used to get to Tignes are Geneva & Lyon. However, Chambery and Grenoble are also used. A lot of carriers fly to Geneva and you can often get the best prices if you hunt around. It also has the most frequent bus service to and from Tignes.
January is a particularly good month for catching some amazing athletes in several high profile competitions. One of the best is the 5 day free styling competition held in mid January which brings together some of the best talent around, across all disciplines.
February – Vail, Colorado, US
Visit Vail in February and you can enjoy beautiful sunny weather and some impressive deals. Despite California’s long season, lasting from November through to at least May, the earlier you go, the better the snow and Vail is arguably the best resort in Colorado (a state full of spectacular resorts). The nightlife is in full swing around February and the skiing is epic so there is no better time to visit.
You can fly almost straight into Vail if you use The Vail / Eagle Airport which is just a quick 25 minute drive to Vail, Colorado. Denver International Airport is the most popular choice and provides easy access via a 2.5 hour drive. If you are driving, Vail is easy to get to no matter where you’re coming from and the views and scenery on the journey are absolutely stunning!
Vail is great for the family as it offers a fun alternative to skiing at Adventure Ridge. You can play all day, and well into the night, with ski bikes, kids snowmobile track, a slippery slope of rip-roaring tubing lanes and more. There is also a snow park the size of a football stadium on top of the mountain and family food favorite Bistro Fourteen.
>> Visit Vail in summer for a completely different experience.
March – Whistler, Canada
Regularly voted one of the best resorts in the world Whistler is not to be sniffed at whenever you visit but March may just be the best month as it avoids the bitter cold of December and January and the showers in April. The climate is comfortable, the snow excellent and après ski is very lively.
The most convenient airport to use is Vancouver which is just a 2 hour drive from Whistler. There are many shuttle services and car rentals available at the airport or you could take the opportunity to stay a couple of nights in the beautiful city of Vancouver.
If you fancy seeing the scenery in style you could catch the new Whistler Sea to Sky Climb train from Vancouver. It offers a three-hour, premier train trip to Whistler, and you’ll have front row seats to the endless array of breathtaking views.
The buzz from the Olympics and Paralympics may be dying down but in late March (usually 26th, 27th) Whistler residents still have something to get excited about with the Appleton Rum Race to Valley Peak, an annual event hailed as the local version of the Olympics. The race welcomes different ages and abilities and is a fun, exciting, community event and not to be missed.
April:- Sunshine Village, Canada
April can be a tricky month for good skiing as many resorts are winding down and losing snow quality. However, all is not lost as Sunshine Village, in Banff National Park, is well known for expecting a big dump in April and providing some excellent skiing amongst beautiful scenery. Don’t let the spring weather put you off, there is actually nothing better than riding in a t-shirt and sunglasses.
Sunshine Village is located in Banff National Park 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the town of Banff. It is 115 miles (184 kilometers) west of Calgary International Airport.
Rental cars and shuttle buses are available from Calgary to and from the town of Banff and there are shuttle buses running to and from Sunshine multiple times daily, with a round trip costing $15.
Sunshine Village is spread over three mountains and is renowned for having the freshest champagne powder in all of the Rockies and although it is a small resort amenities wise it is on the doorstep of Banff which is a lively little ski town. Banff provides all the retail; nightlife and dining you could possibly need and is world class for hiking and biking during the summer months.
May – Chamonix, France
The glaciers in Chamonix, France mean that skiing is available from November through May, which many resorts without glaciers do not provide, and is an ideal choice in this tricky month weather wise. France is notorious for having amazing skiing and Chamonix is one of the best. It’s a genuinely beautiful resort and managing to get on the slopes in May is pretty satisfying.
Flights to Chamonix usually land at the resort’s nearest airport which is actually Geneva in Switzerland. There are many companies doing reasonably priced shuttles from the airport (around £40 each way) If you hire a car it is an easy drive from the airport – just take the A40 and follow signs to Chamonix.
June- Riksgransen, Sweden
You can travel to the Southern Hemisphere in June for the opening of their season but if you want to stay a little closer to home try Riksgransen in Northern Sweden. The long days and warm weather make for a unique ski experience and I would strongly recommend Riksgransen if you like 24hr daylight, spring skiing and vodka!
The resort of Riksgransen is very isolated, and is located next to the Norwegian border and 130kms from the nearest town. The nearest international airport to the resort of Riksgransen is 1,500kms away in Stockholm. However, there is a domestic airport in Kiruna, just 130kms from the resort, and serviced by Stockholm. From Kiruna, take a bus or taxi transfer to the resort.
As the almost permanent darkness of winter recedes, skiers make the most of the extensive slopes and, by midsummer, the sun barely drops below the horizon. On some nights in June the lift system is open until one o’clock in the morning. The surrounding wilderness allows for alternative activities such as cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. You’re not going to get a longer day skiing than in Riksgransen.
July – Perisher Blue, Australia
The Australian ski season usually starts on the Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend in June and is at its best in July. Perisher Blue is Australia’s largest and arguable best ski resort and is it super lively with peak conditions at their best in July. The Aussie’s certainly know how to enjoy their après ski and July has an all round party atmosphere throughout the resort.
Perisher Blue is 500km from Sydney, about a 5 ½ hour drive, 160km from Canberra, about a 2 ½ hour drive and 33km from Jindabyne. Planes can be caught from Sydney, a 50 minute flight, and Melbourne, a 75 minute flight, via Regional Express Airlines (REX) directly to the Snowy Mountains Airport with coach transfers to Perisher Blue.
