September marks the start of autumn/fall in the northern hemisphere and the start of spring in summer.
In Europe, North America, Asia and the mountainous parts of North Africa it means anticipation starts building as, hopefully, temperatures begin cooling and the first snow is spotted on high slopes.
In the southern hemisphere, it’s time for spring vibes and, for many, the final month of the ski season.
There are usually about 100 ski areas open at the start of the month, most in the southern hemisphere, but the majority will have closed by the end of September.
Typically a handful of ski areas will be open in Europe at the start of September, but that number may have doubled by the end of the month as glacier ski centres begin opening for autumn skiing and boarding.
Australia’s ski centres will get into their last weeks of the season in September, some stopping two or three weeks in, others like Perisher (above) most likely continuing on for a final week or two in early October, unless it’s a particularly bad year. Most years September starts with the best base depths of winter and most ski centres have all, or most, of their terrain open.
Most of New Zealand’s ski areas will remain open through September, though a few will close at the end of the final or penultimate weekend of the month. Most areas’ bases will have reached their peak in early September and ski centres will have their maximum terrain open. Mt Ruapehu on the North Island doesn’t usually start its season until early July and aims to stay open longest in the southern hemisphere, to late October or even into ‘Snowvember’ so is a particularly strong choice.
Ski areas in South America tend to end their seasons in one of the final weeks of September, although a few will stay open until the start of October. The largest resort Catedral near the famous southern hemisphere ski town of Bariloche, usually has the largest area of terrain (up to 12km of slopes) open in the world in September. Las Lenas in Patagonia to the south is often a good choice for late-season powder.
As with other southern hemisphere countries, the start of spring brings warmer weather to Chile’s ski slopes, which are normally posting their deepest bases of the season around the time that the month begins. Although some of the country’s more famous resorts like Portillo (above) will aim to remain open into October, others will close after the last or next to last weekend of the month. Although spring is here it does not necessarily mean an end to fresh snow falling with more storms likely through September.
Normally the small ski centres in South Africa and Lesotho will have ended their seasons at the end of August.
One year is different to the next with climate change taking its toll, but fewer and fewer glacier ski areas in the Alps tend to make it to stay open through August and into September, and the glacier areas that started their seasons in December only 5 or 10 years ago, now leave it until October instead.
But in a good year, where the snow on glaciers has lasted through the summer and perhaps there’s even been fresh autumn snowfalls up high, September can still start with 4 or 5 glacier areas open, and another half dozen can join them through the month. In a bad year where most of the snow has gone, perhaps only one or two areas will manage to have a few kilometres of runs open.
Austria tends to lead the way with usually year-round Hintertux open through August, then September. Half a dozen more centres open from mid-September to mid-October including the Kaunertal, Kitzsteinhorn, Molltal, Pitztal, Solden (above) and Stubai glaciers.
In Switzerland Saas Fee’s new season will enter its third month and Zermatt will be hoping to have its year-round glacier ski area open, although there was a shock in 2022 when it was forced to close for 45 days in August and September by climate change. They’ll probably be the only areas open through September with Glacier 3000 near Gstaad and Engelberg’s Titlis glacier opening in early October.
For Italy, Cervinia provides access to Zermatt’s glacier from the Italian side and there’s also the Passo Stelvio summer ski area, although it has been closed in September quite often in recent years after that summer heat too. Val Senales upgraded its cable car in 2023 and aims to open in September too.
France no longer usually has anywhere open in September, other than their Amneville indoor snow hall in the northeast of the country, since Tignes gave up trying to open in each month of the year.
It’s normally only the Galdhopiggen glacier, Scandinavia’s highest slopes and a small summer ski area, that’s open in September. However, the Norwegian centre has also been forced to close by warm temperatures some years. Towards the end of the month ski areas that have ‘snow farmed,’ last winter’s snow to ensure early openings have started spreading it back out on ski runs as temperatures cool. Finland’s Levi and Ruka are masters of this, aiming to start their season in early October.
Until recently the Palmer Snowfield above Timberline in Oregon aimed to make its season last for nearly 11 months to the Monday following the first weekend in September, the Labor Day public holiday, but it has tended to close by mid-August in recent years and there’s not usually anywhere open in North America in September. That’s if you don’t include the indoor, year-round Big SNOW ski area in New Jersey. So September is usually a big month of anticipation in Canada and the USA. All eyes and webcams will be focussed on high areas like Arapahoe Bain, Keystone and (above) Loveland in Colorado often starting snowmaking towards the end of the month with the aim of opening for their seasons in the latter half of October. Some years ski areas have been known to open for a day or two in September following freak early snowfalls, but that’s just down to luck.
Ski areas in China tend to start opening at the end of September, while in Japan all-weather snowmaking systems are switched on in late September (above) with the aim of opening from mid-October.
Go Indoors Or Hit A Dry Slope
It’s worth noting that these days September usually sees more indoor snow areas open than outdoor ski centres. Over 100 indoor snow centres now operate across more than 30 countries on six continents, including five in England. There are also 100s of dry ski slopes open across the world.
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.