Piste and Quiet: Avoiding the Peak Season Ski Crowds

Written by  Kat Mackintosh

You’re at the top of that perfect ski run about to fly down it with a combination of speed and grace, your eyes are closed, imagining the empty page of white snow in front of you waiting for your tracks to carve it up… But when you open your eyes in front of you is a cut up slope, crowded with people. It’s the right time, the peak of the ski season and the snow is a powdery perfection, but the wrong place, but where’s the right place?

For a mountain totally devoid of other people the heart of Greenland, remote slopes in the Grand Tetons or even better the Himalayas are your best bets. But not everyone is up for a skiing trip involving a helicopter or camping in the snow, so a compromise between the kind of creature comforts you can expect from a ski resort and the empty runs of Everest is what most people are looking for.

It’s the quiet ones you have to look out for, the resorts that only get a look in on the last page of the brochure, but are loved by the locals, who’re trying to keep them a secret from the package holiday makers. Virtually unknown outside of Italy, Monterosa has a group of peaks, many over 4,000m, offering acres of empty slopes and terrain, both piste and off piste, which make it so perfect for advanced and intermediate skiers – its three valleys comfortably comparable to France’s Trois Vallees in size – so why isn’t it packed? The main reason is that it’s not developed as a resort, the towns are much like other small towns and only a small percentage of the area has been made into runs. On the weekend the locals pop down from Milan to love the off piste but during the week there are plenty of empty slopes. Another of Italy’s secrets is Sexten, a smaller area, with around 50kms worth of mostly intermediate runs, the backdrop of the Dolomites is a big draw – think saunas and superb views after an off piste adventure on some of the regions 200kms worth of cross country trails. Italy can also provide a place for beginners to get their ski legs without being crowded: Cortina is best known for being a swanky resort, but the après ski has over taken the actual skiing in priority for many guests, so while the shops and restaurants might be full the slopes are pretty empty.

Some larger resorts have smaller, quieter off shoots, Les Arcs has Le Pre, with its spectacular 2km run from L’Aiguille Rouge to Le Pre and the Saalbach Hinterglemm has satellite resort Leogang, which is both quieter and cheaper. While some regions have quieter pockets - along from Mont Blanc’s apron is Morillon, one of the quietest resorts in the whole Grand Massif Ski Area, it still has 85 of its own pistes and 8 ski lifts. Adelboden is conveniently located by the tail of the Bernese Oberland range and despite its easy access and 170kms of ski terrain and 55 lifts set above 2,000m it has still managed to evade the notice of most ski package wrappers.

The U.S. is known for being big, and some of its resorts include more terrain than they can fill. Big Sky has about two ski-able acres of terrain per person and Alta is only the local resort for one urban area, and there aren’t any where near enough locals to fill all these steep and challenging slopes. Five big powder bowls draw crowds of serious skiers and boarders to Fernie, but for resort bunnies there are resorts closer so there is plenty of space around for those who crave these near perfect conditions

If a helicopter will only add to your experience then Russia’s Krasnaya Poliana range, Turkey’s Kackar Range or the Kamchatka Resort – at least there’s a resort! – in Siberia err more towards the adventure end of the scale, with best runs accessed by helicopter only.

Top Ski Resorts all season

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