While most people scramble to book a ski trip in the peak of the winter season (from early December to early April), there are plenty of advantages to waiting until a little later - or even sneaking in multiple weekend breaks at the tail end of the season. One thing to consider, however, is that you need to choose your resort with care. |
The Weather: It's Better!
While you certainly won't have to pack your flip-flops, heading off on last minute ski holidays to the Alps later in the season means you'll enjoy far milder weather. The days are longer, the sun is, well, sunnier, and there's a general scent of spring in the air – all of which makes for very pleasant skiing conditions.
Lifts stay open later and even the après ski is improved, with the chance to enjoy al fresco dining and maybe even a BBQ. The bars and cafes open up their terraces and you can soak up long, lazy afternoons in the sun – you might even go home with a suntan!
While, of course, warmer weather is not conducive to snow quantity and quality, if you're at the right high-altitude resort (a couple of tips coming up), there's a whole winter's worth of excellent base snow and decent dumps are not all that unusual in April. The best time to ski is usually between 9am-1pm, when you'll get optimal conditions before the piste turns icy or slushy if it's too sunny.
The Queues: They're Shorter!
At the height of the season, in some resorts you can spend almost as long waiting in the lift queues as you do on the slopes. Towards the later end of the season, the crowds thin out – both on the lifts and out on the slopes – and, as well as that, the lift passes are cheaper. Winning all round.
Other Activities: They're Fun!
With the warmer weather comes the chance to indulge in some other activities off the slopes (if you can bear to drag yourself away), like hiking, cycling, climbing and snowshoeing. Talk about getting your money's worth.
The Price: It's Cheaper!
Speaking of money, it's not just lift passes that are cheaper. As operators try to squeeze the last out of the season, it's the customers that reap the rewards with fantastic discounts on flights, accommodation, and even that fashion-forward ski jacket you just can't afford not to buy.
There are always plenty of last minute ski holidays available close to the end of the season - a great tip is to set up a Google alert so you don't miss that 'unmissable' deal.
Top Tips for Late Season Skiing
Fewer crowds, less-congested slopes, milder weather, more sunshine, and fantastic deals on flights and accommodation mean nothing if the snow conditions of the resort you choose are poor. When considering last minute ski holidays late in the season, do some research into the resort's altitude and snow guarantee – either natural snowfall or the ability to produce or top up with snow machines. Val Thorens and Tignes are two of the best.
Val Thorens: Naturally, Europe's highest altitude resort (with skiing from 2,300m-3,200m) is going to be a top tip for a late season ski break. The fact that it's based around a glacier doesn't hurt and, in fact, Val Thorens’ season lasts all the way through until May. Part of the massive Three Valleys ski region in France, it has a reputation as one of the most consistent resorts in Europe for snow-sureness and has plenty of north facing slopes.
Tignes: Part of France's L’Espace Killy ski region, and another safe bet for a sneaky late season ski break, Tignes' pièce de résistance is the magnificent Grande Motte glacier, at 3,400m, which facilitates skiing for nine months of the year. Tignes itself sits at 2,100m, but you can also slip over to neighbouring Val d'Isère, where most of the 300km of slopes are above 2,500m.
If the timing suits you, there are actually quite a few advantages to heading off on last minute ski holidays at a time when everyone else is packing away their skis and bringing out the surfboard – as long as you know the best resorts to go!
Belinda Smythson works for Ski Amis, a specialist ski travel agency and booking service that has been helping avid skiers craft their perfect winter holiday for over a quarter of a century. If you're looking for last minute ski holidays in the Three Valleys, Paradiski, Espace Killy or Chamonix Valley, Ski Amis is the go-to company for winter sports fans searching for the holiday of a lifetime.
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