When it comes to skiing, one thing you really do need over anything else, is snow. You don’t necessarily need a lot of it, but none at all means a holiday in winter with not much on offer.
Fortunately, these days, artificial snow making can allow resorts to open up even with very limited or even no snow cover, and it’s extremely rare that there is no snow at all by time the season gets under way in mid-December.
But, if you really want to maximise your chances of guaranteeing the white stuff, then here are some resorts in Europe where you can’t go too wrong:
Tignes – France
The purpose built ski resort of Tignes is situated in the Haute Tarentaise region and is linked with its ski area to the Espace Killy which includes the town of Val d’Isere.
There are several satellite villages including Tignes Le Lac and Val Claret, the latter located right below the lift access to the glacier. In early winter, the skiing on the glaciated and artificial snow areas is extensive and varied.
Usually the ski area starts to open up fully in early December, but even if there is a lack of snow, the slopes above will keep most keen skiers happy for several days.
Good for: Convenience, choice of accommodation and good skiers.
Not so good for: Lack of ambience in town, price.
Zermatt – Switzerland
The town of Zermatt in the Swiss Alps is known for its famous peak, The Matterhorn. It is also one of the oldest mountaineering bases in the world and has the highest ski lift in The Alps.
The large ski area is spread over 2 main areas and both of these normally open in late November. If the snow is particular short on the ground there is a large glaciated ski area situated right on the Italian border and the resort of Cervinia.
Skiers of all abilities will find suitable terrain to enjoy and long runs, even before the main season gets under way. Zermatt is also famed for its cuisine, so if you want to indulge yourself before the crowds start flocking in then November and December is not a bad time to visit.
Good for: Scenery, food, high quality hotels, atmospheric town
Not so good for: Convenience, price
Solden – Austria
The ski resort of Solden is situated up a long valley in the Tyrol region of Austria.
With a large glacier that offers an extensive ski area, it’s a perfect place to find snow in the early winter time. There is plenty of choice when it comes to the slopes and a modern lift system includes cable ways and chairlifts.
If the larger ski area is not fully open due to lack of snow, then the glacier will at least provide enough of a challenge to keep everyone happy on a ski holiday.
The town itself offers a good choice of hotels are decent value and provides a good base for exploring other resorts like Obergurgl.
Good for: Extensive glacier opportunities, good value for money, laid back atmosphere
Not so good for: Access to major airport before mid December, access to glacier before lower ski lifts open
Cervinia – Italy
Slightly cheating this one as the glaciated area is shared with Zermatt. But the high altitude town of Cervinia provides some decent early season skiing itself and is a cheaper option than staying on the Swiss side.
Originally built by Mussolini as a winter playground, the town lacks the kind if alpine character of more historic resorts. This lack of charm though is made up by a large ski area that’s a paradise for recreational skiers, great snow, south facing slopes and of course, Italian food that doesn’t have to break the bank.
Good for: Price, food, extensive ski area and the ability to ski in Zermatt
Not so good for: Charm, proximity to major airport
Lillehammer – Norway
There is no glaciated skiing area in the region of Norway, but its latitude ensures that the snow arrives early and the temperature remains low.
It’s not unheard of to be skiing powder here in late October, which is actually a great time as the light is still good. By December it does start getting dark very early, but fear not, as a cosy bar is not far from sight.
The skiing areas of Hafjell and Kvitfjell provide good piste skiing for all abilities and there is a large choice of accommodation ranging from little wooden houses to large international hotels.
The site of the 1994 winter Olympic Games should be the perfect place to catch some early snow and a serious alternative to the Alps.
Good for: Easy access to airport, cosy log cabins, skiing for all abilities and ages, festive atmosphere, not crowded pistes
Not so good for: Warmth, light and cost of drinking (except for Woodies!)
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