Travel The best month to go on a ski holiday...

The best month to go on a ski holiday and where to go

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Best resorts for value

Prices shoot up for Christmas skiing and spiral even higher for New Year. Aim for the pre-Christmas week, departing December 16 or 17 this year, for quieter slopes at bargain prices. It’s also a canny time for a family holiday if your children break up in time, as package prices dip to half the cost of peak school holiday weeks. Good picks for snow-sure value include the French resort of Tignes; the glacial slopes of Italy’s Cervinia, or, Obertauern which has one of the longest seasons in Austria.

Top holiday

Not only does Cervinia offer snow-sure skiing almost year round, but this winter it has a fast new connection to Zermatt, making it a budget base for exploring the Swiss frontier. Crystal Ski Holidays (020 8610 3123; crystalski.co.uk) offers the four-star  Valtur Cervinia Cristallo from £801, B&B, departing December 17 2023.

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January

When to ski – January

Best resorts for snow fall

January sees the start of what should be the coldest spell of the ski season. Snow depths will begin to build, and even in poor early-season winters for snowfall, like 2022/23, snowfall should be down to the valley floor, especially following the promising early snow seen so far. Temperatures will also be cold enough for snowmaking systems to operate at maximum output. Lower-lying resorts such as Mayrhofen, Morzine or Gstaad should therefore now be a safe bet.

Best resorts for crowd-free slopes

New Year is high season everywhere and the first week of January is generally to be avoided if skiing, rather than partying, is your priority. But if you must, head for La Thuile in Italy. It’s linked across the Petit St Bernard Pass to La Rosière in France – great skiing for all standards, along with a clutch of fine restaurants and reasonable prices. Even on and after December 31, lift queues are usually light. However, beyond the chimes of the new year, the rest of the month is low season – it’s a great time to enjoy uncrowded slopes and gets (joint) top points of the season.

Best resorts for value

This is the best month for value. The New Year rush recedes to leave quiet slopes combined with great snow at competitive prices. Look out for tour operator deals on accommodation or nursery and kid’s club places for families with preschool children. English-speaking ski schools and striking mountain scenery make the pretty, Austrian resort of Obergurgl a good pick while Les Arcs in the vast Paradiski ski area has a wide range of low-cost ski-in/ski-out apartments.

Top holiday

The Austrian resort of Obergurgl oozes charm once blanketed in white. With a low-key après scene, January is a good time to visit with pre-schoolers or for couples looking for peace and quiet. Inghams (01483 319 617; inghams.co.uk) offers Pension Martinshof from £1,001, B&B, departing January 6 2024.

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February

Copy of When to ski – February

Best resorts for snow fall

February is the ski season’s sweet spot when there’s enough snow for every slope to open and it’s still cold enough for that white stuff to stay perfectly powdery. It’s now that the giant regions like Les 3 Vallées and Les Portes du Soleil are likely to have every slope open. Temperature averages at 1,000m are -º4 to +4ºC, cooler for higher resorts and fresh snowfall is expected on nine days of the 28, or almost one in three.

Best resorts for crowd-free slopes

This is the busiest month, particularly in France where the Paris school holidays clash with the British ones throughout the second fortnight. It’s holiday time in Austria and Italy, too, although somehow the crowds there never seem as big and forbidding. It’s also a good month therefore to visit US and Canadian resorts, provided that you miss out on President’s Day (Monday, February 19) and the weekend before it. In Europe, try little La Tzoumaz in the Swiss 4 Valleys on the backside of Verbier, Åre in Sweden, pretty little Austrian Alpbach or Italy’s Monterosa ski region for minimal family crowds.

Best resorts for value

To find any kind of value, strategic thinking is required this month. Ideally, it’s best to avoid the overpriced, crowded Alpine resorts altogether. Continental half terms are staggered throughout the month and the peak week for UK families runs from February 10 or 11. However, prices in North America aren’t hiked by school holidays. Get a taste for powder skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado – or head to favourites Whistler or Banff to sample the white stuff, Canadian-style.

