October is the month when autumn/fall is really here and temperatures start to drop across the northern hemisphere.
In Europe, the list of glacier resorts open begins to grow with the first in France joining those of Austria, Italy and Switzerland. Further north the first resorts in Finland and Sweden will open too, joining the summer ski lacier area open in Norway.
Across in North America, temperatures will again be dropping and the annual race will be on to be the first in the country to open, a race usually won between the 10th and 20th of the month, possibly earlier in a really good year, later if its warmer than the average.
On the southern side of the equator, temperatures will be warming and there’s likely to be less than a dozen areas open after the first weekend of the month. Typically all Aussie areas close then, unless it’s been a particularly good winter and there’s lots of snow lying. But a handful of resorts are likely to aim to stay open to the idle of October in Argentina, Chile and New Zealand with ski centres on New Zealand’s North Island normally the last still open south of the equator in the latter half of the month.
If you are looking for the perfect destination for your next trip, our Resort Guide has everything you need to know.
The new ski season gathers pace in Europe during October. Hopefully, temperatures will be dropping, especially up high, and we’ll see snowfalls to lower elevations with high slopes remaining cold enough for the snow up top to start to survive daytime warmth too. We can also see early snowfalls in the Balkans, Pyrenees, Dolomites, Scotland’s Cairngorms and most other ranges across the continent, all being well.
We usually start October with half a dozen or so ski areas open, the most in Austria as well as some in Switzerland and Italy as well as up in Norway. Most of these are places that were open through the summer, but we’ll also start to see centres that open for 7-8 month seasons from the autumn, particularly in Austria, where typically half or more of all open centres are to be found in October.
Ski areas in Sweden, France and Finland usually start to open in October too.
Austria, and sometimes its Tirol region alone, has the most ski areas open in October than any other country in the northern hemisphere and sometimes the world. Much depends on what happens in terms of the southern hemisphere ski centres closing and whether there’s an early winter and earlier-than-average openings in the USA, but usually Austria posts the most choice and sometimes, early in the month, Tirol region alone may have more centres open than the rest of the northern hemisphere combined! There are four Tirol glaciers usually open by the start of the month – the ear-round Hintertux; Solden, which traditionally stages the first FIS World Cup races of the new season in the latter half of October, Kaunertal and Pitztal. Then during October a fifth Tirol glacier, Stubai, closest to Innsbruck opens, as does the Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun in Salzburgerland and Carinthia’s Molltal. Austria used to have 1-0 centres open by the end of October some years but the Dachstein glacier, which was one of the 10, has given up on lift-served downhill skiing, and Kitzbuhel, which aimed to open in early October using snowfarming techniques, isn’t now opening until November.
Tignes no longer aims to open until the event end of autumn, giving up on its previous September or October opening of its glacier season. So it’s usually just les 2 Alpes, which opens for a fortnight from late October to early November each year, that offers glacier skiing so long as conditions are right.
Three Italian glacier ski areas are normally open at the start of October, although snow conditions can impact this. Passo Stelvio’s season runs from late May to early November, so October is usually the last month of the season there. The Schnalstal (Val Senales) glacier usually begins an 8-month ski season in September and Cervinia should provide access to the glacier ski area it shares with neighbouring Zermatt.
Saas-Fee and Zermatt (above) are both normally open as October begins and throughout the month.
The Titlis glacier above Engelberg usually opens for its 7-month season in October and often Glacier 3000 near Gstaad does. The Diavolezza glacier in the Engadin near St Moritz also opens in the latter half of October and the end of the month occasionally sees resorts like Davos and Andermatt open high-altitude runs, but not always.
Scandinavia usually sees the coldest temperatures of October at lower elevations of anywhere in Europe so is in a prime position for early opening. Norway’s Galdhopiggen glacier is usually open through the summer and remains open to early November. It’s usually the only ski area open at the very start of October. However, at the first weekend, Levi and Ruka in Finland usually open a few kilometres of runs each, using snow saved from the previous winter, stockpiled under cover through the summer then spread back out on the slopes. Sweden’s ski season also usually starts in October with Kabdalis often among the first to open.
The Rest of Europe
Although there’s not usually anywhere open outside of the Alps and Scandinavia, it’s worth noting that some years unusually early/heavy October snowfall can result in ski areas in other parts of Europe starting their seasons as early as this month (sometimes closing again if the snow melts before the main season in December). Areas where this has happened have included Scotland and the Pyrenees.
InTheSnow North America Resort Guide
There’s a battle royal to be the first centre open in the USA (and normally all of North America) each autumn/fall, with the victor usually managing it in October. Often around the middle of the month. Prime contenders are high-altitude ski centres like Arapahoe Basin, Copper, Keystone and Loveland as well as Wolf Creek ski area. Many of these are at two-mile-high altitudes and among the 10 highest ski areas on the planet. They’re normally cold enough for snowmaking to start in late September or early October and one of these is often the first to open. But there’s competition from the Midwest where a few centres are trying to open a run or two in October. A few years resorts in California, Washington state and even Killington in Vermont have been the first and by the end of the month, half a dozen or more centres may be open for Halloween. North of the border there’s more of a reliance on natural snowfall with ski areas like Sunshine, Lake Louise and Norquay around Banff the first to open, very occasionally at the end of October but more often the first or second weekend of November.
A number of small centres including one called Yeti in Japan make a big deal of opening a run in October using all-weather snowmaking. In China its ski areas in the remote, snowy Altai mountains that can open as early as late September.
The southern hemisphere’s ski season is definitely winding down by the start of October, for most of the 100 or so ski areas in Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand and Southern Africa’s Lesotho and South Africa the season will already be over.
In a good year though some will continue at least for the first week of October and a number have a reputation for making it to the middle of the month or beyond. They include the biggest ski area in the southern hemisphere, Argentina’s Catedral near Bariloche, and Antillanca, Carralco and La Parva in Chile as well as resorts like Cardrona and Mt Hutt in New Zealand. It’s here too that the areas that stay open the very longest south of the equator are located. They’re Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas on Mt Ruapehu on New Zealand’s North Island. One or both of these usually stay open to the final week of October, and occasionally make it into ‘Snowvember”.
For the latest snow forecast and updates on where is best to ski now, as well as ski news, gear reviews and resort spotlights, you can check out our regular podcast here Apple | Spotify | Podcasts or search The White Out on your chosen podcast directory