The secret to choosing a snowy ski resort this winter

val Thorens indoor track - THIBAUT LOUBERE/OT Val Thorens

val Thorens indoor track – THIBAUT LOUBERE/OT Val Thorens

The UK may have surprisingly enjoyed snowfall at the end of 2022 – but right now most of the slopes of the Alps are wetter than white. The combination of mild weather and rain in France and Switzerland has forced some to shut down completely.

A few weeks before Christmas, experts predicted a great start to the season. Then the rain came. On Christmas Eve, it swept northern parts of the French Alps and parts of Switzerland, swept away the previous snowfall and disappointed many festive skiers. By 28 December, the website reported that snow conditions in the northwest Alps were “generally poor for the time of year and much more snow was needed”. With New Year’s arrival, things got “too bad” and some resorts are still closed to skiers.

It’s not all bad news, though. Conditions are significantly better in the southeastern parts of the Alps, especially in the Dolomites, which avoids the worst weather conditions. There is also plenty of snow in North America and Scandinavia. While it’s no consolation for ski vacations, it’s proof of just how unpredictable snow can be. With that in mind, it’s good to know how to choose a ski resort where the white stuff is almost always guaranteed no matter what the season brings us.

If you’re traveling uphill soon, you can keep up with the latest developments and find out if you can cancel.

Whatever the forecast, top tips for finding a snow-free vacation spot

aim high

High direction is one of the most important factors for guaranteed snow conditions. Each 1,000 m you ascend equals an estimated 9.8°C decrease in temperature if clear and 6°C if cloudy; every meter higher means you’re far above freezing – the point at which rain (one of the worst words in a skier’s dictionary) turns into snow (one of the most positive words). Be careful, experts warn, as ski resorts battle the effects of climate change, frostbite levels will continue to rise at altitude.

The French resort town of Val Thorens is the highest village in Europe (2,300 m), with access to some of its highest slopes, up to 3,230 m. It is one of the best bankers for snow safety, but any resort with slopes of up to 3,000m is a good bet.

Val Thorens - OT Val Thorens

Val Thorens – OT Val Thorens

glacier good luck

Glaciers go hand in hand with high altitude resorts. These huge blocks of ice, which can be more than 100 meters deep, are excellent at protecting once fallen snow and are still useful for perfecting ice skiing skills when mostly scraped off.

Plateau Rosa at 3,500 m, accessed from Europe’s highest glacier ski, Zermatt in Switzerland and Cervinia in Italy, offers 21 km of ready-made pistes. Other notable resorts with glaciers include Solden and Hintertux in Austria and Tignes in France. All of them super sharps can be found honing their skills in training courses during the summer and fall months if snow levels allow, and their snow-safe qualities make them enduringly popular in the winter.

north face, happy face

We all know the benefits of a south-facing garden with more sunlight, and the same principle applies to the slopes of a ski resort. While it’s nice to sunbathe on sun-drenched slopes, it’s not good for snow quality – unless it’s cold enough to curl your toes and then it really doesn’t matter. Because north-facing slopes are unaffected by the sun, conditions remain much more consistent and snow stays better for longer, especially late in the season. The problem is that most piste maps rarely reveal the direction of the slopes – you need a proper chart to assess it properly.

location, location, location

Some destinations are lucky with benign weather systems. Japanese resorts, especially those on the northern island of Hokkaido, are a good example. They are not high, have no glaciers, and are not over-equipped with north-facing slopes. They have a geographical chance on their hands.



The wind blows from Siberia, slams into the Sea of ​​Japan, and then leaves up to 15 meters per year of the lightest, fluffiest snow known to man. The Utah resorts of Alta and Snowbird have a similar annual snowfall, thanks to a similar effect. Most of Utah’s storm systems come from the Pacific ocean, but local geography also has an effect. The Great Salt Lake, northwest of the city, warms the oncoming air and helps with humidity. Warmed air rises, cools, and begins to lower snow, a phenomenon known as lake effect snow.


Snowmaking has skyrocketed over the last 20 years, and many resorts have invested millions in cutting-edge technology. Resorts in the Italian Dolomites are a great example, where almost all of the 1,200 km of pistes are covered with snowballs. As long as it’s cold enough, it will snow…it may not be natural.

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