Top holiday

Make the investment go further and explore everything on offer in North America’s biggest resort – Whistler – by staying for longer. Sno ( 020 7770 6888; sno.co.uk) offers 10 nights the four-star Delta Whistler Suites from £1,475, room only, departing February 26 204.

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March

When to ski – March

Best resorts for snow fall

The start of spring is the point when snow depths are at their greatest before the annual thaw begins. Once it does (and with climate change it seems to get earlier each year), expect ‘freeze-thaw conditions’ with the snowpack freezing hard overnight but softening fast in the sunshine to a wet and sticky texture by early afternoon. This is the start of ski touring season, or an excuse for a long lunch for the less energetic. Higher ski areas like Zermatt or Obertauern have the best snow for longer.

Best resorts for crowd-free slopes

The days get longer and lift queues generally fail to materialise – except at Easter. In 2024 it’s an early one, Sunday, March 31. This will result in bigger crowds in the week before and after. However, slopes should nevertheless be much less busy than in high season. The first three weeks are ideal times to explore ski areas such as Courchevel and the 3Vallées in France, Verbier in Switzerland, St Anton and the Arlberg in Austria and the Sella Ronda in Italy. Offbeat destinations worth noting include Baqueira Beret in Spain and Jasna in Slovakia – which will be top condition and crowd-free.

Best resorts for value

Good value returns in the first half of March, before the Easter weeks kick in. With temperature warming and with a good chance of reliable snow, families with pre-school children might consider the low-key resort of Champoluc in Italy’s Monterosa ski area, while relaxed Serre Chevalier in France is best value for intermediates. Further afield, the Canadian resort of Whistler also sees a drop in prices (but still world-class snow).

Top holiday

A ski holiday in Switzerland is never going to be cheap, but it’s worth the investment to experience Verbier’s off-piste runs in prime condition. Book a short break and immerse in one of the coolest communities in the Alps while the crowds are away. Iglu Ski ( 020 3993 8453; igluski.com) offers four nights at Hotel Montpelier from £788, B&B, departing March 3 2024.

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April

When to ski – April

Best resorts for snow fall

We are back to high altitude or northerly latitude snow being the best, this time to beat the thaw rather than to ensure early snow cover. In April Scandinavian destinations like Sweden’s Åre or Ruka up in Lapland come into their own and high-altitude resorts like Tignes or Val Thorens are also good choices, all open into May. Many lower ski areas close early in the month and those with their highest runs below 2,000m, like Kitzbühel, may have limited terrain open. 

Best resorts for crowd-free slopes

In recent years the last month of the European season is usually the most crowd-free, but again you need to go high. Look for resorts with a glacier such as Cervinia/Zermatt or Zell am See/Kaprun. Be aware that it’s festival time. Mayrhofen has great skiing, but it also hosts the Altitude Comedy Festival and even more popular Snowbombing over the first two weeks and this greatly increases the number of skiers on the slopes.

Best resorts for value

The beginning of the month, which revolves around the Easter school holidays, is the obvious period to avoid for value hunters. April end of season festivals in several resorts also push up prices. One way to save is to look out for lift pass deals. The Austrian Ski Arlberg region (Lech and St Anton) reduces its pass prices in April and the French resort Val Thorens, well-known for its good value, self-catering residences also benefits from the reduced Trois Vallées ski pass after April 15.

Top holiday

Go all-inclusive to end the season on a high in Europe’s loftiest resort, Val Thorens – open until May 5. SkiLine (020 8313 3999; skiline.co.uk) offers three nights at four-star Club Med Val Thorens Sensations from £542, all inclusive including lessons and lift pass, departing April 27 2024.

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Ranked and rated: Which is the best month to go skiing?

*Unless stated otherwise prices are per person, for seven nights, including flights and transfers.

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