Please note our writers visited theses destinations prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Check the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s website for all the latest travel advice before booking.
Tthe most snow-sure, high-altitude ski resorts, especially those with glacier slopes, remain open into May. What’s more, booking a holiday at the end of the season can have many benefits (in a usual winter) – including, if leaving it to the last minute, finding good deals from holiday companies keen to fill the last beds.
Ski days are longer in March and April, with resorts extending lift opening times when the sun is out. And while pleasantly warm conditions and sunshine are to be expected in place of stormy weather, there can also be a surprising amount of fresh snowfall.
This is also when spring snow comes into its own – a cycle of snow freezing overnight and thawing as the sun hits it creates soft, easy to ski snow, even off piste. It does pay to get up early on warm days though, since conditions may beome slushy lower down later on – happily, though, outdoor après ski is also much more fun when it’s warmer.
For the best chance of good snow conditions late season whether this season or next, here’s our pick of snow-sure destinations that open well into April – at least.
Best for families and freestylers
Åre is Sweden’s biggest downhill resort, with three separate ski areas strung out beside a frozen lake, and a ski season that goes on well into April. Late season is a great time to visit because of the long hours of sunlight and warmer temperatures. It’s popular with families, partly thanks to off‑slope activities including dog or reindeer sled rides, tobogganing, snowmobiling, skating, curling and ice fishing. EasyJet usually runs direct flights to nearby Östersund until mid-April, avoiding a change in Stockholm and so making it reasonably quick to reach this far northern resort.
In general, Åre’s slopes suit beginners, intermediates and families – most of the runs are green and blue, set among trees on the lower part of the mountain. The main ski area is above town, while Björnen (a dedicated ski area for kids) and Duved are along the valley. A special piste map highlights fun things and special areas of slopes for children, and those aged seven and under get a free lift pass so long as they wear a helmet. The dinky town centre is made up of old, pretty, coloured wooden buildings and some larger modern additions. It’s normal for families to take their children to the lively après sessions as the lifts close, so expect to be dancing next to six- and seven-year-olds – as well as resort mascot Valle the Snowman, who pops up all over Åre to keep children entertained.
While there are few piste challenges for experts, the terrain park in the main ski area has red and black lines of varied kickers, plus a mix of rails, boxes and fatpipes to suit all levels. It’s also open at night, illuminated with colourful LED lighting. There’s also a children parks in Björnen.
Where to stay
Located within walking distance of the shops, restaurants and ski school, the spacious apartments at the four-star ski-in/ski-out Bear Lodge are conveniently located for a self-catered stay. From £989, including lift pass, for a three-bedroom self-catered apartment sleeping a family of four with Ski Safari.
Best for hard-core off-piste missions
With a resort height of 1,035m and its top lift at 3,842m, Chamonix has a tremendous setting beneath the cliffs and tumbling glaciers of the Mont Blanc massif. It’s best suited to experts in search of off piste – and its high‑altitude glacier runs such as the Vallée Blanche (an unpatrolled run through spectacular scenery) are often at their best in April.
Chamonix has four separate ski areas. The Argentière/Les Grands Montets sector is an immense freeride playground, much of it glacier, punctuated by two long black pistes. The two-stage Aiguille du Midi cable car from town to the resort high point is a highlight for spectacular views, as well as the launchpad for the Vallée Blanche off-piste run. Sunny Brévent-Flégère has mainly intermediate pistes above steep forest, and gentler Le Tour/Vallorcine is ideal for confidence building and entry‑level off piste.
In resort, Chamonix’s old buildings have kept their sedate Victorian and more fanciful Belle Epoque look and the traffic-free centre offers pleasant strolling, with cafés overhanging the river Arve’s torrent, and plenty of varied shops, bars and restaurants.
Where to stay
Situated in the centre of Chamonix, the Gustavia is a relaxed and informal hotel with elegant and simply furnished rooms, great service and good food. The hotel is also home to the Chambre Neuf bar, one of the best après venues in Chamonix, which hosts live music.
