Complete guide to summer skiing in the Alps
by Fraser Wilkin, Updated: 22 May 2019
Even if most skiers take their holidays in "winter", lift-served skiing is available in the Alps 365 days a year.
How the winter season is defined may be subject to debate, but we consider it to end in early May when resorts such as Val Thorens, Tignes and Cervinia finally call it a day, regardless of how much snow they still have on their slopes. Until the first proper snowfalls of Autumn, the Alps are then in "summer skiing" mode, which for the most part means skiing on glaciers.
Snow conditions on the Alpine glaciers are looking good so far this spring (2019), and even exceptional in the eastern Alps where base depths in parts of Austria (including Hintertux and Stubai) remain well in excess of 5m.
What to expect when summer skiing in the Alps
Most summer ski areas in the Alps are only open in the mornings, typically from 7am until about 12pm or 1pm. If the weather is fine, there will have been an overnight freeze meaning that snow conditions will be rock hard first thing in the morning. However, as the sun is very strong in summer, the snow will quickly soften, with the best snow conditions typically found between 9am to 11am. Later in the morning the snow will often turn very slushy, so the lifts tend to close around lunchtime.
If you are thinking of summer skiing in the Alps, you should be prepared for any weather conditions. Although it can feel hot in the strong summer sun - and you will often see people skiing in t-shirts - the strong sun can mask a low ambient temperature, and it can feel very different the moment there is any shade or wind.
The weather can also change very quickly, with rain and even snow possible at any time of year, sometimes accompanied with thunder and lightning. On the whole, any cloud and showers are more likely in the afternoon than in the morning, but this is not something you should rely on. Always check the weather forecast carefully before seting out, and be prepared for sudden changes.
Last but not least - don't forget the sunscreen! The strength of the sun is brutal on the glaciers in summer, and Factor 50 is strongly recommended.
Here is our complete country by country guide to summer skiing in the Alps in 2019...
SUMMER SKIING IN AUSTRIA
Opening dates: 365 days a year!
Hintertux arguably offers the best summer skiing in the Alps. It is certainly one of the most reliable areas for snow, opening 365 days a year, and is less prone to bad weather than Zermatt - the only other resort that even comes close to attempting all year-round skiing.
Hintertux also offers steeper terrain than most glaciers, making it very popular with race training camps.
This spring (2019) the Hintertux glacier has exceptional snow depths (around 5m at the time of writing) making it a particularly good bet for anyone looking to go summer skiing in 2019.
In high summer expect to find around 20km of pistes served by up to nine lifts. However, in good snow years you may find more than 20km of runs available in early spring or late summer.
Opening dates: From now until 10 June 2019
When fully open, Stubai offers some of the most extensive and varied glacier skiing in the Alps, with a vertical drop of some 900m often possible down to the mid-station at Fernau, especially early in the summer ski season.
The Stubai glacier often opens until early July but, this year it will close earlier than usual on 10 June 2019, despite record-breaking base depths of 6.6m.
How much terrain is available towards the end of the summer ski season is highly dependent on snow conditions, but you can usually expect up to 18km of mostly intermediate slopes served by half a dozen or so lifts.
Opening dates: From now until 2 June, then reopening 29 June to 21 July 2019
The Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun, in the Austrian Salzburgland, is one of the better known summer ski options in the Alps, even if opening times have become more erratic in recent years.
This year the glacier remains open until 2 June 2019, and then reopens from 29 June to 21 July 2019.
How much terrain is available depends on snow conditions but at the time of writing there are about 9 runs open between 2450m and 3029m, with a very healthy 4.4m upper base. However, by July the operation is likely to be confined to just one run on the upper part of the glacier.
Opening dates: 20 June 2019 through to spring 2020
Located in the province of Carinthia, the Mölltal glacier is Austria’s most southerly summer ski area.
This year the glacier will open for summer skiing on 20 June 2019 and will remain open (snow conditions permitting) for most of the year, only closing for a short period in the spring.
In high summer you can expect there to be three pistes (3km) open.
SUMMER SKIING IN FRANCE
Les 2 Alpes
Opening dates: 22 June to 24 August 2019
Les 2 Alpes offers the largest and most varied summer ski scene in France, which this year runs from 22 June to 24 August 2019.
The disadvantage of Les 2 Alpes (compared with its main French rival Tignes) is that its glacier takes a long time to reach – around 40 minutes from base. However, once up there you have access to the largest skiable glacier in the Alps with 11 (mostly easy) runs and, in good conditions, an impressive 770m vertical available between 2800m and 3570m (Dôme de la Lauze), although the vertical range is more likely to be closer to 400m*, especially later in the summer.
* Note: in summer 2019 the available vertical range of skiing will be limited to around 400m due to the construction of a new lift and consequential closure of the Signal run below the glacier, which would normally be open early in the summer.
Opening dates: 21 June to 4 August 2019
Tignes is one of only three ski resorts in France to still guarantee skiing in summer. This year summer skiing will be available in Tignes between 21 June and 4 August 2019, although the operation will be slightly reduced between 21 and 28 June 2019 when it will not include the snow-park.
Summer skiing takes place on the Grand Motte glacier, reached in a matter of minutes via a high-speed underground funicular from Tignes Val Claret. In good snow conditions you can expect around 18km of easy to intermediate pistes, with a top height of 3455m and vertical drop of around 500m.
Opening dates: 8 June to 14 July 2019
The resort's summer ski area is not directly accessed from Val d'Isère itself, but from the parking lot near the top of the Col d’Iseran, 20-30 minutes away by car/bus, from where you take a chairlift to the Pissaillas glacier.
Early in the summer season you can sometimes ski back to the base of the chair on a non-glacial run, which greatly adds to the appeal of the area. More often though you are confined to just a couple of easy intermediate runs on the glacier, and have to download back to the parking lot by chairlift at the end of the day.
SUMMER SKIING IN ITALY
Opening dates: 29 June to 8 September 2019
Cervinia's ski area is shared with Zermatt, with most of the summer skiing actually taking place on the Swiss side of the border. In high summer, skiing normally takes place between 3400m and 3899m, comprising around 21km of wide open pistes. The summer ski area is mostly easy but very snow-sure, and includes Europe's highest snow-park.
This year Cervinia's summer skiing operation will run from 29 June to 8 September 2019.
Opening dates: 1 June to early November 2019
One of the more underrated summer ski areas in the Alps, Passo Stelvio offers around 20km of wide open and mostly gentle pistes between 2758m and 3450m.
The main glacier is accessed by cable-cars from the Passo Stelvio pass, about 40 minutes' drive from Bormio, and keeps its snow in better nick than most summer ski areas on this list.
This year the Passo Stelvio summer ski area will open on 1 June 2019 and continue through to early November 2019. Note that the ski area is never open in winter.
Opening dates: All year round (though with some disruption in spring for maintenance)
Zermatt (combined with Cervinia) offers one of the largest summer ski areas in the Alps. It also has the highest piste (3899m) and the longest vertical - nearly 1000m down to Trockener Steg, in good snow - though this is normally only possible early in the summer.
In high summer you can still expect to find around 20km of wide open and mostly easy pistes, with some of the most reliable summer snow conditions in the Alps.
Opening dates: 13 July 2019 to spring 2020
Saas-Fee is one of just two Swiss ski resorts to still offer skiing in high summer. This year the resort is scheduled to open its summer skiing operation on 13 July 2019, with skiing then continuing right through until spring.
Expect around 20km of relatively snow-sure pistes, with slightly steeper terrain than in nearby Zermatt.
Saas-Fee also has a reputation for keeping its glacier snow in better condition than most.