This summer in the Alps is lining up to be one for the history books.

Whilst the snow is still clinging on to the high slopes in the Alps it is slowly retreating, the white blankets that once extended to the valley floor shrink as the sun beats down on them are retreating. But, the regular ebb and flow of snow cover in the Alps has been disrupted by an irregular amount of snowfall over the winter months.

What does this mean for snowsports enthusiasts though? Will the snow stick around for summer?

Last summer European glaciers struggled for snow depths following a sub-standard winter of snowfall, this year however, is a very different story. Snowsports enthusiasts have enjoyed fantastic conditions on and off the pistes whilst the Alps were hammered with storm after storm this winter, setting up high alpine resorts for a bumper season.

The Pisten Bulleys in many of Europe’s highest glaciers have been hard at work gathering snow reserves to ensure that the summer season fulfils its potential. Thousands of cubic metres of snow have been strategically stashed to minimise deterioration as the seasons shift gears through spring and into summer.

Even early in the season frosted furrows are formed by bashers along the length of glaciers like the Grande Motte in Tignes to catch snow as it is blown over the mountainside to retain it for summer. Some resorts are even hiding snow under tarpaulin to extend their seasons.

Stubai

We visited the Stubai Glacier a couple of seasons ago to explore the area.

There have been such vast snowfalls over the winter months that resorts in the Alps have questioned whether they can open their lifts to skiers in the summer, and where possible even relatively low resorts like Laax extended their winter seasons. Resorts like Stubai who have a naturally long season are currently boasting excellent conditions and will continue to late into the season.

There is such a large volume of snow that has fallen this past winter that for the first time in it’s 82-year history, Val d’Isere has decided to open the lifts in the Bellevarde sector of the resort for the summer months. Throughout June and the start of July, early risers will be able to hop on the Funival departing La Daille and arriving at the summit of the Rocher De Bellevarde. From there enthusiasts can enjoy several pistes before jumping on the Marmottes chairlift to return to the top from 3rd June, a full two weeks before the glacier above the same resort opens. What is even more anomalous about these slopes opening is that they do not sit on a glacier, riders will be sliding over a base of snow that fell less than one year previously.

Once the glaciers open there is still a huge amount of work to be done however. Aside from the usual grooming regime slopes receive, the glaciers that lie below the pistes get their fair share of TLC.

In Les 2 Alpes all piste bashers are fitted with ultrasound systems to ensure they are not scraping snow too thinly over rocks. When the snow is reduced to a certain thickness it becomes more susceptible to melting. The French resort has invested heavily in it’s snow retention research and techniques, which has helped it cement its place as one of the best glaciers in Europe.

So, the snow will be fantastic but what’s the terrain like?

Denis Fortune

There is no hiding the fact that glacier skiing cannot rival the scale or variety of riding on offer over winter months. If you are looking to clock up piste miles over connected resorts, then you may be better off heading to the Southern Hemisphere. Equally if you prefer to rise later in the day you may not get along with the morning only opening hours. However, the focus of summer skiing is often not on gobbling up piste kilometres.

Race camps are commonplace on the high-altitude glaciers of Europe throughout summer. Many of them chose to head for Les 2 Alpes early in the summer season to use the intermediate terrain, before migrating over to the steeper pitches of glaciers like Saas Fee or Hintertux. These camps are not just for children on summer holidays either, many of the world’s top-flight use glacier facilities to train, including many of our own Olympians.

Those without that competitive streak will still find enough to keep themselves occupied though. Most glacier runs suit intermediate skiers, meaning that glaciers are fantastic for improving technique ahead of winter. In glacier resorts there are several ski schools on hand to help you perfect your carving. Alternatively, if you have never skied before and want to jump the gun on winter, a glacier could be the perfect location to experience your first steps on snow.

Freestyle professionals and enthusiasts alike will feel at home on the glaciers of Europe. Resorts invest heavily in shaping innovative parks in a hope of attracting the freestyle generation of skiers and snowboarders. Parks will often run the length of the glacier and be made up of multiple lines with dozens of features, the ultimate freestyle playground. There is little difference between slushy park laps in Easter and slushy park laps in summer. So, if freestyle is your passion, or if you wanted to give the discipline a go, then summer is as good a time as any to visit the mountains.

If I can only ski in the morning what else is there to do?

Where do we start? The plethora of activities on offer knows no bounds. Aside from the alpine staples of mountain biking, hiking and climbing, newcomers like slacklining, skateboarding, e-biking, paragliding and rafting are fast growing in popularity. And for those who appreciate a slightly slower pace of après ski activity then there is never a lake or viewpoint too far away in the mountains.

If we haven’t yet convinced you to choose a summer holiday in the mountains take a look at 5 of our favourite summer ski resorts.