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There is always an element of sadness when you put your ski gear away for the last time at the end of the season. You know you won’t be getting it out again for nearly a year. However, if you had the time and the pockets to follow the winter season, as it trails around the world, would there be enough resorts to ski each month? Is it possible to ski all year round?
Yes – You Can Ski All Year Round!
Thanks to the natural tilt of the Earth different parts of the planet are plunged into wintry darkness or the full glare of the summer sun. It’s possible to follow the wintry conditions across the continents and always find some part of the world where there is plenty of snow to ski on.
Most ski resorts are located in a band around the waist of the earth, while only a few are closer to the north and south poles. As skiing and snowboarding become more popular pastimes, countries such as China have geared up their resort building and renovation.
If all else fails with an outdoor resort there are now numerous large indoor snow centers, which mimic traditional resorts.
How Geography Determines Ski Resorts
The reason the seasons change around the world each year isn’t caused by the planet getting closer to and farther away from the sun. In fact, it’s all down to the tilt of the earth. When the planet was newly formed an enormous collision with another body knocked the earth off its up-and-down axis to a lopsided one.
This new tilted axis remains to this day, which translates to it being winter in December in the northern hemisphere, while the South Pole is warmer, as it’s tilted towards the sun, and vice versa.
It would be easy to imagine ski resorts around the world tended to be more frequent in the colder north and south poles. However, if anything the opposite is true, and this is because the elevation of the terrain is a more important requirement for creating skiing conditions than the coolness of the climate at the poles.
The geological activity that has created mountain ranges such as the Rockies, the European Alps, the Australian and New Zealand Alps, and even the Japanese Alps means the mountains tend to be in a band around the waistline of the planet on either side of the equator.
Finnish Lapland Ski Season
There are several ski resorts in Finnish Lapland, which is north of Europe and even north of Scandinavia and well inside the Arctic Circle. The northern latitudes ensure reliable snow starting from October and carrying right through until the middle of May.
The terrain is lower and more gentle than traditional Alpine resorts which are great for beginners. This lower terrain also gives more experienced skiers the chance to try out cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, which are popular with visitors.
The shorter days are compensated with floodlighting and the Arctic temperatures create some of the best snowscapes going. The Lapland resorts tend to be a lot quieter, as there are very few larger towns nearby and thousands of acres of uninhabited, wild tundra.
Iceland Ski Season
Located in a lonely spot midway between the continents of Europe and North America, Iceland’s population is still directly related to the Norse Vikings, who lived on the island since the late ninth century.
Icelanders’ geographical isolation led them to develop a strong individuality and some unusual tastes, such as fermented sharks and a passion for 4×4 monster trucks to cope with the ice and snow. 85% of houses in Iceland are heated by geothermal power.
Downhill skiing is limited, as the mountains are not high enough, but Icelanders more than makeup for the shortfall with their enthusiasm for cross-country skiing, Telemark skiing (from nearby Norway), backcountry skiing, and other variations.
The ski season runs from November through till April and while the daylight hours are shorter, floodlit runs more than compensate, along with extended evenings.
Europe Ski Season
Generally, the European ski season starts towards the end of November and carries through till mid-April. The season varies beyond these dates for a few resorts located at a higher altitude.
For example, Val Thorens in France is the highest at 7500 ft (2300 m) giving access to the Three Valleys ski area, which is the largest in the world. While Zermatt in Switzerland in the shadow of the Matterhorn sits at 5300 ft (1608 m) rising to 12790 ft (3899 m) on the highest slopes.
Some European resorts find it practical to stay open well into the summer courtesy of either glacier skiing, sheer altitude, or a combination of both.
Skiing in Europe in Spring & Summer
Switzerland/Italy Ski Season
Zermatt, Switzerland, and Breuil-Cervinia, Italy, on the other side of the mountain, both host the largest permanent summer ski area in Europe, where you can enjoy snow sports along 13 miles (21 km) of runs.
