Best Late-Season Resorts to Ski in May

Springfest in Mammoth - ©Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort

Springfest in Mammoth

Copyright: Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort

By early May, fewer than 50 ski resorts are open across the world. But a handful of the more snow-sure destinations make an event of their late-spring skiing in May. So if you're still skiing then, you know you're one of the lucky few on the planet.

If you decide to ski in May, you’ll find a relaxed vibe, warm temperatures and long, sunny days. It’s normally a case of getting up earlier for the best of the snow conditions (hard packed first thing, perfect by mid-morning, getting stodgy by early afternoon) and perhaps finishing your day by mid-afternoon. But on the other hand, wintery weather can blow in, and fresh powder is not a rarity, especially if you head to a resort at higher elevation.

“You can’t beat T-shirt skiing in late spring, with longer days and lots more sunshine," says Richard Sinclair of specialist ski travel agency sno.co.uk. "Choose a classic glacier skiing resort like Tignes, where you’ll find crisp mornings have refrozen and sticky snow, and gloriously cruisy afternoons in the sun end only when the snow gets too heavy for tired legs.” 

Our top 10 resorts for the best skiing in May are...

1. Hintertux, Austria

Highlights: 5741 ft. vertical, fast lifts
Open: 365 days a year

One of only two ski resorts open 365 days a year, Hintertux is one of the largest skiable areas in the Alps from April to November when it endeavors to open every day (weather permitting) and is accessed by its fast, modern, high capacity series of glacier bus lifts. There is normally at least 40 km of piste open still in May and in good-snow years often as much as 65 km. In the spring, there’s an excellent terrain park and a near constant series of festivals and parties each weekend to keep the atmosphere fun. International football teams arrive here sometimes for altitude training and a bit of R&R.

Carving up the slopes on the Hintertux Glacier. - ©Hintertux Tourist Office

Carving up the slopes on the Hintertux Glacier.

Copyright: Hintertux Tourist Office

2. Ruka, Lapland, Finland

Highlights: 24-hour daylight, Europe’s longest non-glacier ski season
Open: Until mid-May

Ruka in Finnish Lapland boasts the longest ski season for a resort without a glacier in Europe, sometimes keeping the main slope open (thanks to snowmaking) until mid-June then re-opening about 100 days later in early October. Ruka usually has five or six runs and a terrain park open in May. Finland is a very different place by May from the cold, dark land it is in mid-winter. Instead near 24-hour daylight rapidly arrives and the woodland comes alive for the short summer. On the slopes, race teams arrive to train and there are normally terrain park features to enjoy.

Sunny skies and powder conditions in Ruka, Finland - ©Ruka Tourism

Sunny skies and powder conditions in Ruka, Finland

Copyright: Ruka Tourism

3. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia

Highlights: Glacier guarantees good spring conditions
Open: Until the last weekend in May

By May, the famous British Columbia resort has invariably racked up at least 10 meters of snowfall and base depths are usually spectacular. Skiing is concentrated on the resort’s glaciers where several hundred acres of terrain remain open, and the resort provides a world-class terrain park, too. The resort’s glacier skiing, which remains open into June and July, is complemented by a surge of summer activities further down the mountain.

Skiing in summer on Horstman Glacier on Blackcomb Mountain - ©Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler

Skiing in summer on Horstman Glacier on Blackcomb Mountain

Copyright: Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler

4. Tignes, France

Highlights: Longest season in France, fast access to the slopes
Open: Until mid-May

Formerly open year-round, Tignes is still open for nearly three months longer than any other French resort and stays open well into May. As the season winds down at the start of May, it is often still possible to ski the full vertical back to the resort and, in a good snow year, there can still be more than 100 km of piste available. The high-altitude village has fast access to the Grand Motte glacier via the underground funicular which quickly whisks you to the snow-sure slopes.

“There are few more satisfying ways to end a day’s skiing than sunbathing in La Folie Douce before jumping on the Tommeuses lift back up to Toviere for the ski down to your digs in Tignes,” says Sinclair.

