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The best spots in Europe for a summer ski holiday

The Deux Alpes glacier awaits skiers all summer long.
The Deux Alpes glacier awaits skiers all summer long.   -   Copyright  Luka Leroy / Les 2 Alpes
By Vincent Coste  & Rafa Cereceda

Still no plans for this summer or not sure what to do on your holiday?

Well, here's a refreshing idea. Far from the heat of the countryside and beaches, why not go skiing. Yes, you read right, skiing in summer.

During 2020/2021, resorts in France remained closed all winter due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a disappointing ski season for all but those who had the chance to hit the slopes in Spain, Andorra, Switzerland or Austria (generally reserved for locals) or for fans of ski touring.

But it is still possible to get that snow sports thrill in 2021 without having to wait for the end of the year. After a bad year, summer skiing could help the industry to get back on its feet.

On paper, it doesn’t seem that attractive - small slopes, limited hours in the morning and soup. This year, however, is looking particularly good thanks to very heavy snow and a spring cold snap. Unusual weather this May means exceptional snow conditions for the opening of the summer ski season.

As a general rule, summer skiing is reserved for professionals preparing for the winter season or amateurs addicted to the edges perfecting their technique. For the average person, hurtling down the snowy slopes to visit the pool in 30ºC heat is no doubt a weird feeling.

Don’t let that put you off, though, as there’s still a lot of fun to be had. Getting up at the crack of dawn offers the best conditions as the weather can get hot very quickly - even in the mountains, the sun can be scorching.

Suitable sunglasses and high SPF sunscreen are very strongly recommended.

France

Les Deux Alpes

Les Deux Alpes is France’s largest ski glacier. Its season started on the 29th of May, three weeks earlier than usual following exceptional snow conditions and on the insistence of professionals keen to get some practice in.

The early opening saw 10 ski lifts begin operation allowing access to the 1,000-metre drop down the Toura glacier. The 2,600 high spot is exceptional for summer skiing.

You can also rub shoulders with pros, or at least admire them from a distance as they have their own reserved track. The resort also offers some epic mountain biking trails across the snow and dizzying "dry" descents to the village.

You’d rather hurry though, until June 18 the daily rate is € 36.50. It will then drop to € 43.50 until the weather conditions no longer allow skiing.

Dynamic nightlife and all the summer mountain activities you could want complete the offering from this giant European resort.

Val d'Isère

In Val d'Isère, amateurs and tourists alike can enjoy the slopes of the Pisaillas glacier alongside professionals from the French team. The resort will be open from Saturday 12th June to the 11th of July with very good snow conditions for the season.

The opening has been postponed by a week to coincide with the snow clearing of the Iseran pass road, the highest of its kind in Europe.

Accessible from 7 am to noon, three tracks are available for amateurs and three for professionals. Activities to fill up the rest of the day include swimming, hiking and, for the more courageous, a huge network of downhill mountain biking trails.

Yvan Allègre
Picaillas GlacierYvan Allègre

Tignes

The Grande Motte glacier will be open from the 19th of June 19 until the 1st of August. This summer ski spot offers about 20 km of slopes at an altitude of between 3,400 and 2,700 meters in the heart of the Vanoise Natural Park.

The ski pass costs €38 for an adult for one day. The resort also runs glacier hikes where you will be accompanied by professionals and, like all major alpine resorts, countless sporting activities to complete the summer offer.

For something different, this year there is a laser tag arena, a game that is like paintball without the pain and mess (€ 38 for an adult and € 30 for a child).

Norway

The advantage of visiting Norway for summer skiing is that you don't have to climb very high to find snow. This Nordic country has glacier resorts open during warmer months just 1,200 meters above sea level.

Fonna

The number of tracks is limited here but they are suitable for all levels. There is even a snow park for the adventurous who are eager to jump.

You’ll have to forget the party atmosphere, though, as Fonna has none of the entertainment and services offered by the French mega-resorts. Expect a small restaurant and a few places to stay in the middle of the fjord. A different experience no doubt but part of this location’s charm.

Another reason to visit Fonna is that you can ski until 4 pm because the snow does not melt as much as in France. The ski pass costs 332 kroner, equivalent to €32.

Stryn

You will not find hundreds of restaurants or a variety of accommodation in Stryn either (note: the website is only in Norwegian).