There are more than 14 glaciers on top, which help to keep the temperature down even in the stronger spring sunshine. One glacier, Zermatt’s Glacier Paradise, has been carved out inside to create numerous ice tunnels, a cinema lounge, and works of art.
Sass Fee is the typical traditional Swiss Alpine village, like its bigger sister Zermatt it only allows electric vehicles and so keeps its rural appeal. Up on the runs, the Allalin Glacier keeps the slopes open for much longer and is not unusual for skiers to keep visiting almost to the beginning of the next season.
Austria Ski Season
The Hintertux Glacier in Austria’s Tyrol is the only ski resort open throughout the year.
During summer up to 10 lifts are open, which will transport you to the 13 miles (20 km) of ski runs open throughout summer. The newly opened Betterpark Hintertux is the best snow park in Europe, which stays open until June.
In Austria’s Alps not far from Salzburg, the resorts of Zell am See and Kaprun lead to more glacier skiing on the Kitzsteinhorn, where more than 15 lifts and runs remain open from the end of the skiing season in April through to October.
France Ski Season
Not far from the Italian border the French resorts of Tignes and Val d’Isere both fall inside the vast Espace Killy ski region. The area has a reputation for reliable snow due to the altitude, where almost all runs are higher than 6050 ft (1850 m). This extends the season from mid-November through to mid-May.
At the end of May, both resorts transfer to summer skiing. In Tignes, the Grande Motte Glacier provides runs at nearly 9800 ft (3000 m), which extends the skiing season throughout June, July, and August. Val d’Isere has a smaller summer area thanks to the Pisaillas Glacier but still offers extended skiing throughout June and July.
Norway Ski Season
Adjacent to Norway’s highest mountain at 2469 meters (8,098 feet), Galdhøpiggen Summer Skiing Resort is open for skiing and boarding during the summer – from May to November, and also attracts several international alpine teams for training.
A 5-hour drive north from Oslo brings you to the Stryn Summer Ski Centre, which offers Norway’s most extensive summer skiing. Continuing from late May until mid-July, it’s like an enormous snow park with some stunning views down to the fjords (Scandinavian lakes) below.
With plenty of sun and warm temperatures, many pass the day wearing only shorts or a bikini.
Situated in western Norway in Hardanger National Park, Fonna Summer Ski resort is a summer-only destination offering Alpine trails for the family, a freestyle park, and plenty of cross-country trails on the glacier.
The resort is located on the Folgefonna Glacier, where you can take in spectacular panoramas from the top ski lift station at 4800 ft (1470 m) and look down on the glacier, Hardanger Fjord, and even the North Sea in the distance. The season at Fonna typically lasts from May to September (or even October).
Canada Ski Season
Choosing Canada for a ski trip has a lot going for it. Soaring mountains, plenty of powder, and memorable tree skiing are backed up with great facilities, friendly locals, and cheaper prices than in the US. The ski season starts as early as the first week of November and continues through to late April.
The popular ski areas around Banff, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise are often the first to open in early November with plenty of snow soon accumulating. As an all-year tourist destination, Lake Louise is often busier in the summer than in the winter.
Alaska Ski Season
As the largest and most sparsely populated US state, Alaska has a reputation for challenging ski terrain. The Alaska Mountain Range contains the expansive Denali National Park and North America’s highest peak, Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) at 6194 m (20,300 ft).
At these higher latitudes, the ski season runs from November through to the end of April. Daylight hours are naturally shorter due to the northern location. Alyeska Ski Resort is a short drive from Anchorage and is the largest resort in the area often receiving a staggering 42 ft (12.8 m) of snow each season.
United States Ski Season
Skiing follows the US’s reputation for going big and it’s easy to see why with the combination of quality resorts, superb lift systems, reliable, heavy snowfall, and excellent hospitality. Vail, Aspen, and Breckenridge are just a few of the resorts, whose names are synonymous with great skiing and celebrity.
