August is something of a turning point in the year. For the southern hemisphere, this is peak season when, normally, any early season snowfall niggles should have been ironed out and virtually all areas should be open, hopefully fully open, with base depths reaching their peaks before things start to warm as spring arrives in September.
In the northern hemisphere, by contrast, it’s one of the hottest months of the year, most years, and comes after an often warm or hot June and July, so any centres still operating from the previous winter may be fearing the end is nigh for this 8 or 9-month long season at least. Perhaps not the year-round Hintertux and Zermatt glaciers in the Alps, although some years even they have been forced to close temporarily in August – September if it has been too hot. But there are usually only half-a-dozen ski areas open at most in the northern hemisphere this month, a handful of Alpine glaciers, perhaps one or two high snowfields in Western North America and a glacier in Norway. Some of these don’t make it to the end of the month either. That said, sometimes winter arrives early, in August, on the highest slopes in the Alps and it’s not unusual to see decent dumps up above about 3,000m altitude. These can happen at any time of the year but get more common in late summer.
The Southern Hemisphere
August tends to be one of the best months of the season to ski in Australia. So long as it’s a ‘normal’ winter with consistently cold temperatures, most of the country’s resorts will have built up bases from late May over 10 weeks and should be peaking for 2023 this month before things start to wind down in September. Perisher has the largest area and therefore usually the most terrain open but Thredbo, Selwyn, Mt Buller, Mt Hotham and Falls Creek (pictured above and top in 2023) should all be in good shape too in a normal winter.
New Zealand should also be enjoying its best month of the season, at least that’s the case most years. Some of the country’s resorts, particularly on the North Island, don’t aim to open for the season until well into July, so August is usually the peak month for snowfall accumulation before the wind down begins in September as springtime arrives. Expect ski areas like Coronet Peak, Cardrona, Turoa, Whakapapa, Treble Cone (pictured above), The Remarkables and Mt Hutt to be fully open, although that’s not the case every year if it has been a poor early season for snowfall, so always important to check before you travel!
August is the main month of the season for Argentina too. The country is home to the largest ski area in the southern hemisphere in terms of lifts and groomed runs, Cerro Catedral, near Bariloche, with over 120km (75 miles) of slopes – the only centre south of the equator with more than 100km. It’s also home to one of the world’s biggest ski areas if you just look at the area boundary and want endless freeride powder but don’t need too many lifts – that’s Las Lenas down in Patagonia. There are another dozen or so more ski areas too.
Chile should be in full swing in August before the season begins to wind down there in September. Leading resorts like modern Valle Nevado, not far from the capital Santiago up an infamous switchback road, and Nevados de Chillan to the south, famous for its thermal springs, will hope to be fully open. Further north the famous powder mecca of Portillo will also be wanting to offer deep light white snow to enjoy for its guests.
There are ski areas in South Africa and Lesotho but, at the time of writing in 2023, neither was offering skiing. Afriski in Lesotho was open for snow fun on toboggans but was no longer running its ski lifts. Tiffindell in South Africa last opened in the winter of 2019.
The Northern Hemisphere
August is usually the most difficult month of the year to find a ski centre open in the Alps as even though July can be hotter, that July heat leads several summer ski centres to close that month, so they’re already closed by the time August arrives. August does though, often see temperatures starting to drop and the ‘first snowfalls of the new season’ on high peaks, ahead of more glacier areas opening for the new season in September and October.
But where are pretty safe bets for August skiing and boarding in the Alps?
In Austria, the year-round Hintertux glacier should be open.
In Switzerland Saas Fee will have opened for its new season in July, normally and year-round Zermatt with Europe’s highest lifts and runs should also be open.
The last summer ski centres open in France are usually closed by the end of July now though so there’s not usually anywhere open there.
Some years are better than others and as always it is important to check current conditions. A poor precious winter for snowfall then hot soring in 2022 led all centres except Hintertux (which itself had very thin cover and limited terrain open) to close for much of August and September due to lack of snow.
In Scandinavia, it definitely feels like the year has turned and autumn is just around the corner most years at the start of August. That’s not far wrong either as resorts like Levi and Ruka in Finland do start their seasons, thanks to snow farming, by early October, so at the end of August the new season start in Lapland is just over a month away!
But one ski area should be open through the month anyway. Galdhopiggen in Norway is the location of Scandinavia’s highest ski lifts and has a ski season from May to November most years. There are just a mile or so of pistes, but who cares, it’s August! Some years the summer heat does cause it to close in August and September until things cool again, other years though it keeps snowing even in August.
There’s usually only one ski area open in North America in August – the Timberline ski resort’s Palmer Snowfield on Mt Hood in Oregon.
Traditionally this area has stayed open to a public holiday weekend at the start of September but recent years have seen closures at various dates in August as the snow cover has melted away earlier than it once did, so it’s a case of check before you travel. If it is open it’s classic summer skiing with the slopes skiable between around 6 am and noon.
If it has been a particularly snowy winter and spring preceding there’s an outside chance another area will make it into August, Mammoth Mountain has done so three times in the past, including 2017 and 2023 (pictured above in Summer 2023).
The end of August usually marks a month until snowmaking begins again on the continent’s highest slopes in Colorado, the first of which hope to open for the new season early in October if conditions are right. So anticipation will already be building in the latter half of August!
Indoor and Dry Slopes
Don’t forget the world is now home to hundreds of indoor snow and dry ski slopes open year round too.
There are actually more indoor snow centres (150+ in 30+ countries on 6 continents) open in August now than the outdoor ones (100 or so in 10 countries on 4 continents) listed above.
We have a regular Podcast called The White Out where we review the latest gear, talk about the latest snow forecast and updates on where is best to ski now, as well interviews with absolute ski legends AND we spotlight a resort every week and so much more. You can check out our regular podcast here Apple | Spotify | Podcasts or search The White Out on your chosen podcast directory.