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Alf Alderson chooses ten snow sure resorts for great early season skiing
alf alderson val thorens

ISCHGL, AUSTRIA

Ischgl is always one of the first resorts in the Alps to open usually at the end of November, due to a great combination of consistent snowfall and slopes that are mostly above 1800-metres.

And it does so in style with a brilliant free party featuring big name bands to go with the dancing on the tables and general mayhem that’s all part and parcel of the resort’s famous party scene.


VAL THORENS, FRANCE

‘VT’ is the highest ski resort in Europe with one of the longest seasons in the Alps, stretching all the way from late November to early May. As well as being high many of the slopes are north facing so the snow is usually in good condition from the very start of the season.

So if you want great high altitude conditions, good terrain for everyone from beginner to expert and a great range of top quality hotels and restaurants Val Thorens is hard to beat.


LES DEUX ALPES, FRANCE

You can ski year-round on the Glacier de Mantel above Les Deux Alpes so it goes without saying that there will be decent snow conditions here in early season. You can also link in to the hard core off-piste resort of La Grave from the top of the glacier.

Neither resort is likely to appeal if you want glitz and glamour as part of your ski holiday, but if a cheerful, unpretentious ski resort with good off-piste, good night life, a good range of reasonably priced hotels and spectacular scenery is what does it for you, Les Deux Alps/La Grave are definitely worth an early season visit.


WHISTLER, BRITISH COLUMBIA

Whistler can have phenomenal amounts of snow, with over 500 inches a year being recorded in recent seasons, and it’s also North America’s biggest ski resort with glaciers and high alpine bowls, all of which means it’s a good bet for early season skiing.

That said, because of its proximity to the Pacific coast snow conditions lower down the mountain can be slushy and even sometimes rainy, so you need to stay high to get the best snow. When you do you’ll see why Whistler has such a good reputation amongst skiers and boarders in the know.


LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA

The last time I skied Lake Louise was in late November 2011, and it was snowing so heavily they were in danger of having to cancel a Ski World Cup competition that was on at the time.

Indeed, Lake Louise has such consistent early season snow that it always hosts the first event on the Ski World Cup circuit.

Add to that the almost total lack of crowds, truly spectacular scenery and one of the world’s iconinc ski hotels in the form of Chateau Lake Louise and it all makes the long trans-Atlantic journey worthwhile.


TELLURIDE, COLORADO

Three hundred is the magic number at Telluride – it averages over 300 days a year of sunshine along with 300 inches of snow, and you can be enjoying its perfect mix of snow and blue skies in November thanks to the resorts high altitude.

When the action on the hill is over head down into this classic western town for a great range of bars and restaurants – and to check out the bank where Butch Cassidy pulled his first heist in 1889.


ZERMATT, SWITZERLAND

Zermatt is not only one of the most spectacularly located ski resorts in the world, sitting as it does at the foot of the Matterhorn, it’s also one of Europe’s highest resorts so good snow conditions are pretty much guaranteed at the start of the season, especially on the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise ski area.

Unless you’re a complete novice you’ll also find a great range of skiing from long, long intermediate cruisers to impressive off-piste and even heliskiing if your money is burning a hole in your pocket.


VAL D’ISERE/TIGNES, FRANCE

The perfect combination of altitude and size make these two linked ski areas one of the best bets in the French Alps, the more so because they’re also relatively easily reached from the UK and are also very Brit-friendly (which may not appeal to everyone of course).

There’s also a great range of skiing for all levels of ability, although if resort ‘ambience’ is important to you ‘Val’ would be the best bet; Tignes may have spectacularly good skiing but it’s far from being the most attractive ski resort in the Alps.


ALTA/SNOWBIRD, UTAH

These two linked resorts often enjoy phenomenal snowfall, and when the white stuff does come down its usually superlight and fluffy. Beware the hype though – ‘best snow on Earth’ is what the locals call it, but it’s not guaranteed.

That said, catch it right and you’ll be laughing all the way down the mountain as long as the snow doesn’t fill your mouth first. Boarders won’t like Alta too much mind – they’re banned here. But fret not, if you choose to ride sideways you can get your powder fix in Snowbird.


HINTERTUX, AUSTRIA

Few places can match Hintertux’ glacier for the size and quality of the skiing, and it’s always amongst the first resorts in Europe to open each winter – in-fact you can ski here year-round.

It’s not the best place for novice skiers, but intermediates and above will revel in the variety of terrain and great snow conditions, and when you’re down from the hill there’s a nice selection of traditional alpine villages to stay in, although the nightlife tends to be on the quiet side.