For those who spend summers and autumns itching for winter to come, the First Week Ski Club gives you the chance to be schussing down the mountain the second the slopes are ready. You’re part of this (unofficial but elite) club the moment you book one of the holidays in this page, which all set off at the start of winter. Catch the first lift of the season and you’ll be enjoying untouched, uncrowded slopes before the Christmas crowds get a chance to make their mark.
You might be the kind of super skier who squeezes in as many pistes as possible before the season’s out (when better to start than the very beginning?) or maybe you’ve caught wind that this is an incredibly good value time to ski (the rumours are true – some First Week Skiers save hundreds). Either way, this is the page for you and our sales team are on hand for any questions or assistance with booking.
The atmosphere at the start of the season’s infectiously exciting, with chalets and hotels opening their doors – squeaky clean and often just renovated - and fresh-faced seasonaires eager to get started. Sometimes resorts host big events to kick the season off to a cracking start – Ischgl’s famous for its Top of the Mountain Opening Concert featuring global pop stars, Solden often hosts FIS competitions and La Grande Première in Val Thorens has let skiers sample the latest gear in recent years. You might catch age old traditions, too - like Austria’s Krampus events at the beginning of December, Christmas markets and other advent celebrations.
This isn’t the height of the ski season, so don’t expect the same conditions you might find in February. There’s a chance that not all slopes will be skiable, but in the bigger resorts that still means you’ll have plenty to ski. The shorter, cloudier and colder days create perfect conditions for natural snow and artificial snowmaking, however you’ll want to dress appropriately for the great outdoors. Windproof outers, thermal tops and bottoms are key ingredients to staying snug on the snow – handwarmers can be a godsend too!
Your best bet is to head somewhere that usually gets a good amount of November and early December snow. The top resorts have the altitude, glaciers and snowmaking systems to all-but-guarantee great quality start-of-season skiing. Val d’Isere’s one of them, with high altitude slopes (a good few over 3000m) and the Pissaillas glacier which is usually white year-round. Its neighbour resort, Tignes, is another safe bet with its own glacier and connections to Val’s. Those are two excellent options in France, while Austria’s best include Obergurgl and Ischgl, which might not have glaciers but do tend to garner an awful lot of natural snow. In Switzerland, it’s all about Zermatt which has slopes open throughout the year, so is almost certain to be in excellent nick. Cervinia shares the same ski area if you prefer to ski from the Italian side.