Skiing: Spring into action on the slopes

It's not too late to book yourself a spectacular ski holiday this season. Patrick Thorne reveals the resorts that stay in peak condition long after the snow has melted elsewhere

We say

So far this season, the snow cover in the Alps is thinner than usual. This means that, as Easter Sunday falls on 24 April (the second-latest day possible), it's more important than ever to book your late-season ski break at a high-altitude ski area (above 2,000m). Alternatively, opt for the western side of North America, which has had the best snow so far – it's currently 5m deep over there. Finally, remember that Good Friday, the Royal Wedding and two bank holidays mean that an 11-day ski break is possible for just three days off work, assuming you begin your trip on 22 April.



They say

"Occasionally, I have come across a last patch of snow on top of a mountain in late May or June. There's something very powerful about finding snow in summer." Andy Goldsworthy, environmentalist and sculptor

"It is better to go skiing and think of God, than go to church and think of sport." Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian explorer (1861-1930)



Spring snow in France

Part of the reason that French ski areas have been so successful with British skiers in recent decades has been due to their having some of the highest ski slopes in Europe. About a dozen big-name resorts – including Chamonix (00 33 450 53 00 24; www.chamonix.com), Les Deux Alpes (00 33 476 79 22 00; www.les2alpes.com), Tignes (00 33 479 40 04 40; www.tignes.net), and – at 2,300m – Europe's highest resort, Val Thorens (00 33 479 00 08 08; www.valthorens.com) – remain open until May. All have glacier ski slopes. The UK's biggest operators will have ended their package offers by mid-April; however, Ski Collection (0844 576 0175; www.skicollection.co.uk), a French specialist, offers late packages. "The French ski season lasts to 8 May and we can custom-build packages on request," manager Olivier Lepoureau says.

Mountain-top beach party?

Squaw Valley (001 530 583 6955; squaw.com) in California is marketed as America's "Spring Skiing Capital" and each year offers a Spring Skiing Pass, valid from late March to late May. Last year, this cost just $179 (£111) for more than 60 days' skiing (the 2011 price will be released in early March). This works out at less than $3 (£1.86) a day. Given that peak season prices hit $92 (£57) for a single day ticket over new year, that's a serious bargain. It's not just about price, though: Squaw Valley's High Camp Lagoon will be open, offering a Californian beach scene 2,480m up on the mountain, complete with giant hot tub and pool parties.



The safest bet?

With the highest ski runs in the Alps, touching 3,900m, Switzerland's Zermatt (00 41 27 966 81 00; www. zermatt.ch) is arguably the most snow-sure destination in the world. It's now one of only two ski centres on the planet that endeavours to run its ski lifts 365 days a year – the other being Austria's Hintertux Glacier (00 43 5287 8506; www.tux.at). Zermatt's glacier ski area is one of the largest, and its lift-served skiable vertical of more than 2,000m not only starts higher than the point where quite a few other well-regarded ski areas reach their peak – it's also the world's largest. Ski Total (01252 618 333; www.skitotal.com) has 13 chalets to choose from, such as Diana, which costs £579 per person including flights departing Stansted 27 March, transfers and chalet board for six nights out of seven.



Israeli-made snow?

Austria operates twice as many summer glacier ski areas (eight) as any other country. Pitztal (00 43 5413 86288; www.pitztaler-gletscher.at) has the country's highest lifts (3,440m). It is also one of only two resorts (the other is at Zermatt) with a special machine that can make snow in positive Celsius temperatures. The snow-making was an unexpected by-product of a machine created by Israeli company IDE ( www.ide-snowmaker.com) to cool a South African gold mine.

Zenith Holidays (01737 852 242; www.zenithholidays.co.uk) will take you to the Hotel Piz over the bank holiday weekend of 28 April-1 May for four days' skiing (none off work), for £399 half board, including transfers from Innsbruck, but excluding flights.



A Scottish spring snow fix

Despite being in the midst of a third successive good season, Scotland's snow cover is notoriously problematic. But even in bad years, the accumulated snowpack often means good skiing in April and May, when the crowds are gone and the days are long. Skiing in late June is a regular occurrence. Last season, there was so much snow that Cairn Gorm (01479 861 261; www.cairngormmountain.com) above Aviemore ran its funicular over the weekend of 19-20 June, so skiers didn't need to walk. The Nevis Range in the west (01397 705 825; www.nevisrange.co.uk) is another good choice – and you can always hike up Ben Nevis next door if the snow goes early.



Canada calling

Several ski areas in Alberta and British Columbia stay open beyond the end of April. One of the best choices is Lake Louise (001 877 956 8473; www.skilouise.com), where the stunning lake, visible from the slopes, will be thawing from grey ice to a stunning vibrant blue. The slopes are open until 2 May this year. Alternatively, Whistler's Blackcomb glacier (001 604 938 2769; www.whistlerblackcomb.com) is open longer still. Last year, it offered spring snow-shoeing due to the abundance of snow. Ski Independence (0131 243 8097; www.ski-i.com) offers a week in Chateau Whistler departing Heathrow with BA on 25 April for £1,328 per person, including transfers.

What Google will tell you

"The general rule when selecting a resort to go late-season skiing is: head high, or head north. The higher the altitude of the ski area, the colder it is, and therefore the longer the snow lasts, so ideally, skiers should aim for resorts that have skiing at 2,000m or above. If the resort incorporates a glacier, all the better, as this may mean skiing is possible almost all year round – albeit on limited terrain and short pistes." ( www.skyscanner.net)



What Google won't tell you – until now

Riksgransen (00 46 980 400 80; riksgransen.nu), 200 kilometres within the Arctic Circle, remains my most memorable spring skiing destination. So far north it doesn't open until February (before then, it is too dark), by May it boasts the world's best snow conditions. Ski and board addicts arrive to swap stories and enjoy it all. For added novelty, by mid-May, 24-hour daylight has arrived. The lifts close at 4pm but at weekends reopen from 10pm to 1am for skiing under the midnight sun. For the full experience, take the overnight sleeper train up from Stockholm (00 46 771 260 000; www.bokatag.se/en).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
people
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Arts and Entertainment
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
tv'Friends' cafe will be complete with Gunther and orange couch
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone