Contrary to popular belief, late-season skiing can see some of the best snow of the year. A surprising amount of fresh powder often falls in April and May, while the end of the peak can also mean fewer queues, more affordable accommodation rates, longer ski days and more sunshine – the only trick is knowing where to go.
To help you decide, here are five of the best resorts in Europe for a late-season skiing fix.
Zermatt (1,620-3,899m), Switzerland
Enjoy late season skiing around the pyramid-shaped peak of the Matterhorn
If you’re looking for late season snow, you won’t find many resorts in Europe more reliable than Zermatt. It's nestled beneath the pyramid-shaped peak of the Matterhorn (Switzerland’s highest mountain, aka the Toblerone mountain), with a topography that makes for excellent skiing conditions. And home to Europe’s largest glacier ski area and highest ski lifts, it’s a resort where it's actually possible to ski in summer, with the ski area on the Theodul Glacier and the Klein Matterhorn cable car open 365 days a year (though obviously the selection of slopes is broader and more thrilling when the snow cover is deeper during winter). Stay at Zermatt’s Riffelalp Resort 2222m and enjoy a spot of swimming in the outdoor pool amid the snow.
Obergurgl-Hochgurgl (1,930-3,082m), Austria
Obergurgl enjoys access to a huge network of glacier pistes going up to 3,080m
Obergurgl is one of the highest ski villages in Europe, poised 1,930m above sea level in the western Austrian state of Tyrol’s Ötztal valley. It’s connected to the even higher-altitude hamlet of Hochgurgl, where the north-facing, wide open slopes criss cross above the treeline. The two villages combine to create a ski area where snow-sure conditions can extend far longer than most Alpine resorts – from late autumn through to May. And there’s always plenty of powder in the villages themselves, dusting the traditional wooden chalets. While it does have a reputation as a family-friendly or beginner skier destination, there’s access to a network of glacier pistes rising up to 3,080m, as well as more challenging slopes on neighbouring mountains. Not to mention a decent après-ski offering – try Hohe Mut Alm, a popular Tyrolean chalet restaurant on the mountain, before night skiing or tobogganing down the resort’s many floodlit slopes. Check into Apartment Gletscherbergblick, a small, remote bungalow with unbroken views of mountains, pine trees and snow.
Ischgl (1,377-2,872m), Austria
239km of north-facing, 2000-metre-high slopes in Ischgl means plenty of late season snow
Despite not being fed by its own glacier, the Austrian resort of Ischgl often remains open until early May. It’s another high-altitude resort but one that’s known instead for its nightlife, thanks to its annual Top of the Mountain Easter Concert. One of the biggest spring parties in the Alps, this event draws a 20,000-strong crowd to see headlining acts like Rihanna, Tina Turner and Elton John – the 2020 edition will see the king of German ghetto rap, Sido, take the stage. But back to the skiing – snow fiends will be thrilled to find one of the best terrain parks in the Alps plus ample off-piste opportunities and 239km of north-facing, 2000-metre-high slopes. Check into the Enjoy Ischgl aparthotel for muted, modern decor, on-site ski pass sales and ski storage space.
Sölden (1,368 -2,090m), Austria
Check out the snow-covered scenery from Sölden's glacier viewing platform
While you may recognise Sölden as the location for several scenes in the James Bond film Spectre, it’s celebrated as much for its reliable snow record as its glamorous side. The terrain is exceptionally varied and features two glaciers (the Rettenbach and the Tiefenbach), meaning slopes rise up to 3,250m and you could well be carving through light, fresh powder into early May. Make the most of the resort’s lively après-ski scene in between hitting the slopes, checking out the Ice Q restaurant that featured in the film and a relatively new cinematic installation called 007 Elements, held inside the summit of Gaislachkogl Mountain. Stay at the Pension Sportalm, a family-run Alpine chalet hotel that’s only 200m from the Gaislachkogelbahn cable car.
St. Anton (1,304-2,450m), Austria
Blue skies and plenty of snow in St. Anton, a resort nicknamed the 'cradle of Alpine skiing'
Easily one of the finest resorts in all of Austria, St. Anton is nicknamed the cradle of Alpine skiing, since it hosted the country’s first skiing club, first skiing race and built Austria’s first ski lift. These days, it’s famed for its nightlife scene and over 300km of slopes in addition to challenging off-piste runs for seasoned skiers. It’s often possible to ski here from the end of November all the way to early May, thanks to the high altitude and supplementary snow machines. In fact, late season is seen by many as the best time of the year; you can expect longer days, discounted rates on lift passes, quieter resorts and milder, sunnier weather that means wearing fewer layers and enjoying long lazy lunches on the slopes. What's more, there’s a wider selection of après-ski options than in the depths of winter, so bar terraces in spring are frequently filled with people dancing in the afternoon sun and well into the evening. Treat yourself to a stay at the Himmlhof, a boutique hotel in an elegant Tyrolean chalet.