Travel: If hot, stick with the ice pack

Austria, where most of the winter skiing resorts are low and limited, has glaciers that provide, curiously, some of the best summer skiing in the Alps. Solden is well known for its two worthwhile glacier areas, but the pick of the bunch is Hintertux, a much smaller village at the head of the Zillertal (of which the main resort is Mayrhofen). Over the hill to the west, but miles away by road, is the little-known but extensive Pitztal glacier; St Leonhard is the biggest village in the valley. A little to the east, the Stubai glacier is also impressive; Neustift is the main place to stay. (The Kitzsteinhorn above Kaprun, much farther east, is not in the same league, so not described below.)

Italy offers more choice than you might expect. Of the winter resorts known to British skiers, only Cervinia in the north-east has access to a sizeable glacier - over the Swiss border, above Zermatt. But there are also worthwhile amounts of skiing at less well-known places in or near the Dolomites in the north-west: at the exceptionally high Passo dello Stelvio, a few miles north- east of Bormio and near the Swiss border; a few miles to the south at the lower Passo del Tonale; and on the Marmolada glacier, in the heart of the Dolomites and within driving distance of Cortina and Selva.

In Switzerland, the best glacier resorts are concentrated in the southern canton of Valais. The serious summer skiing resorts are on the south side of the Rhone trench, on or near the Italian border - Zermatt, next-door Saas Fee, and Verbier, a little way to the west. There are small glacier ski areas worth a mention in three other parts of the country: the Glacier des Diablerets, between Les Diablerets and Gstaad; the Vorab glacier above Flims in the south-east; and two small areas at St Moritz.

AUSTRIA

Solden open summer only; others winter and summer.

Solden

Solden's two glaciers are separate from the main ski area and reached by a road that is avalanche-prone in winter. The road first reaches the Rettenbach glacier, with a four- seat chair leading to two drags going up to around 3,200m; each of these serves blue slopes of around 200m, and there are reds of more than 300m down under the chair. The road tunnels through to the Tiefenbach glacier. There is less vertical here (about 450m), but more skiing, with a spread of more- or-less parallel blue and red runs served mainly by drags.

Pitztal

The skiing of the Pitztal glacier - on terrain that was the preserve of the ski- mountaineer until a decade ago - deserves a wider audience, in winter and summer. An underground funicular goes from Mittelberg, where the valley road ends, up into the heart of the Otztaler glaciers. Then a gondola goes on up to 3,440m, giving a total vertical of almost 700m. The lift system has two other branches, both reaching altitudes of around 3,280m. Most of the skiing is easy-intermediate, but there are more challenging variants. One of the most entertaining areas in the Alps.

Hintertux

The Tuxer glacier is the most consistently steep in the Alps - nowhere as steep as the top of Verbier's Mont-Fort, but resembling an ordinary ski area in offering a range of runs. You go up by gondola to Tuxerfernerhaus (2,660m). Chairs and drags above here serve 600m vertical of intermediate pistes, and easy runs link across to a parallel set of lifts serving easy and intermediate runs. When the glacier is supplemented by snow, there are a couple of serious blacks skiable below this sector.

Stubaital

Like the Pitztal, the Stubaier glacier is some way from the nearest resort. Gondolas go up to Eisgrat (2,900m) and Eissee (2,600m), and most of the skiing takes place on the easy slope down to these points from the shoulder of Schaufelspitze at 3,170m, giving a maximum vertical of around 600m. From Eissee a chair-lift up to the minor peak of Rotadlkopf gives access to a short but fairly steep black back to the main runs, and to 300m vertical of intermediate skiing served by another 1.5km drag-lift.

ITALY

Most of these glacier areas are not open in winter. The Cervinia/Zermatt area, and lower lifts at Marmolada and Tonale, are.

Cervinia

You ride on a sequence of three cable- cars to get up to Plateau Rosa for access to the glacier across the border above Zermatt.

Passo di Stelvio

From the cluster of hotels on the pass at 2,760m, a cable-car goes up to 3,000m and then on to 3,170m; drags go on up to around 3,420m, meaning that the area as a whole has a vertical of 660m. But for practical purposes the skiing takes place on the upper drags - there are about a dozen, spread across a wide, gentle bowl - with a much more modest vertical of around 250m.

Marmolada

Marmolada is the massif to the south of the Sella group, famous for its (winter only) Sella Ronda ski circus. Its skiing can be reached in winter from Arabba, but in summer you must start at the cable-car up from Malga Ciapela. This delivers you to Serauta at 2,875m, when another cable-car goes up over the glacier to 3,270m, giving 400m vertical.

Passo del Tonale

A cable-car from a point outside the village, followed by a chair, take you up to the foot of the Presena glacier at 2,730m, from which point four lifts fan out over an open bowl. The runs are short (around 300m vertical) but do not lack challenge - graded blue, red and black.

SWITZERLAND

All areas open winter and summer.

Zermatt

Zermatt's summer skiing is the most extensive in the Alps. A series of cable- cars takes you up to the top of Zermatt's winter skiing at Klein Matterhorn (3,820m). From there it's an impressive-sounding 880m vertical back to Trockener Steg - and in summer drag- lifts can take you another 80m higher. (At some times you may be able to ski lower, too.) The main run down is so long (5 or 6km) that the skiing verges on the tedious; there are variants in places that can provide a bit of a challenge, but they are few and far between.

Saas Fee

This is the least well known and least fashionable of these Swiss resorts, but has the best glacier. Until the Alpin Express gondola is extended next winter, access to the summer skiing is via the cable-car to Felskinn at 3,000m. From the top, the Metro Alpin underground funicular climbs a further 500m to serve runs properly graded blue, red and black back down to Felskinn. As an alternative to riding the Metro repeatedly, you can stay in the sun on shorter drags on the main glacier. Another option, if it's open, is the pre-Metro summer ski area above and below Egginerjoch: enjoyable reds and short, serious blacks.

Verbier

Switzerland's biggest cable- car is the route up to the summer ski area at the Col des Gentianes - but you have to take a bus to La Chaux to begin with. From the Col at 2,950m a smaller cable-car goes up (when conditions permit) to Mont-Fort, serving 380m vertical of seriously steep skiing. Lower down, parallel drags serve about 300m vertical of mainly, not entirely gentle skiing. (Photograph omitted)

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
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

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

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

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home