By Jessica Bown
You might think that the ski season is all but over by April. But think again.
Many ski resorts stay open into May and even June, and some of the best skiing and snowboarding conditions can be found later in the season.
Hitting the slopes in March and April means warmer temperatures and cheaper prices – with Eurozone destinations looking particularly cheap just now due to the weak euro.
So what are you waiting for? Our round up of the top nine fabulous late-season resorts will inspire you to book your March or April ski breaks…
Set in the scenic Pirin National Park, Bansko’s north-facing slopes have the most reliable snow record in Bulgaria.
The town itself is also home to plenty of cheap and cheerful restaurants and bars, while both the lift network and the level of grooming on the slopes are good (by Bulgarian standards).
However, those used to visiting Alpine resorts may find the runs pretty limited. The quality of the snow could also disappoint if you go very late in the season.
Val Thorens is Europe’s highest resort at 2,300 metres. And that means you are guaranteed snow even late in the season.
Open until early May, the 150-kilometre ski area in Val Thorens is also impressive.
And more advanced skiers and boarders can enjoy the runs of Meribel and Courchevel – the other two resorts in the famous Three Valleys – until late April too.
Other plus points include that nearly all accommodation – including many of the cheapest apartments – is ski in/ski out.
Most of the hotels and apartment blocks are faceless, concrete blocks, though.
With lifts that take you up to 3,899 metres, Zermatt is high enough to offer skiing until early May – as well as summer skiing on the glacier.
The chic resort boasts a well-maintained ski area surrounded by spectacular scenery, including the iconic Matterhorn.
There’s a lot more to Zermatt than ski slopes, though.
Non-skiing visitors can learn about local history at the town’s Matterhorn Museum, while shopaholics are spoilt for choice and foodies will love its fantastic restaurants.
Just don’t expect a cheap trip – especially as the strong Swiss Franc will make everything more expensive for anyone visiting this spring.
The ski season on California’s Mammoth Mountain often lasts until June. And there are slopes for every type of skier or boarder.
Experts can take on the challenging couloirs or head to the resort’s terrain parks for a play, while intermediates can choose from a wide range of easy-cruising pistes.
For beginners, meanwhile, there are some excellent nursery areas and gentle green runs.
But beware: most hotels and apartments are miles away from the slopes. The ski area may also seem small to anyone used to skiing Alpine greats such as the Three Valleys.
In Åre, Sweden’s biggest downhill ski area, the winter season lasts until May.
And unlike those who visit in January, late-season ski holidaymakers benefit from long sunlight hours and warmer temperatures.
The resort’s slopes, mainly tree-lined green and blue runs, are particularly well suited to beginners and families.
There’s little to challenge more expert skiers and boarders, though. And boarders in particular will find the high number of T-bar draglifts a pain.
The Tignes glacier allows the resort to offer skiing until early May – and then again in the summer season.
What’s more, the resort is part of the sizeable Espace Killy ski area, which links it to the glamorous, neighbouring resort of Val d’Isere and offers slopes to suit skiers and boarders of all levels.
Accommodation too is wide ranging, with everything from luxury chalets to budget-friendly apartments up for grabs.
This purpose-built resort offers excellent value for money. But it certainly won’t be winning any beauty contests with village charm in short supply.
The snow in budget-friendly Livigno, where most runs are at above 2,000 metres, stays good for longer thanks to the resort’s high altitude and snowmaking facilities. And that means it can usually keep its lifts open into May.
Most of the pistes are easy-cruising runs that are a perfect playground for intermediate skiers and boarders.
But Livigno is a long way from the closest airports of Zurich and Innsbruck.
And while there are plenty of nursery slopes for beginners, more advanced visitors will soon get bored due to the lack of challenging runs.
With most slopes above 2,000 metres, Sölden’s ski area is very high for Austria. It also includes two glaciers, which is why the resort can pretty much guarantee good snow until late April.
Intermediate level skiers and boarders will love the resort’s many blue and red runs. And party animals will enjoy Sölden’s lively après ski scene.
Families might find the town centre, with its busy main road, a bit rowdy once the ski lifts have stopped for the night, though.
April is basically the middle of the season in Whistler-Blackcomb, where the lifts stay open until June. The key to the resort’s long season is the high average snowfall – most years, Whistler gets an incredible 39ft of snow!
And one of the advantages of going later in the season is that you can get great snow without having to suffer freezing temperatures.
Often voted the best ski resort in the world, Blackcomb Mountain boasts a glacier, as well as one of the world’s largest ski areas.
Downsides include the long – and expensive – flight to get there.