Until snowboarding came along, the glaciers of the Alps were lonely places in the summer. A few, such as those of Solden and Tignes, provided a ski racers' Lanzarote - a place to train off-season. But generally, while ski resorts teem with walkers, bikers, climbers and sightseers from the Far East throughout the hot months, you rarely see someone Robocopping to the cable car in ski boots.

The mushrooming of boarding, though, has transformed certain mountain idylls. Kaunertal, for example, a remote valley off the main road between Innsbruck and St Anton, was once so neglected by skiers in summer that tumbleweed rolled across the moraine and the ski patroller was Lee Van Cleef. Then the Austrian Snowboard Association took over the glacier and now it throbs with riders taking advantage of the school, rental shop and board-testing programme.

The reason snowboarders like the summer is that the two restrictions that put skiers off do not bother them. Clocking up piste miles has never been a priority on a board. You can extract far more from each trail: fast-carving it on one run; meandering down it on another, doing spins, riding backwards and performing other ground tricks; or "scoping" it for hits to jump off. So the fact that you may only have 20km of piste to play with really doesn't matter.The short skiing day is no problem, either; in the icy morning you can take advantage of the carving propensities of the new generation of boards, and you can stay out later in the afternoon because one wide surface performs better in slush than two narrow ones. You'll still come down the mountain at about 2pm, but that suits the chilled nature of snowboarding - particularly if you are learning. You'll appreciate the chance to rest muscles you were previously unaware of.

If you're already a competent rider, summer ski areas are the place to start working on your free-style skills, as most resorts with a glacier maintain half pipes and fun parks through the summer.Two resorts are highly recommended for summer boarding. Les Deux Alpes, France has a long, gentle glacier served by a breather-providing funicular train - ideal for learning. It is also home to a branch of Chalet Snowboard (14 June to 30 August, 01235 767182), the specialist tour operator, where the chief instructor of British snowboarding, Martin Drayton, offers expert guidance to the uninitiated. In the afternoons, Chalet Snowboard also lays on mountain biking.

For more of a hard-core, free-style scene, Kommunity Camps (6-26 July, 01484 680133), run by some leading lights of Brit boarding, concentrate their activities on the fun park. Saas Fee, Switzerland has the biggest and best fun park in Europe. It comes in two chunks connected by a tunnel through the ice. There are three half pipes (separating first-timers from experts), a gang of differently shaped jumps, a boardercross course (lots of banked corners and rollers), a "beach" bar and a booming sound system mounted on a snowcat. Who needs Ibiza?

Comments