Last autumn about a dozen ski areas in the Alps opened in September and October before the second wave locked all of them down until the start of January, and in the case of French and Italian centres, for the whole ski season. The only exception were glacier areas in Switzerland which opened as normal – Zermatt (pictured top last October) has now been operating for almost 15 straight months since re-opening after Switzerland’s only full lockdown in spring last year.
This autumn ski centres are preparing to open again. The ever warmer conditions on glaciers in summer has melted most or all of the snow cover from many of them, but there have also been some dustings of autumn snow as an initial sign that the seasons are starting to change. Last autumn there were some good snowfalls at high altitude in the Alps in late autumn and really big falls in September and October which caused at least one area, Glacier 3000 near Gstaad in Switzerland (pictured below in August last year), to open a month earlier than planned.
So what are the glacier areas planning?
In the Austrian Tirol the Hintertux glacier is already open and is open year-round, pandemic permitting. The Molltal Glacier should also be open but it has closed temporarily due to lack of snow on the glacier, and hopes to re-open mid-September.
Back in the Tirol the Stubai glacier (which received a little snow earlier this month, pictured below) says it plans to open, “mid/end September, depending on the snow conditions.” The Kitzsteinhorn above Kaprun currently says “autumn!” but usually tries to open at the end of September or start of October. Similarly, Solden, which stages the first World Cup Alpine ski competitions of the 21-22 season at the end of October, says it aims to open on the 4th of that month, but may open earlier if conditions allow. The Pitztal Glacier, the country’s highest, says they’ll open from 25th September.
The Kaunertal Glacier will stage its official opening weekend from 8th October and Kitzbuhel hopes to open on 30th October – no glacier there but they use snow farming.
In France Les 2 Alpes is the only centre still open for summer skiing and plans to stay open to the end of this month. Tignes is usually the first in the country to open each autumn, it plans to open for its 21-22 season on 16th October.
In Italy Passo Stelvio is open for summer skiing and due to remain open to the end of October. Cervinia is also currently open accessing the ski area shared with Zermatt. It will close in early September but had announced it plans to re-open for the season from October 16th too. Val Senales reports it plans to open its glacier slopes on 17th September this year.
For Switzerland Saas Fee and Zermatt are open as usual already. The Diavolezza Glacier near St Moritz in the Engadin region plans to open from the 23rd October but initially only open at weekends and on Wednesday for the general public. The Titlis Glacier at Engelberg as well as the glacier ski area above Laax plan to open in October too but has not set dates. Last year, Glacier 300, which had planned to open in mid-November, did so at the start of October after a big early snowfall. Crans Montana and Davos also have glacier areas but don’t usually open until November.
Outside the Alps a number of ski areas in Scandinavia aim to open in the first half of the autumn too. Like the ski centres in Switzerland, these actually stayed open for their normal seasons. Among them Norway’s Galdhopiggen glacier is another that should be open now but is closed instead as the snow has thawed. It hopes to open September 11th or maybe the 18th. However it hopes to re-open in mid-September.
Ruka (above) and Levi in Finland open at the start of October using snow-farming, recycling last winter’s saved snow to create their initial runs.