For those who fancy some mid-year festivities, the resort have taken the rather inspired step of introducing ‘Christmas in July’ so you can experience all things Xmas on the Perisher slopes. Seeing a snowboarding Santa in July is reason enough to hit the resort.
August – Cadrona, New Zealand
Some cynics might argue that the Southern Hemisphere lacks the alpine charm of a European ski resort. Well clearly they have not visited Cardrona which combines the laid back atmosphere of a Kiwi resort with pretty, alpine inspired surroundings. The whole vibe is very quaint and pleasant and has some of the best conditions on the island in August.
Cardrona is situated on New Zealand’s South Island just off the Cardrona Valley road which links Wanaka and Queenstown. Drive time from the 3 main towns in the area is as follows: Wanaka 35 minutes (34km), Arrowtown 45 minutes (37km), Queenstown 60 minutes (58km). The nearest international airports is Christchurch – 420km / 300 minutes drive, with local airports situated at Wanaka – 10km / 10 minutes (Air NZ only), Queenstown – 60km / 50 minutes drive A number of companies operate shuttles from Wanaka and Queenstown.
The annual Burton New Zealand Open Halfpipe takes place under the blue skies of Cardrona in August and some of the world’s top riders compete each year. The Kiwi’s take the partying side of the competition very seriously, so expect a great atmosphere.
September – The Remarkables, New Zealand
The Remarkables is perhaps the best resort in New Zealand; around 50 minutes drive from the ski town of Queenstown, it is easily accessible and close to all the fun in town . As the season begins to slow a little there is still great snow at the Remarks due to its altitude and it is definitely the resort to choose in September.
The Remarkables are 26 kilometers (16 miles) out of Queenstown, about a 50 minute drive. Rental cars are available from Queenstown International Airport. The resort is extremely accessible from Queenstown and regular shuttle buses operate daily from the snow centre on Duke Street.
The Remarkables is the best resort in the area for snowboarders and has a world class snow park with jumps, boxes and rails. It has become a bit of a cult in fact, with an increasing number of Queenstown residents walking around in ‘Park Life’ hoodies. Even if you don’t fancy risking life and limb on the rails you can view some unbelievable stunts from the safety of the chair lift.
October – Portillo, Chile
Portillo is one of Chile’s most stunning resorts, and October is great for late season deals and pleasant weather conditions. With October being considered very much an in-between high seasons kind of month, Portillo still offers quality snow on some world class pistes (Portillo is the principal training resort for Northern Hemisphere ski racers). If you shop around you can also get some great bargains in October.
Travel along Route 57 towards Los Andrew and then take the International Highway until finally reaching Ski Portillo, near the Paso Los Libertadores. During the winter season, the use of snow chains is mandatory. Ski Portillo offers shuttles between Santiago, Santiago International Airport, and Ski Portillo.
Portillo is easily accessible to the wine growing valleys of Chile and there are a range of full and half-day trips available to visit historic winery’s with opportunities for wine tasting. It is an ideal resort to visit if you want to soak up the local atmosphere and enjoy the culture as well as the awesome skiing.
November – Zermatt, Switzerland
Switzerland is a stunning place to ski all season with near perfect snow conditions and a beautiful backdrop but November is especially great due to fresh snow, early season offers and the excitement of opening day. Zermatt even offers a special package for skiers and boarders who want to get on fresh snow and test the new season’s equipment. November is a definite peak time to visit.
Probably the best way to reach Zermatt is by train, since you won’t be able to drive once you get there anyway. Private cars can only drive as far as Täsch. The last 7 km must be traveled by train or by taxi. If it’s in line with your budget, Air Zermatt will fly you in from major airports around.
All three ski and snowboard areas have introduced moonlight ski runs. On full moon nights guests can dine at an upper mountain restaurant before cruising down the pistes in the moonlight.
December – Santa Fe, New Mexico, US
Santa Fe has a great atmosphere all year round but is particularly amazing at Christmas time. Events, festivals and an outdoor Spanish Nativity play provide a beautiful Christmas backdrop to accompany the quality skiing. The local churches are also beautiful and you can join in with some of the masses in this predominantly Catholic country.
The Albuquerque International Airport is only an hour’s drive from Sante Fe and is serviced by a range of international airlines. Flying into Albuquerque and renting a car is by far the most popular way of traveling, but there are buses and trains to New Mexico if you are traveling overland.
A shuttle service is available from the Albuquerque airport, the Santa Fe airport and the train station which is located in Lamy, New Mexico, about 20 miles from Santa Fe.
If you like to combine your skiing holiday with a chance to learn about the culture and arts of the country you are visiting, then Sante Fe offers plenty of opportunities. The city has long been a center for arts and culture and now ranks as the country’s third largest art market with nearly 300 galleries and dealers. There also are more than a dozen major museums showcasing an array of art, culture, history and traditions, as well the world-class Santa Fe Opera.
Where’s your favorite ski destination?
Ready to hit the slopes? Before you do, invest in some travel insurance. Because the only thing worse than falling down a mountain while on your ski vacation is falling down a mountain…and not being able to afford emergency care.
Photos by: January – plusgood, February – jrm353 , March – Wildcat Dunny , April – kyle w lane, May – Chamonix, June – Thomas Kirkevag, July – PetarS, August – andrew.chau, September – launceston_lad, October – benjamincooper, November – dsearls, December – strulock