High-altitude slopes are now open for summer skiing across North America and Europe. Summer skiing offers beginners the chance to get to grips with the sport in sunny conditions, while expert freestylers and racers can hone their skills in time for winter.
Timberline Lodge, Oregon runs the longest season in North America. It is open daily until Sept. 5 (7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and lift tickets cost $54. The resort grooms lanes across Palmer Snowfield above treeline on Mt. Hood for their summer race camps, but always makes at least one lane available for the public. A terrain park is maintained on Otto Lang.
Whistler Blackcomb's Horstman Glacier is now open (12-3 p.m.) and lift tickets cost $55. The glacier, served by two drag lifts, has terrain park features, mogul fields, groomed slopes, and lunch is served at Horstman Hut for the summer ski season, which lasts through July 24. To get to the glacier requires riding three chairlifts and catching a shuttle bus.
Mammoth Mountain, California, is open for skiing daily (7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.) through July 4. The Broadway Express, Facelift, and Chair 23 are all open, along with one terrain park and a fistful of groomed runs. The ski season finishes with the Last Run of the Season Party Monday afternoon at The Yodler. Adult lift tickets cost $69. Other portions of the resort are open concurrent with skiing for lift-accessed mountain biking and golf; you can do all three in the same day for $99.
La Grand Motte Glacier (3000-3456m) above Tignes, France is open (7:15 a.m. to 1 p.m.) until Sept. 4. Access to the base of the glacier is via an underground funicular from Tignes; it transports skiers from 2100 to 3000 metres in just seven minutes. Alternatively, take the Lanches or Vaoise chairlifts followed by the Grand Motte Cable Car to the top. Skiers and snowboarders will find a good choice of blue, red, and black runs served by chairlifts and drags. The popular North Face run isn't too steep, but can get a little chilly. The glacier snowpark appeals to freestylers, pros, and amateurs with its half-pipe, rails, moguls, hip ramp, quarter-ramps, and rainbow rail. Tignes summer ski school offers a five-day workshop starting at €104 and hour-long private lessons for €39. Ski passes cost €29 adults, €24 children.
The Mont-de-Lans Glacier (3570m) above Les Deux Alpes, France is open (7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) until Aug. 28. It is the largest skiable glacier in Europe. Its snowpark rivals that of Saas-Fee's glacier, with a halfpipe (4.5 metres high and 120 metres long), snowskate zone, Slopestyle (Big Air, tables, kickers, and rails), and Coolzone. There's also a smaller pipe suitable for beginners. A funicular railway transports skiers to the top; from here the runs are served by chairlifts and drags. The glacier's eight pistes are best suited to beginners and intermediates (two green, four blue, and two red). Les Deux Alpes summer camps run throughout summer and start from €510 for six days with lodging, ski pass, and coaching. In addition to the unlimited use of the summer skiing and walkers' lifts, the Séjour Loisirs ski pass offers a variety of complementary services, including swimming, ice skating, archery, golf, water sports, and summer tobogganing. A ski pass costs €35.50.
The Fee Glacier (3600m) above Saas-Fee, Switzerland is open (7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) daily until Sept. 4. It offers 20 kilometres of pistes best suited to intermediates, but there is something for all levels. Take the funicular to the top; from here three drags serve the ski area. Both national and international ski teams come here to train each summer. From July to September, the Fee Glacier is also a meeting place for freestylers, who come to show off their skills in the freestyle park. There are two lines of kickers, a halfpipe, and various rails and boxes. Saas-Fee is one of the leading summer freestyle areas in Europe; each July it hosts the Saas-Fee Ride Big Air competition, complete with DJs and a barbecue. Take a break at the Chillout Zone with music and couches located below the pipe. The glacier also has a restaurant and sun terrace serving lunch and beers. A ski pass costs CHF65 per day.
The Kitzsteinhorn Glacier (3029 m) above Kaprun, Austria, is open year-round (except June 7-18). It boasts guaranteed natural snow cover with extremely varied runs, from wide glacier pistes to fast, steep runs. Intermediates and snowboarders will feel particularly at home here. The glacier is served by modern cableways offering fast transportation. A ski pass costs €31 per day. 2 jib obstacles. Chill out in the Ice Arena (open from June 26) with its snow beach and ice bar. Non-skiers can also take free guided panoramic hikes across the glacier between July and September. A ski pass costs€31 per day.
The Tux Glacier (3250m) above Hintertux, Austria, is home to the steepest glacier skiing in Austria. It is also one of the few remaining glaciers open 365 days a year. The Tux offers a good range of runs for all levels, and thanks to its steep slopes offers some very challenging runs for experts. In summer, 18 kilometres of slopes are open and served by nine lifts. It also boasts the highest World Cup halfpipe in Europe as well as funboxes, table-tops, and rails at Betterpark. High-tech lifts including the Glacier Bus 3 with 24-person cabins are capable of transporting 3000 skiers per hour from the bottom to the top of the glacier. The Glacier Lift Station is a 15-minute walk from the centre of Hintertux. A ski pass costs €35 per day.
The Dachstein Glacier (2700m) above Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria opens 11 months of the year from May 29 onwards. Each year it is one of the first to open for summer; its flat, north-facing slopes offer year-round powder conditions. It boasts 18 kilometres of well-groomed ski runs as well as the popular Horsefeathers Superpark. Snowboarders and freeskiers are drawn to the many boxes and rails (including an 11-metre downrail and a 14-metre double kinked rail). The cross-country ski runs on the Dachstein are the international training centre for cross-country skiers, bi-athletes, and Nordic combination athletes. A ski pass costs €32 per day.
The Glacier Grawend (3210m) above Val Senales, Italy, is now open until Nov. 20. From the village of Maso Corto, the Funivia Ghacciao cable car transports skiers straight up to the glacier. At the top, there are eight kilometres of pistes (two red runs and three blue) and the Hotel Grawand with mountaintop dining and ski rental. The glacier's ski area is served by one chairlift and two drags. Each year, various national skiing teams come to the glacier for pre-season training. There are also five kilometres of Nordic ski trails and a large snowpark. The Nitro Snowpark, at 3200 metres, is equipped with an easy-line, medium-line, and pro-line. A ski pass costs €35 per day.
Tips for summer skiing:
- Hit the pistes early as glacier snow gets slushy by lunchtime; some glaciers close at 1 p.m.
- Dress in light layers: take a lightweight jacket, but you won't need your winter thermals. It's usually spring-like conditions on glaciers during summer, but remember mountain weather is very changeable
- Don't forget your sun block and remember to stay hydrated
- Glaciers offer limited terrain compared to the extensive winter ski areas, but they are a good opportunity to practise your technique. Be sure to book a summer ski camp or lessons well in advance as places go quickly
- On the whole, the wide-open pistes of glacier terrain is best suited to beginners and intermediates. Snowboarders are also in their element; many glaciers have snowparks
- Never go off-piste without a professional as glaciers have hidden crevasses
- Wear goggles or sun glasses to protect your eyes from the very strong rays