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Top 5 Alpine ski resorts for avoiding rain

by Fraser Wilkin, 30 January 2013

Heavy rain is probably the least pleasant of all the weather phenomena you are likely to encounter on the slopes.

 

Altitude (of course) affects the likelihood of rain, but geographical location is also key. Generally speaking, low resorts in the north-western Alps are at the greatest risk of rain, while higher resorts in the central and south-eastern Alps are more immune. For an explanation of why this is the case, see "Avoiding rain".

Here's my pick of resorts with the lowest risk of rain in the Alps (in no particular order)...

1. Obergurgl, Austria

Resort height:

  1930m

 

Slopes:

  1795-3080m

  

Pistes:

  110km

Obergurgl, Austria Photo: Anton Klocker

In Austria, as in other Alpine countries, the risk of rain is greatest in the north (see "Avoiding rain").

 

Obergurgl is in the far south-west of the country, close to the Italian border, where the influence of the Atlantic is diminished and the climate is drier, but colder than in resorts further north (e.g. Lech, St Anton).

 

It is also very high by Austrian standards, with rain (even at resort level) extremely rare.

Looking for hotels in Obergurgl?  Click here

2. Saas-Fee, Switzerland

Resort height:

  1800m

 

Slopes:

  1800-3500m

  

Pistes:

  100km

Saas-Fee has three distinct advantages over most other Swiss resorts when it comes to avoiding rain.

 

Firstly, it is very high. Zermatt might just beat it for the highest piste in the Alps, but when it comes to average slope height, Saas-Fee is peerless.

 

Secondly, it is in the far south of the country away from the warming influence of the Atlantic, which is more keenly felt to the north of the Rhône Valley.

 

Thirdly, Saas-Fee is surrounded by a steep horseshoe of 4000m mountains, which help lock cold air in.

Looking for hotels in Saas-Fee?  Click here

3. St Moritz, Switzerland

Resort height:

  1770m

 

Slopes:

  1730-3305m

  

Pistes:

  350km

St Moritz, Switzerland Photo: swiss-image.ch

St Moritz may not quite reach the heights of Saas-Fee but, located in the far south-east of Switzerland, it is even further away from the rain-bearing warm fronts that tend to track further north. 

 

With its flat but steep-sided valleys, the upper Engadin also has a reputation for cold which, once locked in, can be very difficult to shift.

Looking for hotels in St Moritz?  Click here

4. Cervinia, Italy

Resort height:

2050m

 

Slopes:

1525-3480m

(1525-3820m incl. Zermatt)

Pistes: 150km (350km incl. Zermatt)
Cervinia, Italy Photo: Cervino S.p.A

Being on the southern side of the Alps, all Italian resorts have an inherent advantage over their northern counterparts when it comes to avoiding rain, as they are naturally protected from the warming influence of the gulf-stream. 

 

Cervinia also has the highest slopes in Italy, and the chances of encountering rain here are slim - virtually nil in mid-winter.

Looking for hotels in Cervinia?  Click here

5. Livigno, Italy

Resort height:

  1815m

 

Slopes:

  1815-2795m

  

Pistes:

  115km

Livigno has the lowest top height of any resort in this list, but is probably the best placed geographically to avoid rain.

 

Tucked away in a remote corner of the south-eastern Alps, the valley is far removed from the warming influence of the Atlantic, and has a reputation for cold that has branded it 'Piccolo Tibet'!