While there are options to get a summer ski fix in North America, to really relive winter you’ll need to travel abroad. From the high-alpine reaches of South America, to the picture-perfect mountain vistas of New Zealand, onward to the glaciers of Europe, international summer skiing is every bit as thrilling and diverse as winter skiing.
Going Glacial in Europe
The Alps is probably the most familiar international skiing region to North Americans, so a summer ski trip there may prove a little less intimidating than more distant destinations. While summer is summer in the Alps, the namesake mountains of alpine skiing are home to an abundance of glaciers that keep turns coming throughout the warmest months. In fact, in contrast to North America’s short summer seasons, skiing is available 365 days a year on some lift-served European glaciers. While summering in the Alps, you’ll also enjoy incomparable mountain views, traditional summer activities like hiking and mountain biking, and delightfully European undertakings like water balling and via ferrata.
With glaciers spread out at resorts around France, Switzerland and Austria - including some famous, world class names like Zermatt and Tignes - it’s difficult to pinpoint one that offers the best experience. For a bit of pitch, the Hintertuxer Glacier in Austria is known as the place to find some of the steepest summer glacier skiing in Europe. The glacier towers up over 3,000 meters and hosts up to 11 miles of summer skiing. The “Betterpark” serves up a halfpipe, rails, boxes and other terrain features. While on the glacier, enjoy huge, panoramic views from the deck atop the Gletscherbus 3 cable car, and burrow into the rock and ice by way of the 6-mile-long Spannagelhöhle cave and “Nature’s Ice Palace” ice cavern.
Archive Tourist Board Tux-Finkenberg
New Zealand’s Ski Fields of Dreams
As glamorous as an Alps vacation is any time of year, summer is the off-season there. If you’re looking for the full winter experience – fresh snow, 100 percent terrain, heli-skiing, etc., then you’ll have to travel to points south. Both islands of New Zealand offer resorts with stunning scenery and unique skiing experiences.
You could visit one of the name resorts like Treble Cone or Coronet Peak, but if you’re traveling around the world, you might as well experience the local flavor. When it comes to New Zealand skiing, local flavor comes in the form of club “ski fields,” barebones ski areas where snowy mountain peaks and slopes come first and everything else comes second…or not at all. These fields, which have inspired stripped down North American operations like Silverton Mountain and Mountain Riders Alliance, provide a ski-centric experience like few other destinations in the world.
Craigieburn Valley Ski Area is a non-profit club field on the South Island that’s summed up as “steep, deep and cheap.” More than half its terrain is dedicated to advanced skiers, and you’ll find narrow chutes, open bowls and plenty of snow. Three high-speed rope tows service Craigieburn’s 370 patrolled acres and 1,650 vertical feet. Just outside the boundaries, you’ll find many ski touring options. According to Snow.co.nz, Craigieburn will open for the 2012 season on June 30, and things are looking good - the area’s website reports it received a 125-cm (49-inch) dump earlier this month in “one of the biggest accumulated snow falls ever seen at Craigieburn.” http://www.craigieburn.co.nz/
South America’s Friendliest Big Cats
The ski resorts and mountain peaks of the Andes are your destination for summer skiing in the Western Hemisphere. South America’s ski infrastructure is concentrated in Argentina and Chile, where resorts like Las Leñas and Ski Portillo have gained reputations for huge, steep lines and heaps of powder.
If there’s one thing that can seduce skiers away from raucous discos and mouth-watering beef of the resorts, it’s the 4,000 lonely acres of cat skiing at Ski Arpa. Ski Arpa’s all-natural bowls, steeps and cliffs plunge and tumble down 3,500 vertical feet under the watchful gaze of 22,841-foot Aconcagua. Arpa’s two cats hold less than two dozen people, so each skier has a whole lot of powdered acreage to himself. Cat skiing is relatively cheap by North American standards (advertised at $275 for high season), but don’t expect a comfy lodge or fancy dinner at day’s end - there’s no base lodge and the only overnight stay at the ski area comes in a rental camper. http://www.skiarpa.com
The South American ski season is just getting underway and typically runs strongest in July and August. To book ski packages and find detailed information on ski resorts, helicopter operations and weather, take a look at Powderquest’s website.
by Carl Weiss