While most glacier resorts have had lifts turning for several weeks now, December traditionally sees many non-glacier resorts open for business as the temperatures drop and snow starts to stick even at lower levels.
Ischgl in Austria opened last weekend, with Jason Derulo headlining at their season-starting festival, and Europe’s highest resort, Val Thorens staged its Grande Premiere weekend with about 30-40% of runs open. Further snow earlier this week has improved conditions here. More snow is due at the end of this week.
And while many of the big French names, such as Avoriaz and Les Arcs (15 December), Courchevel and Meribel (8 December) are not scheduled to open until later in the month, skiers itching for an early season fix can head to Alpe d’Huez or Les Deux Alpes which both officially get going this weekend, after benefitting from decent snowfall in the southern French Alps. And following a ‘white Friday’ last week which left 80cm on upper slopes and 60cm lower down, Serre Chevalier is pre-opening some terrain this weekend, with the rest of its ski area following on 7-9 December, before non-stop opening from the 15th.
Good late November snowfall in the Pyrenees means this weekend sees the official openings of both Vallnord and Grandvalira in Andorra. And across the border, the Spanish Pyrennean resort of Baqueira Beret is also due to open on 1 December.
Italy’s Aosta Valley resorts, including Courmayeur, La Thuile and Pila, also have some lifts running for the first time this weekend after some decent early snowfalls. And it’s a similar story over in the Dolomites, where some local slopes at Cortina, Kronplatz, Arabba and Alta Badia are open from this weekend, with the Sella Ronda due to ‘cut the ribbon’ on its circuit on 6 December as other resorts like Val Gardena get operations under way. Arabba had 55cm of fresh snow last Saturday, topped by 90cm up on Marmolada. Alta Badia, Kronplatz and Cortina saw 15cm, as winter kicked in.
In Austria, St Anton opens on. Thursday (29 November) with neighbouring Lech and Zurs following on Friday. Saturday 1 December sees a string of resorts open, including Kuhtai, Mayrhofen, the Zillertal Arena, Saalbach-Hinterglemm, the Gastein area - and Schladming, where legendary German punk band Toten Hosen get the party started with a raucous opening weekend concert.
Obertauern also stage an opening day concert on Saturday, with Wanda the headlining act. (No, nor us, but here’s their latest video…)
Switzerland already has Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Verbier, Engelberg, St Moritz and Davos open. Arosa/Lenzerheide are due to start partial operations on Saturday, with full area opening set for the 15th. And Grindelwald and Wengen in the Jungfrau region are also due to kick off their season on Saturday 1st.
And in Scotland, Glencoe is set to open this weekend, thanks to its new snow-making factory, which has been working flat out to produce enough white stuff to cover pistes even if there is not enough natural snow… A message from the resort said: ‘We will have limited skiing on man-made snow from 2 December.’