Sunny Tignes in springtime - ©Tignes Tourist Office

Sunny Tignes in springtime

Copyright: Tignes Tourist Office

5. Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows, California

Highlights: Spring ski pass deals, spring chill-out session at High Camp
Open: Mid-late May, as late as July 4th

Marketing itself as the spring skiing capital of North America, Squaw | Alpine normally remains open at least until mid-May (4th of July this year after an incredible season). The amount of terrain open late season depends very much on the amount of snow accumulated, but there can still be 1,000 acres in a good year. Squaw really takes its spring skiing seriously with a low-cost spring skiing pass and an afternoon party atmosphere at High Camp, its mid-mountain station, where facilities include a freeform swimming pool and a giant 25-foot hot tub. One of the big events in spring skiing silliness is staged here at the end of April or early May: the Annual Cushing Crossing, a pond skimming contest.

Spring Break Squaw Valley at Cushing Crossing - ©Tom O'Neill

Spring Break Squaw Valley at Cushing Crossing

Copyright: Tom O'Neill

6. Passo Tonale, Italy

Highlights: Deep snow base, challenging runs
Open: Up to July

Passo Tonale, in the tellingly named Valle di Sole, invariably has either the deepest, or one of the deepest snow bases in Italy. This translates to a ski season that lasts as late as July up on the 3,000 m glacier. Along with a great relaxed Italian atmosphere, Tonale is unusual for glacier ski areas in that it offers steep red and black runs right through to summer (most ski areas close their more challenging terrain in favor of the gentler slopes by Easter). In May, however, much more terrain is usually open, often as much as 50 km of slopes remain accessible, and in a good snow year there’s still top to bottom skiing.

Sunshine skiing at Passo Tonale, Italy - ©Passo Tonale Tourism

Sunshine skiing at Passo Tonale, Italy

Copyright: Passo Tonale Tourism

7. Banff, Canada

Highlights: Stunning scenery, bikini slalom
Open: Late April-May

All three of Banff’s ski areas stay open into May, with Norquay and Lake Louise typically open to the first half of the month and Sunshine normally open into the last week or so. All three ski areas try to keep all their terrain accessible right through to the end of their seasons, and generally there’s so much snow accumulated, this isn’t a problem. The scenery at Lake Louise is spectacular from the slopes: the famous Lake melts from steely grey in mid-winter to turquoise blue as you look out across the valley. There are lots of fun events organized at this time of year, including the annual Bikinis for Breast Cancer raising money for breast cancer charities.

Spring skiing at Lake Louise - ©Ski Big 3

Spring skiing at Lake Louise

Copyright: Ski Big 3

8. Riksgränsen, Sweden

Highglights: Long daylight hours, affordable heliskiing
Open: Late May-June

Riksgränsen is a very special resort, 1400 km north of Stockholm and 250 km inside the Arctic Circle, it’s too dark to open until February, and then the snow remains in great shape right through to June. What makes it more special still is that the ski area is one giant terrain park, and from late May, there’s 24-hour daylight and the lifts run in the wee hours for you to enjoy skiing or boarding under the midnight sun when the entire resort is normally fully open.

Endless natural bumps for freeriders on Riksgränsen's Piste 4, Sweden - ©Riksgränsen

Endless natural bumps for freeriders on Riksgränsen's Piste 4, Sweden

Copyright: Riksgränsen

9. Mammoth, California

Highlights: Deep powder, Californian surf culture vibe
Open: At least until June, as late as July 4th

In snowy years, up to 90 percent of the U.S. ski areas that stay open into May and June are in California, but the resort packing the most snow depth and the most terrain open is almost always Mammoth Mountain. Mammoth organizes weekend spring ski and board events, and there’s great hiking and biking terrain for later in the day. Or you can just relax on the deck and soak up some rays. Normally the resort remains open top-to-bottom in May with around 1,000 acres to enjoy, sometimes more at weekends when there are more skiers and riders around to enjoy it.

Springfest in Mammoth - ©Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort

Springfest in Mammoth

Copyright: Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort

10. Zermatt, Switzerland


Highlights: Europe’s highest lifts, ski over to Cervinia
Open: 365 days

You can’t get much more snow sure than a ski area that's open every day of the year. You can even ski over the border to Cervinia until the second week of May when more than 100 km of cross-border piste is usually available. Once Cervinia closes, this can drop to 60 km in the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise side above Zermatt. The Matterhorn in spring is an even more magical, awe-inspiring sight than in winter. The efficient Klein Matterhorn cable car, Europe’s highest, accesses an area where snow retains its high quality until late in the season and fresh powder falls year round.

Zermatt Glacier Paradise - ©ZBAG

Zermatt Glacier Paradise

Copyright: ZBAG

 

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