When Is The Best Time To Ski?

Great time to ski

At long last, winter seems to have arrived. Even here at the coast we had a covering of snow. The ducks have had fun skating on the pond, leaving the poor heron to gaze longingly at the fish who were swimming about in safety under the ice. So, while a few cms of slush brought the usual headlines screaming ‘New Ice Age is Upon Us’ from the tabloids, the rest of Europe and North America carried on as usual through proper winter weather of blizzards and bone chilling cold. Quite a change from a couple of weeks ago when there were tales of doom and gloom coming from the snow-starved ski resorts in the Alps.

Alpe d'Huez, France
Alpe d’Huez, France

Which got me to thinking, when exactly IS the best time to arrange a ski trip to the mountains in winter?

Many of us, of course, are limited to travel during school holidays, when prices are at their highest. In practice, this means Christmas, New Year, February half-term or Easter. Of these dates, Christmas and Easter tend to have lower prices than the other holiday times.  I guess the reason is partly weather related, since early season snow can be very hit and miss (this year being a prime example), and if Easter is later in April (again, like this year), the risk is that rising temperatures, long days and stronger sun will melt the snow. Another reason may be that some folk are reticent to put skiing before being at home with their family at Christmas.

When not encumbered by fixed holiday dates, most people would choose to ski when there is the best chance of the perfect mix of good snow and good weather. In this regard, February is a good bet. You’ve heard of February fill dyke? Well, that same tradition means that February is often the snowiest month in the Northern Hemisphere since the atmosphere is at its coldest at this time. Also, the days are significantly longer and the sun is getting a little bit more bite than in December and January, so it certainly feels warmer when it makes an appearance. March too can be a great month, especially if you choose a higher resort, say 1600m+, preferably with access to altitudes of 2500m or more.

Those are general  rules of thumb,

but the weather will do what the weather will do. I skied in Italy at Christmas 3 years ago, and the runs were closed for 3 days due to avalanche risk following a 2-metre snowfall. Twenty years ago I remember skiing in February at over 3000 metres on what can only be described as a vertical frozen waterfall, so poor was the alpine snow!

Sometimes you can ski on ice like a frozen waterfall!
Almost a frozen waterfall!

These days I can be reasonably flexible with which school holiday week to go away, so will leave it until the last minute to see what the weather is like. I also like to try and bag a bargain! If you hold your nerve, you can often get an outstanding deal. The Christmas deal I referred to above in Italy was a full board deal for our family of four. I reckon it was almost as cheap as what we’d have spent had we stayed at home!

So, in a nutshell, aim for mid-season. If you have no kids, avoid school holidays at all costs, the queues can be horrific! If you’re planning on going early or late season, aim high, preferably in a resort with access to a glacier.

Choose a resort with access to a glacier to guarantee the chance of skiing
Glacier skiing

Alternatively, try a wild-card destination. The Rockies of North America are snow-sure all season long, as is Scandinavia. Both can be very cold, but my experience of Scandinavia is that -30 there is nowhere near as terrible as it sounds. New England is also a destination to consider. A relatively short hop across the pond to Boston, followed by a couple of hours drive, and you’re there in the mountains. There are literally dozens of ski stations to choose from. We are heading there this year, so watch out for our recommendations.

Planning your trip is half the fun, so what are you waiting for? The snow is finally here. See you in the mountains folks…

Paul's Apres Ski
Paul’s Apres Ski

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Read about the best times to ski, and how to choose the best places for skiing to maximise your ski opportunities
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25 Replies to “When Is The Best Time To Ski?”

  1. Such a useful post for those of us who have never taken a ski holiday. I didn’t realise that it would be cheaper over Christmas but I can now see why. My daughter is going to Austria skiing on a school trip in Feb 2018 so hope the weather and snow is good then! x
    Sharon Parry recently posted…5 reasons to use school breakfast clubsMy Profile

    1. Thank you Sharon. I’m sure it will be great in Feb, and I hope she enjoys Austria.

  2. You make me wanna go on one of these ski trips! Definitely without the kids though, somewhere in France.
    Rochelle recently posted…My Kids dream bedroom decor on Pinterest My Profile

    1. The childcare creches are usually very good Rochelle… am I tempting you further!?!

  3. We always used to ski at Easter and it was touch and go for snow conditions some years. I’d love to read a review of a New England destination. #KCACOLS

    1. We should have a review of New England by the end of Feb – watch this space!

  4. My husband and I are big snowboarders, but with my current pregnancy and mild Temps here in Ontario Canada this year will be a bust. Mid-season makes a lot of sense though! Great pics, I’m jealous of all the fresh powder!

    1. Thanks for your comments. We have friends near Calgary, they are having a great season. We’re fairly jealous of that too!

  5. An interesting read! Hubs has always wanted to try his hand at skiing, I’ll be forwarding this post to him x

    The Tale of Mummyhood recently posted…#Blogstravaganza – #3My Profile

    1. That’s brilliant – thank you!

  6. Ideally I would ski end of Jan or beginning of March to miss the crowds and get the best of it but we have fallen into New Year and Easter ski holidays to fit in with being a teacher and then subsequently having a family. We just have to pick our resorts wisely…high, maybe a glacier, northfacing etc. Great article xx #eatsleepblogRT
    Hayley@ Mission: Mindfulness recently posted…Guest series: Mindfulness and Me #5My Profile

  7. Ooh I’m a big fan of March skiing. I’ve had amazing powder but if not, at least it’s a nice temperature for a spot of apres ski! Love skiing but not sure w can justify it this year, boooo! Maybe once Matilda is a bit older and can get something out of it too. #kcacols

    1. It makes a big difference when the weather is good doesn’t it? Hope you get to ski again soon.

  8. Petite Pudding says: Reply

    Not ever having been skiing I kind of stupidly assumed that the snow was kind of the same all year round in skiing destinations – goes to show how wrong you can be huh?! #eatsleepblogrt
    Petite Pudding recently posted…Please Look After This Pudding – Off to the ChildminderMy Profile

    1. I guess you don’t have to give it much thought if you don’t go. I didn’t realise how much it would snow when you go skiing! Don’t know how I thought the snow got there, but the photos are always so bright and sunny!

  9. ive never been skiing and had no real desire but your write up makes me want to try it! my colleague always goes and loves it! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday!

    1. The scenery is always beautiful even if you don’t do much of the sport Emma.

  10. Oh man, I could never get the hang of skiing. But I do love snow and the mountains. #kcacols

    1. Me too Bread – the rest of my family leave me behind! Cx

  11. Well done on your Christmas deal! So many people cancelled because of the lack of snow. The last few years have been a funny one, certainly in the Alps, with the snow coming so much later. We’ve skiied in mid January and the slopes are always so quiet and good snow! Easter is great with kids and it’s warm too. We’re restricted by school holidays now so going to brave half term this year. Wish us luck!!
    Elizabeth (Wander Mum) recently posted…City Tripping #61My Profile

    1. The Christmas skiing was last year – we’re doing half term this year too! So we’ll all need luck!!

  12. Oh this is such a useful post. I would love to go skiing with my family but I am always confused when the best time to go so this has really helped!

    1. That’s great to know Emma, thanks so much!

  13. I had a friend who visited a ski resort in January once and they had very little snow; it must be awful for those who run the resorts and work on them. Thank you for linking up to #HMCapturingMoments x

    1. Yes, it’s good to choose a resort with snow machines to try and prevent the disappointment if possible

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