The conventional wisdom when you are planning a late season ski break is ‘go high’. This logic will generally serve you well, but there are a few other factors to take into consideration which, if ignored, can you leave you rather high and dry on your holiday. Early this May for example, I left the ski resort I live in Morzine for higher ground, only to discover I could have been far better off staying put!
Thanks to a fantastic end of season, the skiing (and then ski touring when the lifts closed) in the Portes du Soleil area had been great. The days were getting warmer however, and I decided higher ground would mean better snow, and a change of scene of course. So without doing too much homework, we set off for the high, glaciated peaks of the Provence Alpes – home to resorts like La Grave, Serre Chevalier and Les Deux Alpes.
When we arrived it became immediately clear that they had not had anywhere near as much snow over the season as the northern Rhone Alpes we left behind. The result? The snow was missing or patchy at best up to about 2000m, even on northerly slopes. Back in the Portes du Soleil we had been happily strapping our skis on at about 1400m. It wasn’t a disaster of course as the slopes here climb up to over 3000m, where the snow was still great. The lesson however is clear, height is not everything. Here is a quick round up of the other important factors to bear in mind when choosing where to go on a late season ski holiday.
At this time of year the sun is strong. You can go as high as you want, but south facing slopes are going to be suffering badly. Choose a resort with mostly northerly slopes and you could be skiing much lower than you think. Zermatt, Val Thorens, Saas Fee and Kaprun are a few worth having a look at.
Snowfall varies massively within very short distances in the Alps, so it is well worth doing your homework. You might discover Italy has been dumping all season, while across the border in France, they have been sitting about looking at the skies in hope.
If you are ski touring this is obviously irrelevant, but for those sticking to the resorts then snow making abilities, especially low down, is pretty key late in the season. It can make the world of difference. Most major resorts are pretty good now, but a look at the piste map will soon tell you where the gaps are.
This may not be such an obvious one, but actually pretty key late in the season. With the snow getting heavier and heavier, you will probably have finished skiing by early afternoon. That means you have a lot of the day left to soak up the sun, grab a few drinks and enjoy the finer things in life. Obviously that is much easier to do somewhere with a bit of life to it. You don’t want to be twiddling your thumbs in a half shut purpose built resort that will have no one even living there at all by the following week. Look out for resorts with end of season parties – that’s a good sign that the resort is going to still have plenty going on while you are there, rather than just fizzling out and shutting up.
About the Author
Alex is founder of Much Better Adventures, an adventure travel website that specialises in connecting adventure seekers with local and independent operators in adventure hotspots round the world. They have a wide range of independent ski chalet holidays across Europe here, including Chamonix which is a good end-of-season resort.