Let It Snow!
This year’s Alpine ski season has come and gone, but there is no need to be upset about it: there are many resorts out there where the fun is just starting.
Lech, St. Anton | Austria (✈Vienna)
One of the world’s top five Alpine ski resorts, the region of Arlberg is home to Austria’s largest ski area, connected with a ski lift system and a single ski pass. Out of the whole constellation of ski resorts, which includes Lech, Oberlech, Zürs, St. Anton, Stuben, St. Christoph, Sonnenkopf, and Warth-Schröcken, it is Lech and St. Anton that boast the longest season – thanks to a combination of a high-altitude location alongside a large amount of snow machines, it can be made to last until April, 23. During the first and the third week of a month, local hotels offer sizable discounts for their rooms – so you could save some money to spend them on champagne in mountain cafes or fancy dishes in gourmet restaurants. Or you could hire a ski instructor to work on your technique.
During the ‘hot’ months, you may want to come to the slopes as early as you can, in order to catch the best snow and be the one to leave the first tracks on the corduroy made at night by the cutters of snow groomers. At Lech, each of those giant, heavy machines is equipped with a GPS snow depth measurement system, which helps to ensure an even snow cover of the pistes for the safety and comfort of riders.
- Kirovsk, Russia. At long last, the weather inside the Arctic Circle is sunny, but not too cold, so it’s probably the time to visit Russia’s Khibiny range. Two of the mountains belonging to the range, Aikuaiventchorr and Kukisvumchorr, are home to a couple of small ski resorts. While they don’t have much après-ski to speak of, the prices are refreshingly low, and you can ride all day long. They are also great for freeriding enthusiasts, but beware: in the spring, the chances of an avalanche are fairly high outside the pistes. In April, hurricanes occur there as well.
- Mammoth, USA. This ski resort boasts the highest ski area in the whole state of California, interesting slopes, fantastic views, and a long ski season – some years, you can keep conquering the pistes until July.
Elbrus | Russia ( ✈ Mineralnye Vody)
Europe’s highest mountain, Elbrus, is perfectly skiable even in the summer, but May, especially its first days, can really be the time of proper winter skiing there – skis and snowboards don’t stick to the snow and glide easily. The best snow is all the way up there, between the 3,500-meter Mir station and the 3,847-meter Gara-Bashi station of the new gondola lift. Climbing even higher is inadvisable without an experienced guide: the glaciers of Elbrus are ridden with crevasses. Some daredevils get their equipment on the top of the mountain and then slide down from the summit, ice axe in hand (in case they fall on the ice). In order to undertake such a climb, it is vital to pick a professional and responsible guide – this mountain means business. Skiing or snowboarding on groomed trails is not that hard, of course, but it does take being in shape: the air is fairly thin, so during your first day, it is highly recommended to simply enjoy some relaxed descents and maybe take some selfies against the snowy peaks, leaving athletic feats for later.
When the sky clears over Elbrus, the trip on the gondola lift is worth taking if only to enjoy the breathtaking view over the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range. After its opening in 2015, the third, top stage of Elbrus’ gondola system became Europe’s highest aerial lift, surpassing the cableway of the Aiguille du Midi in the Mont Blanc massif, France. Due to the high-speed gondolas working on all the three sections, you are unlikely to run into any waiting lines, unless you are visiting during the May holidays in Russia, the only time an occasional small crowd can be seen here.
- Riksgränsen, Sweden. This is the country’s northernmost ski resort, located well within the Arctic Circle. The max vertical drop here is only 387 m, but the overall terrain is great for backcountry skiing, which is why the Scandinavian Big Mountain Championship has been held here annually since 1992. Also available is heliskiing.
- Tonale Pass, Italy. Thanks to an abundance of snow, this area is skiable until July, but in May, more red and black pistes are accessible. As a bonus, the relaxing resort ambiance reigns here supreme – outside each café, numerous Italians recline on loungers, working hard on their chocolatey mountain tan.
Hintertux | Austria ( ✈Vienna)
Hintertux is a safe bet if you want a great ski holiday, and it is available all year round. Even in late July, a total of over 18 km of pistes is accessible here, and it’s double that if the year is good. This is the only ski resort in Austria that operates without any maintenance breaks in summer or autumn. The wide, perfectly groomed slopes attract snowboarders who love to carve, while the rare summer snowfalls expand the backcountry opportunities.
And if you are tired of riding, there are other ways to burn the calories you’ll have surely gained during the copious meals in local eateries, including trekking, paragliding, mountain biking, climbing, tennis, golf, and swimming in the azure outdoor pools. However, if you are looking for some nightlife, you’ll have to search for it in the neighboring commune of Mayrhofen which is in about 20 minutes by car from there.
- Timberline Lodge (Oregon, USA). In June, everyone from beginners through freestyle enthusiasts to Olympic champions and X Games winners assemble at the Palmer Glacier.
- Gassan, Japan. Mother Nature endowed the area with such a bounty of snowfall that the resort usually does not even start operating until the second week of April, since in March, the place is still snowed in. Gassan’s main disadvantage is its small size; making up for it is the opportunity to ski until July.
Text: Elena Vodneva
Published on: December 28, 2017