April: North America
No problem here, because Neilson offers departures until 11 April to Breckenridge (pounds 753, based on two sharing at the Lodge), subject to availability of scheduled seats; and even later (18 April) to Lake Louise in Canada, where a "fireplace suite" at the Lake Louise Inn costs pounds 665 (room only, with two sharing).
May: glacier skiing in the Alps
Glacier skiing is popular with Continental skiers, and with racers training in the off-season; but there is not enough demand among British skiers to justify ski-tour operators offering package holidays. So you usually have to make your own travel arrangements. May and June are the best months to go, before the weather gets too hot; but even then the snow can be unpleasantly slushy by midday. Which are the resorts to go to? Martin Bell, Britain's most successful Olympic ski-racer, evaluates 33 European glaciers in the current issue of the Daily Mail Ski Magazine, picking out Hintertux in Austria, Zermatt in Switzerland and Tignes in France as the best. If you can't be bothered to make all the arrangements, Alpine Tours often has a few spare seats on its group-booking coach trips: on 24 May it has three coaches going to the Stubai glacier in Austria, with B&B packages from pounds 344.
For 1996/7, Ski Scandinavia has produced its first year-round skiing brochure, running from November '96 to September '97. For the first half of June it offers two packages to Riksgransen in Sweden, recommended for intermediate-to-advanced skiers. The resort is 20 miles inside the Arctic Circle, so, twice a week, the ski-lifts also run at night-time. The cost of impressing your friends is pounds 8l5.
Most serious summer skiing takes place in the southern hemisphere. Journey Latin America is offering packages to Las Lenas in Argentina, a purpose- built ski resort 2,225m up in the Andes. The snow there is dry and powdery, with an average depth of 6.3m; and one of the 40 runs is 7km long, with a vertical drop of 1,220m. (I am reading from the brochure here because, sadly, I have never skied farther south than Lebanon.) The Journey Latin America package costs pounds 755, for room only in a "tourist class" hotel.
A step up from Las Lenas is La Parva, in Chile. The skiing goes up to 3,630m; the price of Passage to South America's guided tour packages reaches about pounds 1,900 for a 10-day, full-board trip, with seven days' skiing. La Parva is linked to two other resorts, one of which, Valle Nevado, is even higher. Heli-skiing is available; and - if you are rich enough to take the whole family - there is an all-day ski school for children from three years old. Passage to South America has two departures, on 4 and 11 August.
You'll have to make your own way to Australia, and then on to the ski areas of Victoria and New South Wales. I haven't been able to find any tour operator offering ski packages from the UK. On the other hand, the Australian Tourist Commission produces a 13-page guide to skiing in Australia, with descriptions of the resorts and contact lists for transport companies, accommodation and local ski-tour operators. There is even a page on Tasmania, although it probably wouldn't be wise to book a week's skiing there: the guide admits that snow conditions are "unpredictable".
October: New Zealand
The skiing season at New Zealand's Ski Ruapehu runs into November, and the resort offers the added excitement of having a semi-active volcano beneath the snow. Mount Hutt and Queenstown may be a little marginal this month, since the resorts close at the end of October; on the other hand they (but not Ski Ruapehu) are both featured in the Mount Cook Line Ski Express brochure, which offers six-day skiing packages for from pounds 290 (room only). If that seems cheap, it's because you have to pay your own way to Christchurch - the package begins only when you get on to the transfer bus.
Back to Europe, as the winter closes in. Finland may have the biggest downhill skiing area in the Arctic Circle, at Yllas, but it's not very far downhill, because the top of the resort is only 718m high. The surrounding area, however, is magical, and the seriously under-populated cross-country tracks (stretching a total of 250km) offer an ideal opportunity to get fit for the following month. Norvista's packages to Yllas start at about pounds 650.
And December? Just get your edges sharpened, and go where you're going. The winter brochures are to be published in April, so you will have had seven months to choose your destination.
Contacts: Neilson Holidays (0113-239 4555); Alpine Tours (01227 454777); Ski Scandinavia (0116-275 2750); Journey Latin America (0181-747 8315); Passage to South America (0181-767 8989); Australian Tourist Commission brochure line (0990 561434); New Zealand Travel Information Service (0181- 748 4455); Mount Cook Line (0181-741 5652); Norvista (0171-409 7334).Reuse content