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).

Suggested Topics
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
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

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas