by Telegraph Ski and Snowboard, The Telegraph, May 15, 2018
Generally set at 2,500m or higher, glacier ski areas benefit from the low temperatures at altitude, especially at night, so you can expect smooth groomed runs in the morning, soft slushy bumps later on. They're usually fairly compact, with a mix of blue and red slopes, but you’ll also find the occasional black.
Is there any off piste?
While you’re unlikely to experience fresh powder in the summer, catch it right and conditions can be smooth and flattering, thanks to the melting and freezing of old snow when the weather gets warmer.
What about terrain parks?
Any glacier area worth its salt puts a lot of work into its terrain park, making up for a more limited ski area with enough kickers, rails, pipes and boarder/skicross tracks for all levels to while away several hours – and enabling you to perfect tricks in soft conditions. The parks often attract pros for training sessions, making great viewing.
Can I stay out on the slopes all day?
Some glacier areas have similar opening hours in summer to winter, but many gear them around optimum conditions – which can mean opening as early as 7am and closing at 2pm.
Do ski schools operate in summer?
Definitely – glaciers are great places to hone skills on summer ski courses, most hosting ski racers and freestylers during the summer. Check out resort websites for links to schools, and to the many specialised camps that run during the summer.
Are lift passes the same price as in winter?
Resorts offer similar types of passes to the ones available in winter, but at cheaper rates in recognition of the more limited areas. You're more likely to find passes for non-consecutive days so that you can pick and choose when to hit the slopes. Many work in tandem with a separate visitor pass that gives access to a whole range of summer activities.
What is there to do after the slopes close?
You could just relax and breathe in the fresh mountain air… But you’d miss out on activities from the more usual hiking, biking, golfing and swimming, to the wild and weird, from sliding down a ramp into an Alpine lake through aerial trekking to bear watching. As many activities are free with a ski or visitor pass, it’d be rude not to.
The best resorts for summer skiing
Open June 23 to August 5, 7.15am to 1.00pm
Ski pass One day €25
A funicular train from Tignes' Val Claret area accesses 20km of lift-served slopes for all standards on the Grande Motte, including a terrain park, up to the high point of 3,456m. Fill your afternoons with a smorgasbord of other activities at no extra cost – the My Tignes Open pass gives free access to more than 20 activities from tennis and golf to beach volley ball and pedalos, plus Acroland on the Tignes lake. Here you can throw yourself down a choice of ramps (on skis, bike or just your stomach) before flipping into the icy waters. The card is free to anyone booking with participating accommodation for one night – otherwise cards are available to buy from tourist offices (this year's card price is yet to be confirmed).
For biking passes are free with some accommodation providers, if not pick up a pass at the tourist office, which gets you on lifts accessing varied runs in the huge bike park linked to neighbouring Val d'Isère. Next to the lake there’s also the Lagon sports centre with pool (free with a two-day or more ski pass), plus a free to enter mini bike park with air bag. tignes.net
Open May 12 to October 12, 8.15am to 4.30pm
Ski pass One day €45, six days €215
Hintertux, Austria’s only year-round ski area, offers 60km of varied pistes. There’s also the Betterpark with 120m superpipe, boxes, table tops and rails with lines for all levels. Inside the glacier is the Nature’s Ice Palace with ice chambers filled with crystals to explore, and under that a a deep cave into which the resort runs daily tours with a guide around its stalagmites and stalactites. Add adrenalin with mountain biking, ice climbing and hiking. There’s also a kids’ playground with tubing and a bob run at 3,250m.
