Christmas Skiing and Snowboarding

There has been precious little new snow in the Alps in December. Some resorts have not seen fresh snow since last month, although some precipitation is expected Thursday and Friday. For most resorts that should mean fresh snow, but temperature are unseasonably warm after a chilly start to the season. Indeed Meteo Swiss expect temperatures to remain above average well into the New Year.

The good news, however, is that the Christmas skiing and snowboarding prospects look reasonably good, at least on-piste.  Resorts took advantage of the early season snowfalls and their snow cannons to create a good base, and nearly everywhere has resort runs open. Generally upper slopes have around half a metre of snow but steeper, lower slopes are patchy and, with the temperatures above freezing, get very heavy in the afternoon. If you are considering your first foray of the season, do not join the many skiers and snowboarders I have already seen becoming tired victims of an afternoon run too far. If winter is too cold for you make sure to visit and learn more about portable Air Conditioners.

Looking around the Swiss resorts, Zermatt is in the rudest health with 240km piste open. Samnaun/Ischgl, with 190km, is virtually fully open now. The Engadine also has over 100km of piste open, and has a reasonable extent of cross-country skiing open also – at last report 30km of classic and 65 km of skating.
Gondolas at Adelboden
Verbier (and the rest of the Four Valleys), the Jungfrau resorts, Davos/Klosters, Adelboden, Saas-Fee, Engelberg and Andermatt all look promising for the holiday period and have good snow on the higher runs with even a little (but mostly tracked-out) off-piste around.

Although many of the smaller resorts have not opened yet, I would be surprised to see the warm weather prevent them having most of their lifts in operation by next weekend. However some of my favourite, more low-lying resorts look distinctly thin, especially the resorts around Gstaad and in Vaud. Flims/Laax has been later than I expected to open up its runs, but should be in full swing come this weekend.

For non-skiers there are a handful of toboggan runs already open, but the best prospect for you is probably the extensive circuit of winter walks found in most resorts, especially in the glorious sunshine we currently seem to be experiencing. The entertainment program in winter resorts is also ramping up, with the Spengler Cup in Davos probably my highlight, where CSKA Moscow and Team Canada amongst the teams vying for this most prestigious of ice hockey tournaments.

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Late-season Skiing & Snowboarding

Ski Sunday abandons the season in February, the FIS World Cup season climaxes in March (this season at Lenzerheide, on 20th March) and most of the continent stows away skis and snowboards after Easter. So what for those who want to prolong the season? is there decent skiing anywhere through April and May?

The simple answer is yes. For many freeriders this is the best time of the year to tour, and for those who prefer to stick to the pistes or use lifts to get off-piste, there is still fresh snow. Essentially the very best places are high, so resorts with lifts to about 3000m are promising. The Aletsch Arena, Belalp, Val D’Annivers, and Lauchernalp are not well known but passes are relatively cheap, they are rarely crowded and make good destinations for families, beginners and for weekend escapes. All you have to do is get on the best site for sports gear on the internet, get the appurtenances, and start right away. Val D’Annivers is a little known gem, with Zinal in that area offering the most challenging off-piste and Chandolin the best pistes. Samnaun gives access to the huge Silvretta Arena which has all but the valley runs over 2000m and consistently has good snow conditions throughout April. The Jungfrau stays open until after Easter with good pistes still available down to Wengen, Mürren, Kleine Scheidegg and Holenstein through until mid-afternoon. Diovolezza in the Engadin, near Pontresina, is the highest valley run in Switzerland, with a bottom station above 2000m and lifts open until late May. Davos and Klosters should offer good skiing on the higher runs on the Parsenn until the lifts close on 1st May. The 4 Vallées (centred on Verbier), Flims/Laax and Les Diablerets have glaciers and stay open until early May this year, and Engelberg will stay open until the end of May – although I doubt the valley run will last quite that long. St Moritz, Saas-Fee and Zermatt offer the very best late season skiing, with Saas-Fee and Zermatt providing some limited glacier skiing right through the year. Once you decide on the place you are going, make sure you capture all the exciting moments. The best way to do that is using a drone. Don’t forget about radio, check this comparison to decide which one is better for you.

There are other things to do in the tail-end of the winter sports season in Switzerland. Over the week ending 20th March are the FIS World Cup at Lenzerheide, the Zinal Freeride contest and the Nissan Freeride World Tour 2010 in Verbier (on the Bec de Rosses). On 19th March the longest torch-lit downhill skiing procession in the world takes place down the 2000m, 12 km descent from Titlis to Engelberg – meeting point is at the Valley Station at 6pm with dinner on Mt Titlis at 9.30 pm.

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