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Endless winter...

by Fraser Wilkin, 12 May 2015

It’s May, and a rapidly retreating snowline reveals an altogether different side to the Alps. After the frenzied winter ski scene, nature seems to be regaining control of the mountains. Chairlifts swing idly in the breeze and marmots can be spotted basking in the spring sun.

 

This can be a difficult time for die-hard ski fanatics...

 

What to do for the next seven months?

Option 1: Head to the southern hemisphere

For true snow junkies who cannot wait until the return of the northern hemisphere winter, South America is where it’s at. 

 

Both Chile and Argentina offer world class terrain - but at a price that even the most hardened snow seekers will find difficult to stomach.

Portillo, Chile Portillo - Photo: skiportillo.com

While Argentina has some thrilling terrain, Chile is a more practical option, with plenty of skiing within striking distance of Santiago.

 

Valle Nevado is just 46km from the capital, with 7000 acres of terrain served by 45 lifts.

 

Further afield lies Portillo, a monolithic hotel complex serving a more limited, but less crowded (and far tougher) array of slopes, including some serious off-piste.

 

Sound like fun? Start saving...

 

Portillo - Opening dates: 20 June to 5 October 2015

Further info: www.skiportillo.com

 

Valle Nevado - Opening dates: 12 June to 26 September 2015

Further info: www.vallenevado.com 

 

Option 2: Summer skiing in the Alps

Fortunately there are more affordable ways of getting your fix closer to home. 

 

In the Alps, glacier skiing is possible all year round. What’s more, many resorts explode back into life during the summer, with plenty of outdoor activities to get the adrenaline pumping.

 

Is it time to ditch the beloved beach holiday for something a little more active?

 

Here are three of the best European summer ski resorts...

 

1. Les 2 Alpes, France

Opening dates: 20 June to 29 August 2015

Les 2 Alpes glacier, France Photo: Office de Tourisme Les 2 Alpes/Vincent Lozzi

Of France’s three summer ski options, Les 2 Alpes is the one to beat. Tignes and Val d’Isère may be better known in winter, but Les 2 Alpes has the largest skiable glacier in Europe, and some of the best summer terrain in the Alps.

 

The pistes here are gentle, but offer more variety than most glaciers, including a fabulous descent of nearly 800m vertical from the top of the Dôme de La Lauze.

 

The area is also big on boarding, with an impressive snow park (served by a chair) that attracts pro-riders from across the globe.

 

Further info: www.les2alpes.com 

2. Saas-Fee, Switzerland

Opening dates: 18 July 2015 onwards

Dwindling glaciers have left Switzerland with only two serious summer ski options - Zermatt and Saas-Fee. The former may be world-famous and boast the Matterhorn, but Saas-Fee is equally captivating, and offers much more interesting (summer) terrain.

 

Saas-Fee has the highest concentration of 4000m peaks in the Alps and, with a top skiing height just short of 3600m, the views here are simply breathtaking.

 

Further info: www.saas-fee.ch

3. Hintertux, Austria

Opening dates: 365 days a year!

Hintertux glacier, Austria Photo: hintertux-gletscher.at

The village may be tiny (most people stay down the valley in Mayrhofen), but the glacier is one of the best in the Alps - extensive, varied and surprisingly challenging.

 

It is also one of the few glaciers to open its doors all year round and is favoured by international ski teams for their pre-season training.

 

Further info: www.hintertuxgletscher.at 

 

Timing your run

Summer skiing requires a different mind-set and realistic expectations.

 

Yes, if you are very lucky, you may get some powder – but don’t count on it. More typically, the day begins with bullet proof pistes and “ends” in a slush fest shortly after lunch.

 

Somewhere in between, the snow will be perfect, but the window of opportunity is a narrow one, and by early afternoon, it’s time to retire to the restaurant terraces to work your tan!

And now for something completely different!

Ever fancied skiing under the midnight sun?

 

Deep within the Arctic Circle, Sweden’s Riksgränsen is so dark and cold in winter that it doesn’t even open until late February/early March.

 

However, come the middle of May, the world’s most northerly resort is bathed in perpetual daylight offering one of skiing's most surreal experiences.

Midnight sun, Riksgränsen, Sweden Chillin' under the midnight sun - Photo: Terje Pedersen

Note: Riksgränsen will close on 24 May 2015 but will reopen for mid-summer skiing from 18-21 June 2015.

 

Further info: www.riksgransen.se