At no more than 1,000 metres above sea level, this resort offers four runs on the Tystigbreen Glacier. But, for skiers who like going “off-piste”, there is plenty more options.

Most of the accommodation available in the area is in campsites, a handful of hotels and a few rental apartments. At the resort, you will find a cafeteria and an equipment rental store.

A ski pass will set you back 450 kroner or €44.

Galdhøpiggen

For 405 kroner (€40), Galdhøpiggen also has a handful of well-snowed slopes accessible from 9 am to 3 pm. The site is located at the foot of Northern Europe’s tallest mountain (2,469m) which gives the resort its name.

After taking the only lift to the glacier, skiers and snowboarders can enjoy an area divided into 25 small slopes.

In the same spirit as the other Norwegian resorts, Galdhøpiggen offers only the essentials: a place to eat and equipment rentals. Finding accommodation in the region can be a struggle but there are a few spots that offer a convenient place to stay for your summer skiing adventure.

Sognefjellet

Unlike other Norwegian destinations on this list, Sognefjellet has no downhill ski slopes. It does, however, offer Nordic skiing all summer long on the highest pass in Northern Europe, 1,400 metres above sea level alongside the route RV 55.

The resort's website offers around ten accommodation options and a day pass costs 180 kroner or €15.

Austria

In Austria, a country in the heart of the Alps, summer ski enthusiasts can find all kinds of slopes. The country’s glaciers allow you to ski down the runs all year round.

Kaprun

In Kaprun, Salzburg it is possible to ski until the 23rd of July on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier, a summit that rises to 3,229 metres. No need to worry about your skiing skills as the different slopes are suitable for beginners as well as more seasoned winter sports enthusiasts.

From Friday to Sunday until the 27th of June, freestyle skiers will also be delighted to learn that this destination has a snow park. The price for a daily pass is €49.50.

You can take the cable car to enjoy the view of the Alps all year round. Sights to watch out for include Großglockner - Austria's highest peak (3,798m), which is best seen from the viewing platforms at Top of Salzburg and National Park Gallery.

Kitzsteinhorn
The 3,029m ascent to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier.Kitzsteinhorn

In summer it is also possible to ski on the slopes of the glacier at the Hintertux resort in Tyrol.

Here, nine lifts serve 20km of slopes almost 365 days a year - depending on the weather conditions. For the opportunity to experience the joys of summer skiing, a lift pass costs €49 per day for an adult.

Many other activities are also on offer in the region, such as basking in thermal baths after a tiring day careening down a mountain.

Switzerland

Two of Switzerland’s largest resorts offer summer skiing but prices here are likely to be higher than in the rest of Europe. It’s worth considering that isn’t possible to get to either Saas-Fee or Zermatt by car either.

Saas-Fee

In Saas-Fee, in the canton of Valais, the summer season will begin on the 17th of July. Perched at an altitude of 3,600m, this glacier resort has 20km of slopes for all skill levels.

Equipment testing sessions are also organised in the Valais resort, famous for its “sommersnowpark”. Saas-Fee will be open from the 31st of July and costs 75 CHF (€68) per day for a pass.

Christof R. Schmidt Photography
The slopes of the Fee glacier.Christof R. Schmidt Photography

Zermatt

Another great spot for summer skiing in Switzerland is Zermatt. Here the Théodule glacier offers more than 20km of slopes that are open all year round.

To reach this area you will have to take the Matterhorn glacier paradise, a cable car that transports you 3,882 metres up to the top of the Petit Cervin. Here a platform also allows a 360° view of the Swiss, Italian and French Alps and the experience is well worth the detour.

For those looking for a thrill, a snow park is also waiting for you in summer in Zermatt. The price of the lift pass is 75 CHF (€68).

Michael Portmann / Zermatt
The joys of summer skiing on the Théodule glacier in ZemattMichael Portmann / Zermatt

Italy

The destination for summer skiing in Italy is the Cervino area in the Aosta Valley. More precisely, the station of Breuil-Cervinia can be found right next to Zermatt.

From here it is possible to take the Matterhorn to go skiing on the Rossa plateau, 3,500 metres above sea level.

To get here you can use the cable cars leaving from the Italian station from Le Breuil. And to be able to enjoy the slopes open in summer, you will have to pay €33.