Waiting for winter
When can you expect a decent snowfall? What month is the absolute worst month to go skiing? And where can you go if you’re absolutely bent on skiing in the summer months? These questions and more are answered in our handy overview of skiing around the year. We’ll take you month by month and show you what to expect and how to plan your holiday in the Alps, whether you’ve set your sights on France, Austria, Switzerland or Italy. With just a little bit of research before you go, you can make informed decisions that will make all of your wildest winter holiday dreams come true!
The first snow already starts to fall in the Alps in September! If glacier skiing isn’t your thing, late October or November can offer some great skiing of their own. From then on it’s clear sailing until Easter, when it’s time to start looking at year-round ski areas again. A word of caution, this article gives a very broad overview of weather across the Alps. Always check the individual resort’s snow forecast and temperatures before you book, or subscribe to our personalised snow alert to stay in the loop!
January is one of the best months for skiing the Alps, with cold weather and lots of snow! It’s not even unusual to have a generous powdering of snow in the valley. Almost all ski resorts will have average temperatures below 0° C in January, and snow on the slopes is pretty much guaranteed. The one tiny downside is that all this snow means less sun, which can sometimes lead to icy slopes.
Snowy valley in Ellmau, Wilden Kaiser
February is the most popular time to go skiing – what better way is there to spend the half term? Statistically, February even beats out January for snowfall. What’s more, the sun starts to show its face again near the end of the month. If you’re going in late February, be sure to check the snow forecast before you book your ticket. Although conditions are generally good through the month, you might be unlucky enough to see some grass and mud on the valley runs.
Temperatures start to rise and the days are getting longer – it’s time to switch out mulled wine for Aperol Spritz! Long, sunny days of spring skiing with frequent breaks on the terrace make March one of my favourite months for skiing. If you’re looking for guaranteed snow, you had better stick to altitudes above 2000m.
March snow cover at Schladming-Dachstein
Easter, such a bittersweet holiday, signals the end of ski season at most resorts in the Alps. Choose high-altitude resorts and be ready to wake up early to seize the day before the snow melts and goes all slushy around mid-morning.
May is a pretty unfortunate month to go skiing at most ski areas. You’ll be greeted by sunny green slopes and the cows will wonder just what you think you’re doing there! This is a good time to start checking out year-round ski resorts.
Over 2m of snow in June at the Stubai Glacier
Can you picture the Alps at 17° C? No? That’s probably because it’s hardly worth making the trek in the non-skiing months… unless, of course, you’re visiting the Stubai Glacier, the Hintertux Glacier, the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier, Zermatt, or any of the other handful of glacier ski areas that are there to appease the winter pangs until the start of the new ski season.
July has everything you don’t want for skiing – balmy temperatures, refreshing rainfalls and hot sunny days. Temperatures in the valleys sit around an astounding average of 18°C, and even the mountain peaks record positive temperatures during this month. You’re more likely to get caught in a thunderstorm than you are to find any snow on the ground. If you’re really desperate to get some skiing in this summer, try the Mölltaler Glacier, Les Deux Alpes, Tignes or Saas-Fee Saastal.
Summer skiing at Stilfser Joch in Italy
August is pretty much July, phase two. The sun shines almost all day, every day and temperatures hover around the 18°C mark. Even the ski resorts that stay open during this time do so for just the morning, as the snow turns into slush in the afternoon.
September is shoulder season, one of the most beautiful months to go hiking or mountain biking in the Alps. Depending on the year, you might see some glacier ski resorts opening near the end of the month, kicking off the new ski season!
First September snowfall on the Zugspitze at 2800m
October heralds the very first big snowfalls and the early signs of winter in the Alps. Average temperatures in the valley drop to below 10°C, while the peaks at 3000m descend to below freezing and start seeing some snowfall. The Hintertux Glacier, for one, opens 30km of slopes to the general public; and a new skiing world cup season begins!
November signals the real start of ski season, when around half the alpine ski resorts throw open their doors and welcome the hordes of ski-starved visitors. Depending on snow cover, you will be able to visit resorts like the 3 Valleys or Mayrhofen this month. With the freezing level around 1500m, 30% or so of the ski areas in the Alps should open by the end of the month.
Skiing at Sölden on Christmas Eve
By December, the Alps are covered in their snowy duvets and ski season is in full swing. Snow-sure ski resorts start from 1200m above sea level, and the end of the year especially is a pretty safe bet for reliable snow cover. Your Christmas has a good chance of being a white one, and New Year’s Eve has been known to see the season’s best skiing.
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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