Best for a massive ski area
Val Thorens, France
Purpose-built Val Thorens, the highest resort in Europe, is at the top of the giant Trois Vallées ski area that also includes Courchevel, Méribel and Les Menuires. With slopes up to 3,200m, its lofty altitude means doorstep skiing and snowboarding with guaranteed snow cover into May. On a fine day its position, surrounded by a horseshoe of dramatic peaks, is spectacular. However, when the weather closes in, it can feel a little like an Antarctic expedition.
Val Thorens is a great base for exploring the Trois Vallées, with a journey to Courchevel and back making a full day out. Locally, Val Thorens claims 140km of varied pistes. Beginners are well served by magic carpet lifts, gentle nursery slopes, and green and blue runs to progress to, while for experts the cable car to the Cime de Caron at 3,200m serves one blue, one red and two black runs, and is the launch point for some of the best off-piste itineraries in the area. For intermediates the resort is a dream, and forays to Les Menuires and St Martin de Belleville for long, cruising runs should not be missed. There’s also a world‑class terrain park.
Since the first ugly apartment blocks went up in 1971, Val Thorens has developed into an almost attractive resort with a more sympathetic Savoyard style and some of the smartest hotels and gastro restaurants in the French Alps. But the resort has also maintained its appeal to 20-somethings in search of vibrant après, and attracts plenty of British university trips.
Where to stay
Koh-i-Nor is the highest five-star in the Alps, with 35 lavish apartments as well as hotel rooms and a spa.
Best for charm & scenery
Saas Fee, Switzerland
Saas Fee’s ski area is one of the highest in the Alps – most of its slopes are north-facing and above 2,500m, with very reliable and light powdery snow. The lift system is powerful, too, with a 30-person gondola up to Felskinn at 3,000m, followed by an underground funicular to Allalin at 3,500m. There’s very little sun in early season, so March and April are good months to come here, when temperatures are warmer.
Most of the higher runs on the mountain are very gentle, best for near beginners and leisurely intermediates who want easy runs and are happy to ski the same ones several times. There are some steeper reds lower down, but the ski area has only 100km of pistes – the keenest are likely to cover them all in a couple of days.
The village is based on an old farming community and is traffic free, with electric buses and taxis to ferry visitors around. The narrow streets are a charming setting for a stroll, and the mountains are stunning – 13 of the peaks around Saas Fee measure 4,000m or higher. There are some fine restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Fletschhorn hotel restaurant. Popcorn has long been the top après hangout, and there’s also a whole mountain devoted to activities such as snowshoeing and tobogganing, a leisure centre, a natural ice rink, plus the Feeblitz, a fun rollercoaster-style ride on rails.
Where to stay
The Superior Schweizerhof is a modern, luxurious four-star hotel in a quiet location above the village centre with an extensive wellness complex and a restaurant scoring 14/20 in the Gault-Millau guidebook.
Best for the quiet life
At 1,930m, very high for a resort at the eastern end of the Alps, Obergurgl is a traditional village set around a fine church with guaranteed snow cover on the streets throughout a long season. It also benefits from a low-key atmosphere, well-run, traditional hotels, no through traffic and an easy airport transfer from Innsbruck.
Obergurgl is Austria’s most snowsure non-glacial resort, and its small ski area is ideal for beginners and improving intermediates. It’s linked to higher Hochgurgl at 2,150m, which has a glacier going up to 3,080m, and longer – but no more challenging – blues, reds, and occasional blacks where strong intermediates can get a proper workout. In Obergurgl, the red runs down from the Hohe Mut at 2,670m (also home to one of the best mountain restaurants, the Hohe Mut Alm) are either medium or difficult, depending on the length of lunch. There are also excellent off-piste opportunities, including a demanding run down from the Hohe Mut Alm, and in the late spring Obergurgl is a major destination for ski touring.