The Zillertal Activcard (€85 for six days) gives pedestrians and cyclists (there are 800km of cycle trails in the Ziller valley) one daily cable car ride on lifts up and down the valley, along with free access to swimming pools and an observatory, valley buses and trains, plus discounts on other attractions. hintertuxergletscher.at
Open June 8 to July 15, 11am to 1:30pm
Ski pass One day C$68
Only open to advanced and expert riders, the Horstman Glacier on Whistler’s Blackcomb Mountain is speckled with kickers, moguls, race gates and jib features during the summer, as pros and amateurs alike converge to hone their skills. Riders usually get to the glacier via the Wizard and Solar Coaster chairlifts on Blackcomb Mountain, but as they are being replaced by a new gondola this summer, access is via the Whistler Village Gondola and Peak 2 Peak gondola. Two t-bars serve the glacier slopes and terrain park, and a multitude of camps each summer pimps skills from halfpipe to gates. Over on Whistler Mountain you’ll find the bike park, open from May 18 to October 8, where over 1,500m of lift-serviced trails await thrill seekers of all levels – a one-day pass costs from C$61, or you can get one covering three out of four days from C$180. And if that’s not enough to fill your days, check out free hiking tours, golf, a zipline over a raging river – and, of course, bear watching. whistlerblackcomb.com; whistler.com
Saas Fee, Switzerland
Open July 14 to October 31, 7/8am to 12/3pm, depending on the date
One day 84CHF, six flexible days 505CHF, three flexible days 269CHF
In summer the lofty 3,600m Allalin glacier in Saas Fee, accessed via cable car and funicular train, boasts 20km of pistes and two lines of kickers in the freestyle park, plus a hip jump, rails, boxes and superpipe. There's a revolving restaurant and ice grotto at the top, and the Chill Out Zone at the park’s base, with its music and couches, is a comfy gallery for getting inspiration from the pros. Other organised activities in the resort range from aerial trekking through the forest to wine tasting. As an add-on you can buy a Citizens' Pass for CHF7 a day to enjoy unlimited travel on all cable cars (bar the Metro Alpin), plus a range of discounts, including on accommodation, ski passes of more than two days and in mountain restaurants. saas-fee.ch
Stubai Glacier, Austria
Open until mid-June, 8:30am to 4pm
Ski pass One day €40, six days €190.40, three out of six days €114.80
If full days on the slopes are what you’re after, this is the place. Austria’s largest glacier slopes, with 1,450 hectares of slopes, 62km of groomed runs (one of which is 10km long) and 26 lifts, are open continuously from late September to the middle of June, the last six weeks counting as springtime, when the pass price drops. The three in six days pass price above is the discounted one you get with a Stubai guest card, free from participating accommodation, and also giving free public transport and access to swimming pools.
Up on the slopes there’s a mix of runs from blue to black and the large Stubai Zoo terrain park has easy, medium and pro lines. There’s also a viewing platform that extends out over the slopes, an ice grotto, children's playground at 2,600m with a zipline, the Goldener Gams restaurant and après venue the Schneekristal Pavilion, with a roof that opens in good weather. stubaier-gletscher.com
Open Zermatt April 23 to October 31/Cervinia June 29 to September 12, approx 7am to 3pm
Ski pass One day from 83CHF/€32.50, six days 331CHF/€101
Zermatt and Cervinia share a ski area including glaciers that enable skiing every day of the year from the Zermatt side. From June to September a total of 23km of runs on red and blue slopes in the shadow of the Matterhorn is accessible from Cervinia too. The Gravity Park on Plateau Rosà is the highest in Europe and offers features for all levels, including a halfpipe, kickers, rails and boxes.
At the top of the ski area there's the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise for close up of views of the classic mountain, a recently renovated restaurant serving Swiss and Italian specialities, free snow tubing and the Glacier Palace – for 8CHF take a lift 15m down inside the glacier, check out ice sculptures, try out an ice slide and finish by squeezing through a crevasse. If you buy a lift pass for more than three days on the Zermatt side, it includes local biking lifts as well as the ski area. In Cervinia one-day mountain bike passes start at €25 a day, depending on the area covered. zermatt.ch; cervinia.it
Les Deux Alpes, France
Open June 23 to August 26, 7:15am to 12.30pm
Ski pass One day €40.10, six days €200.50
The summer season in Les Deux Alpes kicks off with an outdoor festival, 22 to 24 June, a weekend of activities and competitions for all, including mountain biking, golf and paragliding as well as skiing and snowboarding. The resort's glacier ski area offers up a total of 11 runs (nine blue, one green and one red) served by 17 lifts. There's also a huge 18-hectare freestyle area with a halfpipe and superpipe, airbag, hips, rails and big air jumps, and a dedicated beginner slope. Every week during the summer season a freestyle camp for kids, Da Camp, runs – children ride the snowpark every morning from 9am to 1pm and practise their tricks on the trampoline each afternoon as well as trying other mountain activities including mountain boarding, beach volleyball and rafting, plus watching video analysis of their tricks.
Le 3200, the restaurant on the glacier, is open all summer, and there are also regular barbecues and DJs to entertain visitors. On average, there are just 1,500 people a day on the glacier in summer, compared to 10,000 a day in winter, so it's the perfect opportunity to hone your skills or take some coaching exams - BASI levels 1 and 2 are taught on the glacier during July and August by Tip Top Ski Coaching.
In the afternoons, a six-day ski pass doubles as a pass for activities from swimming and tennis to tobogganing, golf and archery in one of four resorts: Alpe d'Huez, Serre Chevalier, Puy St Vincent or Montgenèvre. The lift pass also gives access to the bike park with its 100km across 26 descents and 10 lifts that can transport bikes. New pay-for activities in Les Deux Alpes for summer 2018 include sunset E-bike rides and breakfast paragliding - plus there's a new skate park. les2alpes.com