As the mercury rises you’d be forgiven for thinking it is time to trade your skis for a sun lounger. However, the summer months can prove to be a unique time to visit the mountains and enjoy time on the pistes in the world’s highest ski resorts, while the masses flock to the coast.
Following the successful return of ski holidays in Europe last winter, resorts with slopes set on a glacier are set to open for the summer season, and have a raft of other activities on offer too.
Generally set at 2,500m or higher, these glacier ski areas benefit from the low temperatures at altitude, especially at night, so you can expect smooth groomed runs in the morning, soft slushy bumps later on. They’re usually fairly compact, with a mix of blue and red slopes, but you’ll also find the occasional black run if search of a challenge.
Tempted to spend your summer break in the mountains? Here’s everything you need to know.
Will resorts be open and can I travel?
Resorts have already begun to open or are set to do so soon for summer and Covid travel restrictions across Europe, and the rest of the world, have eased. Switzerland and Sweden have removed all entry requirements while France, Austria and Italy permit all travelers given they have proof of vaccination, recovery or a test –check the latest travel advice on the Foreign Office website before booking.
Resorts are fully operational after a successful reopening during the winter – many are preparing for a busy summer season as Europeans discovered the delights of holidaying on home soil during the pandemic. What’s more, British travelers no longer face restrictions, testings or extra forms when returning to the UK.
Will there be restrictions on the slopes?
All major ski destinations have now scrapped most Covid rules on the ground. You can expect to see mask wearing in some destinations (noteably Italy), but there are no vaccine requirements to access lifts, limits on capacity and all bars and restaurants are back open to full capacity.
Is there any off piste?
While you’re unlikely to experience fresh powder in the summer, catch it right and conditions can be smooth and flattering, thanks to the melting and freezing of old snow when the weather gets warmer.
What about terrain parks?
Any glacier area worth its salt puts a lot of work into its terrain park, making up for a more limited ski area with enough kickers, rails, pipes and boarder / skicross tracks for all levels to while away several hours – and enabling you to perfect tricks in soft conditions. The parks often attract pros for training sessions, making great viewing.
Can I stay out on the slopes all day?
Some glacier areas have similar opening hours in summer to winter, but many gear them around optimum conditions – which can mean opening as early as 7am and closing at 2pm.
Do ski schools operate in summer?
Definitely – glaciers are great places to hone skills on summer ski courses, most hosting ski racers and freestylers during the summer. Check out resort websites for links to schools, and to specialised camps that run during the summer. Independent providers such as The Warren Smith Ski Academy, Snoworks and the European Ski & Snowboard School all run courses for British skiers.
Are lift passes the same price as in winter?
Resorts offer similar types of passes to the ones available in winter, but at cheaper rates in recognition of the more limited areas. You’re more likely to find passes for non-consecutive days so that you can pick and choose when to hit the slopes . Many work in tandem with a separate visitor pass that gives access to a whole range of summer activities.
What is there to do after the slopes close?
You could just relax and breathe in the fresh mountain air… But you’d miss out on activities from the more usual hiking, biking, golfing and swimming, to the wild and weird, from sliding down a ramp into an Alpine lake through aerial trekking to bear watching. As many activities are free with a ski or visitor pass, it’d be rude not to.
The best resorts for summer skiing
Opening dates: June 18 to July 31 2022 (depending on the snow conditions)
From the resort’s renovated welcome station, the funicular train from Tignes’ Val Claret area accesses 20km of lift-served slopes for all standards on the Grande Motte, including a terrain park, up to the high point of 3,456m. The glacier is also home to the world’s first open-top cable car at 3,000m, which operates in the summer months and gives visitors the chance to take in some of the most breathtaking views in the Alps as it travels over the glacier. Fill your afternoons with a smorgasbord of other activities at no extra cost – the My Tignes pass gives free access to more than 20 activities from tennis and golf to beach volley ball and pedalos, plus Acroland on the Tignes lake. Here you can throw yourself down a choice of ramps (on skis) , bike or just your stomach) before flipping into the icy waters. The card is free to anyone booking with participating accommodation for one night – otherwise cards are available to buy from tourist office, from € 15.
Biking passes are free with some accommodation providers, if not pick up a pass at the tourist office, which gets you on lifts accessing varied runs in the huge bike park linked to neighbouring Val d’Isère. Next to the lake there’s also the Lagon sports center with pool (free with a two-day or more ski pass), plus a free to enter mini bike park with air bag.
More info: tignes.net