Make your own tracks at dawn

Alf Alderson advises you to rise with the lark if you want to enjoy the best skiing

Few of us like getting up before the sun – particularly if the temperature outside is sub-zero. But if you're a skier, and if it's snowed heavily overnight, an exception has to be made. All the discomfort is worth it if you can be the first on the ski lifts – and it's easy to ignore cold toes as you ride a chairlift through fresh Alpine air with bright early sunlight glittering on a smooth, untouched layer of sparkling snow crystals. For skiers, the urge to get to the top is as exciting as Christmas morning is to a six-year-old.

Getting up early means you can hoon back down the mountain through all that fresh powder, smug in the knowledge that the slackers who stayed in bed five minutes longer than you will observe your fresh tracks with envy as they follow you up the mountain.

Once you've arrived at the top station there's the frenzy of ensuring boots are buckled and gloves, hats and jackets are fastened tight and then you're off into the sublime environment that big, fat modern freeride skis were designed for – powder that, for now at least, is pristine.

Even if your skills on skis are not quite up to searching out the best powder, you can still enjoy freshly groomed pistes that will both flatter and improve your technique. Lots of skiers look down their nose at rising before the lark to ski pisted runs, but that's their loss.

For instance, I hit "M" piste above Courchevel at 9am one Saturday morning and got in three runs in perfect grippy corduroy before fewer than 20 people had even bothered to hop on the lift. That's 1,740 vertical metres of wide, open slopes virtually to myself: all before 10am.

You can now access M and the other rack of great red and black runs off the top of 1850 even more quickly although, ironically, it's from Méribel thanks to the introduction last season of the fast new Saulire Express gondola, which gets you to La Saulire's summit (the meeting point of the two linked resorts) a minute quicker than residents down in Courchevel. That may not sound much – but when there's fresh powder around, a minute is a long time, especially if you're the one sitting on the lift watching someone else rip it up.

Some resorts, particularly in North America, help you score the best snow with a "first tracks" programme, whereby a limited number of lift tickets are sold early, allowing first risers to hit the slopes for an hour or so before the public.

For example, Whistler's "Fresh Tracks Breakfast" involves boarding the Village Gondola at 7.30am and heading up for a big breakfast atop the mountain at the Roundhouse Lodge after which you get to blast back down through the "pow".

Mont Tremblant in Quebec offers a similar programme: you're on the slopes by 8am with the option of ripping it up on freshly groomed pistes or enjoying coffee – my advice would be to hit the pistes, the coffee will still be there a couple of hours later; the untracked snow won't.

I've also enjoyed the first tracks programme at Steamboat Springs in Colorado, with just a handful of us playing in the resort's much hyped "champagne powder"(TM – yes, they really have trademarked it) in bright early morning sunshine; it was as near as you'll get to the solitude of cat- or heli-skiing without costing a fortune.

Back in the Alps, Les Arcs offers an option for just €10 every Thursday outside high season.

Of course you can beat the crowds without even getting on a ski lift if you choose a ski in/ski out chalet or hotel. Resorts such as Courchevel, Avoriaz, Flaine and Obertauern offer slopeside accommodation that will at least let you enjoy a short run before the hoi polloi get on it.

Or you could really push the boat out and stay right on top of the mountain: the ultra-luxe Eagle's Eye Suites at Kicking Horse Resort in British Columbia sit 7,700ft up at the summit of the resort. A night here ensures you get first tracks the following morning. Your own ski instructor is included in the price: a hefty C$1,750 (£1,035) per night. Being on the slopes first doesn't always come cheap.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice