22 January 2013 from Nikki in 'Out of the ordinary''

sunrise on mountains

As a life-long fan of everything involved in skiing and snowboarding, I find it hard to list unpleasant things about ski holidays! If I had to list two, then they would be: queuing for the first lift to get up the mountain after breakfast and avoiding an accident with a skier or snowboarder while trying to negotiate that skinny red run at the top of the ski lift that links to the rest of the ski area!

If, like me, you love skiing but feel you have now earned the right to have a bit of quality, VIP time with the mountain, then we have found the answer. Early morning skiing!

The crack of dawn

Having worked in my younger years in various ski resorts, one of my most precious memories was getting up at the crack of dawn and going to collect freshly baked bread for my clients. There is something unique about a sleeping ski resort in the early hours of the morning. The snow muffles most sounds but hearing the first locals emerging to start their day creates a unique atmosphere I can’t imagine you would find anywhere else. One of my dreams at the time was to be the first up on the slopes – but I had guests who would soon be waking up hungry!

Sunrise skiing

Since then I have been lucky enough to try out early morning skiing in various resorts across the Alps. Among them were Tignes in France where for €15 each we skied just after sunrise – pretty amazing experience up on Tignes moonscape slopes.

In Tignes in Switzerland we took a light breakfast in the charming Chalet Carlsberg and then took the Medran lift with a ski instructor (obligatory) and enjoyed two runs down from Les Attelas to les Ruinettes almost completely alone.

The least expensive “first tracks” experience was in Cervinia in Italy where for a mere €10, we had a hot drink in the cable car and were among the first 60 people up on the slopes.

This is, of course, an even more exceptional experience if there’s been a huge dump of snow during the night and you wake up to blue skies and 40cms of perfect powder!

ski resort at dawn

Behind the scenes

If you’re intrigued by those lights you seeing going back and forth all night somewhere up in the dark of the mountains, then in Les Deux Alpes you can accompany the “pisteurs” for 2 hours before the resort wakes up. Every Wednesday morning throughout the winter season, you can join the professionals and watch what’s involved in preparing the slopes for the 1000s of skiers and snowboarders who flock to this resort each day. Breakfast in a café afterwards will make you almost feel part of the team!

This activity is available in many resorts including our favourite "little gem", Orelle. Read our special report Close up on Orelle for more information about this ski resort.

pisteurs in orelle

Photo: Maixent Mahon, Orelle

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Being lucky enough to have parents who were crazy about skiing, my love for the mountains started when I was 4 years old on our first family ski holiday to Austrian ski resort of Obergurl. One ski holiday a year was never enough and tears rolled down my face as I looked out the back window of the car on the drive down the valley on the way home!