The ski season in the US typically runs from late November to early April, although larger resorts in Colorado and California are sometimes able to extend the season right through to celebrate 4 July.
Map of All Ski Resorts in the USA
India Ski Season
Gulmarg Ski Resort is in the region of Jammu and Kashmir, North-western India, not far from the Afghanistan border. Skiing takes place on 18 miles of runs, which are accessed by eight lifts between the elevations of 8500 ft (2,600 m) and 13,000 ft (3,985 m).
The terrain is natural, and all skiers are advised to use a local ski guide, who can show you the best lines to take and how to avoid the threats that exist. The season at Gulmarg Ski Resort starts on January 1 and carries through to March 31 if the conditions are safe and stable.
Kazakhstan Ski Season
It may not be the first country that comes to mind, but Kazakhstan has an established ski season. The Shymbylak Ski Resort is situated in the upper Medeu Valley, which lies in the Zaiilisky Alatau mountain range, 25 km from Almaty. Shymbylak Ski Resort is the largest ski resort in Central Asia, with nearly 7.5 miles (12 km) of ski runs.
There are three ski lifts, which take skiers to the highest point of the resort at Talgar Pass at 10,500 ft (3,200 m). The resort has a reputation for a mild climate, plenty of sunny days, and reliable snow. The season starts in November and runs through to April.
South Korea Ski Season
In Eastern Asia, the South Korean ski resort of Yongpyong (Dragon Valley) is in Daegwallyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang, and Gangwon-do in the northeastern hills of the country across from Seoul. Yongpyong Ski Resort is the largest in Korea, with 31 runs, and 15 different lifts, which includes a gondola, rising for 2.3 miles.
While small in comparison to US and European mountains Yongpyong still offers plenty of variety to skiers. The ski season starts in November and runs through till early April.
Japan Ski Season
By a quirk of geographical fate, Japan has a reputation for the quantity and quality it receives each year. The microclimate ensures that weather systems, which start in Siberia regularly traverse the Sea of Japan before unloading the accumulated snow over the mountains of Japan.
In the quality stakes, Japan is a winner too. The North Island of Hokkaido is well placed to receive regular supplies of dry and very fluffy powder. There is no shortage of choices for resorts, with hundreds available if you are on the island of Hokkaido and the main island of Honshu.
Normally, the Japanese ski season runs from mid-January through to early April. However, sometimes the irregularity of the weather systems means the season may start earlier and finish later.
China Ski Season
Spurred on by hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, China has been undergoing a revelation in skiing and snowboarding. With a program of renovation and new builds the country now has more than 770 ski resorts.
Yabuli Ski Resort is one of the most popular resorts, which is north-east of Beijing.
It is large but doesn’t consist of a single resort. Instead, it is made up of 10 small, interconnected ski resorts, which lie on three mountains.
The resort has many of the usual quality amenities such as ski-in ski-out and high-speed heated gondolas and is suitable for all abilities, but particularly for experienced skiers. The skiing season at Yabuli Ski Resort begins in mid-November and runs until the end of March.
Australia Ski Season
When most people bring Australia to mind, they are confronted with images of endless white sand beaches or possibly a kangaroo leaping across dusty red soil. However, skiing and snowboarding is alive and well down under in the southern hemisphere.
Most of the winter sports activity is located around Victoria and New South Wales, where downhill skiing is very popular and cross-country skiing is a growing pursuit.
The ancient mountains have been eroded giving a more rounded topography than typical resorts in the US or Europe.
The largest resort is Perisher, which has 47 lifts and is ideally suited to intermediate skiers, although it is just as suitable as a family-friendly resort. There are also several terrain parks, which are aimed at different abilities, as well as a superpipe.
Perisher has an annual snow depth of 6 ft (1.8 m) and the season starts in early June and carries through to August and sometimes even later.
