A terrific combination of glacier skiing and indoor slopes offer plenty of year-round options for those not satisfied with one season on skis and snowboards. Europe boasts numerous glaciers throughout Austria, France, Switzerland, and Italy, with terrain for beginners, intermediates, and experts.
Glacier skiing in summer offers spring-like conditions with hard snow in the morning, slushy snow in the afternoon, and lots of sunshine. Day ski passes cost between €25 and €55 in summer, with Italian and Austrian glaciers being the least expensive.
The Austrian glaciers of Stubai and Kitzsteinhorn offer year-round skiing. The Stubai Glacier, south of Innsbruck, is the largest glacier in Austria. Set between 2300 and 3200 metres, it boasts a wide range of runs, particularly blue and red, as well as plenty of off-piste. The Kitzsteinhorn Glacier is one hour from Salzburg, above the village of Kaprun. The Kitzsteinhorn has a large ski area with lots of varied runs, mostly intermediate, up to 3,030 metres.
Glaciers can be found above the Swiss resorts of Zermatt and Saas-Fee. The pistes on Zermatt's Matterhorn Glacier Paradise are graded blue and red and are not particularly steep, but have the best snow in Zermatt. The highest cableway in Europe transports visitors up past giant crevasses to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and into a mountain landscape of glaciers and permanent snow. This is Europe's largest summer snow sports area with more than 20 kilometres of slopes. It is open from mid-June to the end of November.
The glacier at Saas-Fee has 20 kilometres of pistes, as well as spectacular off-piste, and is accessed via the Metro Alpin underground funicular. The area is a meeting place for freestylers during summer and autumn, who show off their skills in the Freestyle Park that opens in early July.
The French resorts of Tignes and Les Deux Alpes both have glaciers. Le Grand Motte Glacier, above Tignes, is set at 3030-3455 metres and offers a good choice of terrain with blue, red and black runs. It is open between mid-June and the end of August. Access to the glacier is via an underground funicular as well as chair and drag lifts. The Glacier du Mont de Lans is situated above Les Deux Alpes with slopes up to 3570 metres. Mont de Lans is open between mid-June and the end of August. There is also a large terrain park on the glacier during the summer months.
Italy's Presena Glacier, above Passo Tonale, is open until the end of June and offers a variety of slopes graded from blue to black. Particularly popular are the spectacular 16-kilometre off-piste runs.
Indoor ski slopes in the UK have become increasingly popular with ski enthusiasts seeking year-round fun on snow. The UK now boasts eight indoor ski slopes with artificial snow. An hour on the slopes costs on average £20 for adults and £15 for children.
SNO!zone operates three indoor real snow venues across Britain, in Milton Keynes, Castleford (near Leeds), and Braehead (Scotland). Visitors can enjoy skiing and snowboarding, with lessons available for all levels, or family activities such as tobogganing and ice sliding. Chill Factore in Manchester boasts the largest indoor slope in the country and Ski Village in Sheffield is home to the only half-pipe in the UK.
SnOasis, Suffolk, will be the world's first indoor winter sports resort. Due to open in 2012, the complex will be home to Europe's largest indoor ski slope, measuring 415 metres long by 70 metres wide, with a 100-metre vertical drop. The centre will enable skiers and snowboarders of all levels to enjoy the year-round slopes as well as offering training, competition and championship facilities for elite athletes. Other winter sports activities at the SnOasis include: snowtubing, ice climbing, sledging, speed skating, ice hockey, skating, and curling. The resort will be home to 17 restaurants and bars as well as a wide variety of accommodation, including apartments and log cabins surrounding the ornamental lakes.
Other indoor slopes in the UK include: Snowdome in Tamworth; the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead; and the Cornwall Winter Park. There are also more than 70 dry ski centres throughout the UK with slopes made of synthetic fibre.
Planning a summer holiday in Europe? Plan on adding a day or two on the ski slopes.