The après scene is traditional rather than contemporary, with afternoon dancing in a couple of mountain restaurants, including the Nederhütte down from the Hohe Mut Bahn top station. Though there may be a few well-oiled skiers and riders still in their boots at 10pm, this is not a resort for party animals.
Where to stay
Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl, the resort’s original village inn that dates back to 1889, is in a convenient ski-in/ski-out position in the middle of the village beside the Rosskarbahn lift. It has a pool, spa, gym and a popular après bar.
Best for long descents
With the main resort villages at 2,100m and a high point of 3,456m, Tignes is one of the most dependable winter destinations in France. What’s more, the piste grooming is some of the best in Europe. The Grande Motte glacier is the highest point in the ski area Tignes shares with Val d’Isère, and the top cable-car station is a starting point for some of the resort’s most spectacular and lengthy runs, both on and off piste.
It’s not essential to be an expert to ski or snowboard here, but it helps to have strong legs and the confidence to tackle dark blues and testing reds that seem to go on forever. The bases of Val Claret and Tignes Le Lac are 2km apart but jointly known as Tignes 2100 to reflect their altitude. From the top of the Grande Motte glacier to the funicular station at Val Claret is a drop of 1,350m, and from there it’s possible to drop (interrupted by three lifts) all the way down to the satellites of Les Boisses (Tignes 1800) and Les Brévières at 1,550m.
Most of the après action is in the main hubs of Val Claret and Le Lac, which offer the purpose-built convenience that is the hallmark of high-altitude French resorts, and the pick of the hotels, restaurants and shops are here as well. The lower villages are quieter in the evenings, but provide more charming bases in which to stay.
Where to stay
Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin in Val Claret is built in traditional Savoyard style with copious use of stone, wood and slate. The lounge has an open fireplace and there’s an impressive spa with pool, sauna, hammam, hot tub and four treatment rooms.
Best for intermediate cruising
This is Italy’s most snow-sure resort in the lee of what the Italians call Monte Cervino, better known to the rest of the world as the Matterhorn. Cervinia’s high altitude – 2,050m in the village and 3,480m at the top lift station – means that top-to-bottom snow is virtually guaranteed throughout a long season that runs to the beginning of May. It also benefits from good grooming and snowmaking on key runs.
With the sun shining, Cervinia’s long cruising pistes are an excellent playground for beginners and intermediates, with fabulous long runs. The majority of the reds are gentle enough to be classified as blue elsewhere, allowing beginners and wobbly intermediates to gain enormous confidence in an extensive high-mountain area. The 8km Ventina red run, with breathtaking views of 4,000m peaks, descends a mighty 1,833m from the top of Plateau Rosa (3,480m) all the way down to the resort. Anyone who grows bored by the benign gradient of Cervinia’s 160km of runs can climb the lift system and cross the frontier into Switzerland for the linked and more demanding slopes of Zermatt.
This isn’t the prettiest resort in the Alps, nor does it have the most rock’n’roll of villages, but there are some decent bars, and the party scene livens up considerably at weekends. Restaurant Lo Copa Pan in the town centre has long been a mainstay of the resort, with a menu including pizza, homemade pasta and steak. Upstairs is a lively bar which hosts live bands.
Where to stay
The three-star Petit Palais is a great-value slopeside option. There’s a lively bar, which hosts quiz nights and has games and pool table, that’s popular with groups and families. From £1,024 with Crystal Ski.
Best for pounding big powder slopes
Andermatt sits in a good position for gathering snow, at a meeting of valleys close to the northern side of the Alps. The altitude is helpful, too – on one of its two mountains, steep and shady Gemsstock, most of the slopes are between 2,000m and 3,000m. There’s often good snow here when conditions in the Valais region (with Switzerland’s main concentration of major resorts, including Verbier) have been mediocre.
Although it has one or two intermediate pistes, Gemsstock is really an expert’s mountain. The main face of 900m vertical consists almost entirely of black runs and off-piste routes to mid-mountain. However, over the last few seasons Andermatt has been undergoing a £1.2 billion redevelopment backed by billionaire Samih Sawiris. This includes linking the resort’s smaller sector, Nätschen-Gütsch, with that of Sedrun, 15km away to the east, via a series of lifts and red and blue pistes on virgin slopes. The link takes the total pistes on offer in Andermatt from 86km to 120km.
