As we start December and the start of the ‘main ski season’ is less than a fortnight away, the battle for attention between ski areas switches from which are the first to open to which has the most terrain open this early in the winter?
In Austria Ischgl prides itself on its long season running from late November to early May but also makes great efforts to ensure it has a big ski area open from day one, shared with Swiss neighbour Samnuan – when many of the big ski areas that are open perhaps only have 10% of their terrain skiable in the first week of December.
How much Ischgl can open varies from year to year depending on early season conditions but this year it’s looking good with around 170km skiable already.
That eclipses early leader Saas Fee in Switzerland (above last week) which, after big snowfalls at the end of November, reported 50km of runs open including what they believed was the longest run open anywhere over the biggest skiable vertical then open anywhere, 9km and 1800 vertical metres from top to bottom.
However Saas Fee’s neighbour Zermatt (pictured top) makes a point of claiming the biggest area in the world open in the very early season each year and 2019 could be no exception.
It’s currently reporting 212km (130 miles) of slopes already open in its cross-border ski area shared with Cervinia. That may be the largest area open in the world at present.
Tignes and Val d’Isere do report more than 90 runs open between them at present, but don’t give a combined measurement.
In the Pyrenees Baqueira Beret in Spain (above) seems to be leading with more than 100km of runs open already.
In North America the two biggest areas, Whistler Blackcomb in BC, Canada and Park City in Utah, USA, are only partially open. Lake Louise with its 100+ runs already open and Mammoth Mountain with 730 hectares already open after the huge snowfalls of the past week currently appear to have more terrain skiable.