New Zealand Ski Season
New Zealand has a reputation for well-established skiing resorts, which total 57 across the two islands. The way the resorts are run, however, is different from those you would find in the US or Europe. There are the typical, large commercial ski resorts that have all the infrastructure you would expect.
However, there are also smaller commercial ski resorts that have less well-developed infrastructure, but their prices reflect that. Thirdly, there are New Zealand Club ski resorts, that are owned and operated by club members but also open to the public. Each of the three resort styles has its own individual advantages and disadvantages but the most popular advantage is access to inexpensive skiing.
The New Zealand ski season usually starts off on the South Island in mid-June and carries through to October, while the season on the North Island starts a little later and finishes later.
Chile & Argentina Ski Season
In general, skiers and travelers are drawn to the Andes, the formidable 5500-mile backbone between Chile and Argentina. South America has an individual culture going back thousands of years, which matches the dramatic mountains many of which exceed 20,000 ft (6100 m).
Valle Nevado or Snowy Valley Ski Resort is located in the El Plomo foothills in the Andes, east of Santiago, the capital of Chile. The resort is modern with the facilities of the US or European resort, offering both groomed runs and backcountry. Skiing in South America is world-renowned and often used by Americans and Canadians during the US and Canadian summers.
There is also some great skiing to be found, especially in the Andes of Argentina and Chile. Skiing in South America is world-renowned, and often Americans and Canadians find it a great alternative to home during their own summer. The season in most of Chile and Argentina runs from June to October.
All Year Round Skiing
China Ski Season
If you find a few months throughout the year where there is no accessible snow you can always rely on China’s Wanda Harbin Mall, currently the largest indoor snow center in the world. It cost US$6 billion to build in 2017 and was developed by China’s wealthiest businessman, Wang Jianlin.
The mall is built near the northeastern border with Russia, where the winter is harshest. The mall includes a film cineplex and a piano-shaped indoor ski resort that allows 3,000 people to ski or snowboard on six runs at a time. The interior area covers 1.6 sq km (395 acres) and about 30,000 people will staff the complex.
The temperature inside is kept at a year-long -5°C (23°F) to keep the runs in good condition. The main run is 500 m/1,640 ft long and 60 m/197 ft wide. Additionally, there is a black run for advanced skiers and a blue run for beginners. Two chair lifts get you to the top.
Dubai Indoor Skiing
If you want to go skiing but feel you can’t go without your fix of sun and warmth, then maybe Dubai will prove the solution. Ski Dubai opened its doors to the public in November 2005 and the interior temperature has resolutely stayed around -1 degree to 2 degrees Celsius since. When you consider the average outside temperature hovers around 36°C (96°F) that’s quite a feat.
The action is based on an 85 m mountain (which is equivalent to a 25-story building), which is home to 5 runs of differing steepness and difficulty. One of the five is the first indoor black diamond run which trails through the center for 400 m. There are also numerous features including boxes, rails, and kickers, which are regularly changed.
A dedicated 3000 sq m Snow Park play area adjoins the runs and includes several sleigh and toboggan runs, an ice body slide, climbing towers, giant snowballs, and an ice cave. Ski Dubai finally tops off all these achievements with its very own colony of penguins, which are let out of their enclosures several times a day.
Round the World Ski Calendar
Here’s a snapshot of just one itinerary you could go with if you were looking to ski in every single month throughout the coming year.
- January – Vail, Aspen, United States
- February – Hokkaido and Honshu, Japan
- March – Banff, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise, Canada
- April – Hlíðarfjall, Iceland
- May – Ylläs, Finland
- June – Coronet Peak, New Zealand
- July – Valle Nevado, Chile
- August – Perisher, Australia
- September – Hintertux Glacier, Austria
- October – Galdhøpiggen Summer Skiing Resort
- November – Yabuli Ski Resort, China
- December – Breuil-Cervinia, Italy
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