As summer ends and the temperatures fall, the thoughts of early season skiing begins. The Fall signals the start of snowmaking in North America and a handful of Europe’s leading ski areas open their gates for early season skiing. Why not take advantage of the opportunities for early season skiing in October and November when you can enjoy uncrowded slopes and perhaps rub shoulders with the national ski teams as they prepare for Winter. Also, you will find accommodation and lift passes are much less expensive than in high season.
There are plenty of options for season skiing in the higher glacier areas in Europe and you’re likely to have the slopes to yourself. You can travel through quiet, empty airports and be the first to try out the new season’s equipment in the ski hire shops.
Here are our recommendations for easrly season ski destinations:
Austria : Austria normally has more places to ski or board in the late Autumn/early Winter than any other single country, with up to eight areas open by mid-October. The precise opening date each winter depends on snow conditions, but in any case, many resorts combine the traditional beer festivals of the region with the first skiing of the season to create one big party atmosphere.
Along with Hintertux, Kaunertal and Pitztal, Austrian skiing options include glacier skiing at Kaprun, Solden and near Schladming. Obergurgl is normally one of the first ski areas that doesn't rely on a glacier to open each winter, thanks to its high base and very high slopes above.
France : Tignes is the only French ski resort open for almost all of Autumn and normally re-opens around the last weekend of September a few weeks after it has closed its summer skiing operation on the Grande Motte glacier. Besides Tignes, les 2 Alpes traditionally opens its glacier ski area, which it claims is Europe’s largest, at the end of October and start of November.
Switzerland: Besides Saas Fee and Zermatt, several more of Switzerland’s glacier ski areas open in early October. The four other early choices, which may only be open on weekends until the main winter season begins, include glacier skiing between Les Diablerets and Gstaad, the glacier above Engelberg and the glacier at Laax.
Italy: Apart from Val Senales, Cervinia usually opens at the end of October offering access from the Italian side to the Klein Matterhorn glacier above Zermatt. A third option is the summer ski centre at Passo Stelvio, normally open at least into October.
In North America, only Timberline on Mt. Hood in Oregon stays open almost year round, but normally closes for a few weeks in September, usually re-opening at the end of the month. If it’s a cold fall, the snowmaking guns will start at some of the world’s highest resorts in Colorado at ski areas like Copper Mountain, Breckenridge and Keystone. In Canada, Norquay in Banff, Sunshine and Lake Louise are usually the first to open in the first weeks of November.
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