LATE-SEASON SNOW: WHERE TO GO

It has not been a banner season for snowfall in the Alps. Most of the major resorts faced a tense, month-long wait from Christmas through to late January when little or no snow fell to boost the meagre early- season covering. Happily, that's all changed in the past few weeks with heavy, regular falls bringing powder heaven to most. Whether it's enough to see us through to April and whether it keeps coming remains to be seen.

If you plan to travel over the early Easter break or afterwards, your best bet is to pick a resort with high altitude terrain. Ideally, find a centre with a glacier summer ski area to be doubly sure, with slopes that can be easily accessed by high-speed chair or gondola lift from the resort centre.

In France that means resorts like Val d'Isere or Tignes in the Espace Killy; Val Thorens in the Three Valleys or the Paradiski area above Les Arcs and La Plagne (pick one of the higher base villages). In Switzerland Davos, Verbier, St Moritz and Zermatt (pictured) are all safe bets. In Austria try Solden or the Tux or Stubai glaciers. Italy has Cervinia, from where you can ride one of the world's few cross-border chairlifts into Switzerland to access Zermatt's glacier skiing and there's more skiing above 3000 metres at Alagna in Monte Rosa, the Marmolada glacier near Arabba or at Cortina.

Scandinavia's ski areas have been investing heavily in new lifts and hotels in recent seasons, taking seriously the increasingly devastating effect of global warming in the Alps. The northerly latitude of Norway, Sweden and Finland's ski areas make them a better bet for snow surety through into May and it's a good time to visit for the long hours of daylight too (you can ski under the midnight sun in Riksgransen from late May). It's a good opportunity to go and check out Scandinavia's biggest lift, an eight-seater chair which opened this season at Norway's Hemsedal.

Closer to home there's also been a slow start to the season at Scotland's five ski areas so far too (not good news for the new owners of Glencoe and Glenshee), but consistently low temperatures have now enabled all to open at least some higher terrain.

In North America, the season to date has seen very mixed fortunes. Lake Tahoe has been feasting on vast powder falls and there's already talk of resorts like Squaw Valley staying open to 4 July for the Independence Day celebrations. Colorado and Utah are also having very good seasons, but be wary of booking April trips here as many of the big name resorts such as Telluride switch off the lifts early in the month (3 April is closing day there this year), even if the snow is 10ft deep with fresh powder falling.

A few hundred miles to the north however it's a very different picture on snowfall with the Pacific North West resorts of Washington state beleaguered by warm temperatures and rain, bringing conditions so disastrous for the state's pounds 5bn ski business that virtually all resorts are currently closed. The chances of a late season recovery are not good. Further north in Canada, however, Jasper and Banff are both enjoying above-average falls.

PATRICK THORNE

Alagna: 00 39 0163 922988, www.alagna.it

Arabba: 00 39 0436 79130; www.marmolada.com

Banff: 001 403 762 6500; www.skibanff.com

Cervinia: 00 39 0166 949136, www.cervinia.it

Cortina: 00 39 0436 3231, www.cortina.dolomiti.org

Davos: 00 41 81 415 2121; www.davos.ch

Hemsedal: 00 47 32 055030, www.hemsedal.com

Jasper: 001 780 852 3816, www.skimarmot.com

La Plagne: 00 33 479 097979, www.la-plagne.com;

Les Arcs: 00 33 479 071257, www.lesarcs.com

Riksgransen: 00 46 980 40080, www.riksgransen.nu

St Moritz: 00 41 81 837 3333, www.stmoritz.ch

Scotland: 0845 22 55 121, ski.visitscotland.com

Solden: 00 43 5254 22120, www.soelden.com

Stubai: 00 43 5226 8141, www.stubai-gletscher.com

Telluride: 001 970 728 6900, www.telluride.com

Tignes: 00 33 479 400440, www.tignes.net

Tux: 00 44 5287 606, www.tux.at

Val d'Isere: 00 33 479 060660, www.valdisere.com

Val Thorens: 00 33 479 000808, www.valthorens.com

Verbier: 00 41 27 775 3888, www.verbier.ch

Zermatt: 00 41 27 966 8100, www.zermatt.ch

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