The original Andermatt is a small, sleepy town, almost unchanged in the last 30 years. However, Andermatt mark 2.0 has emerged on the outskirts – an estate of swanky apartment blocks and six planned hotels, of which the five-star Chedi and the four-star Radisson Blu, along with a series of new self-catering apartment residences, are already open.
Where to stay
The visually stunning five-star Chedi is in a league of its own, with Asian/Swiss decor, lavishly proportioned rooms, a spectacular spa with indoor and outdoor pool and a one-Michelin-star Japanese restaurant. The Gemsstock gondola is four minutes away by chauffeured ski bus.
Best for ski-in/ski-out
Big White, Canada
In general, North American resorts aren’t known for ski-from-the-door convenience, but some have been purpose-built for easy access to the slopes. Among the most convenient of these is Big White – virtually all the hotels and apartments in this modern resort are ski-in/ski-out, with the ski area’s main lifts starting below village level.
The terrain here suits intermediates best, and the abundance of snow combined with lots of trees for shelter means it’s a great place to learn powder. Piste grooming is great, and anyone going off-piste can safely do so without a guide – because, unlike in European resorts, everywhere within the ski-area boundary, however steep or challenging, is avalanche controlled and patrolled. Even the main street through the centre of the resort is a designated ski run and can be traversed to get back to accommodation.
An area called Happy Valley at the bottom of the village has off-slope activities such as ice skating, tubing, snowmobiling, ice climbing and snowshoeing, served by a gondola that runs till 10pm. The village has limited après bars and shopping, but there are some decent restaurants.
Where to stay
Stonebridge Lodge calls itself “the best accommodation bar none at Big White”. Ski-in/ski-out and slap bang in the centre of resort, with a range of spacious, stylishly decorated apartments (most of them with private outdoor hot tubs), it’s hard to argue with the moniker. From £1,107 with Ski Independence.
Best for playing hard
St Anton, Austria
The ability to handle the slopes like a god and the bar like the devil makes or breaks a stay in St Anton. It deserves its cult status among expert skiers and snowboarders, thanks to its consistent snow record and the extensive Arlberg ski area, which includes 200km of off‑piste itineraries and over 55km² of off‑piste terrain. The village is at 1,305m and the Valluga cable car, the highest lift, goes up to 2,811m.
Pistes classified as blues here would generally be reds in other resorts, and people treat the off-piste itineraries shown on the piste map like ordinary runs. Still, intermediates who are keen to develop should relish perfecting technique. The off piste is one of the major attractions for experts, and an excursion to Zürs off the back of the Valluga is a must – although anyone carrying skis or a snowboard is only allowed up the final cable car to the 2,811m summit if accompanied by a guide.
St Anton is the spiritual home of après, thanks to two infamous bars, on either side of the piste down to St Anton. The Mooserwirt is the essence of Austrian oompah après – table-top dancing from 3.30pm, fuelled by vast quantities of beer, Jägermeister and cheesy music – while the Krazy Kanguruh pulls in crowds of young Swedish and Australian ski bums for a slightly hipper vibe. Alternatively, Robi’s Rodelstall at the base of the toboggan run is popular on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the run is open till 9.30pm. Down in town, the core of the village is just one main street lined with some fine old hotels and inns, shops and cafés as well as numerous bars offering more cheesy tunes and dancing.
Where to stay
A chic 17-room, ski-in/ski-out hotel next to the Mooserwirt, Mooser Hotel has a superb spa and restaurant, and it’s testament to the sound-proofing that you can’t hear the partying in the bar from the hotel. From £1,640 B&B, with The Oxford Ski Company.
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Unless stated otherwise, package prices are per person, based on two sharing a double or twin room, half-board, for seven nights, including flights and transfers.