It’s officially Autumn, but for most of us it’s still a little while until we can get back to the mountains on our skis or snowboard. Those lucky enough to have trips booked already, might be heading off for Christmas, New Year, February half-term or even Easter.
However, if you simply can’t wait and are in a position to beat the crowds to the snow this season, then there are a few spots that can accommodate your early season ski trip fix!
In Europe, Zermatt in Switzerland is one of the few year-round ski destinations, and it boasts Europe’s highest lifts. Zermatt’s neighbour Saas Fee also opens in mid-July, so is already 3 months into their long snow season. Austria also has a few early season options, in fact like Switzerland they too have a year-round ski resort at the Hintertux glacier in Ziller Valley. There’s also Pitztal, which has Austria’s highest ski lifts, and its sister resort Kaunertal which both opened around mid-September and remain open until mid-May.
In total, Austria actually has up to eight ski areas that open around mid-October with snow conditions obviously playing a factor in this. Two of the more well known destinations are the glacier resorts of Solden and Stubai - these are already open and welcoming early-bird skiers and snowboarders. Another popular Austrian resort is Obergurgl, it’s not a glacier but due to its high altitude is generally one of the earliest ‘non-glacier’ resorts to open and can offer great November skiing.
Back to Switzerland, beyond Saas Fee and Zermatt there are also a few other viable options for some early October or November trips to the mountains. Glacier 3000, which is located between Gstaad and Les Diablerets, the Vorab glacier at the famous Laax resort, Titlis glacier above Engelberg and the Diavolezza close to St Moritz.
Outside of Austria and Switzerland but staying in Europe, France and Italy both also offer up a chance to hit the slopes early this Autumn. Tignes is France's only autumn skiing destination, and is one of the country's most popular destinations all season long. Italy also has a few options, with Val Senales, Cervinia and Passo Stelvio.
What about outside of Europe? Of course the southern hemisphere is now entering the end of its season as the northern hemisphere approaches the very beginning of its. Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile - you can probably still squeeze in some late season or early season skiing in New Zealand in October.
In North America, only Timberline on Mt Hood in Oregon is open all year-round. If the weather is nice and cold in autumn, some of the highest resorts in Colorado will start coming alive as well.
Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Keystone and Loveland all open in October if conditions are right. North of the border Norquay, Sunshine and Lake Louise around Banff are usually the first to open in Canada and sometimes as early as Halloween.
And remember, if you can’t get away anywhere abroad early in the season, check to see where your nearest indoor or dry ski slope is to get your ski fix!