La Première Neige – Ski in December

Pristine Empty December Pistes

Ski resorts in the Alps are opening early! Why not think about skiing in December, as I’ve done the last 2 years – it’s fantastic to get back on the slopes right at the start of the season.

The first snow has fallen in the Alps and the first resorts are already open, bringing the promise of a fresh new ski season – blue skies, powder, wide open pistes, hot chocolate and vin chaud!! Resorts in Austria and Switzerland have opened and many French resorts are preparing to open early. Why not plan to get back to the slopes as soon as possible… like, the very first week of the official season?

From the moment I come back from a ski holiday, I’m counting the days, or even the hours ‘til I can go again. Every day from April onward includes a daydream about the slopes, a few minutes lost looking over photos and videos on my phone or sneaky peeks at resort pages frustratingly showing summer green rather than winter white. I miss things I wouldn’t dream of having at other times – hot chocolate, warm wine and meals of melted cheese. I long for the mix of exhilaration and relaxation, the long clear headed days and slightly fuzzy nights out. The views. The full-on life. The total freedom! … You know what I mean don’t you?

Perfect Pistes in Val's Glacier Sector

Perfect Pistes and plenty of space in Val’s Glacier Sector

For the last two years I’ve taken the chance to get back to the Alps as early as possible, in the first full week of the season in Val d’Isere, and it is just a brilliant thing to do. Skiing in December just doesn’t seem to occur to many Brits, but it can be absolutely fantastic – lower costs, empty slopes, no queues and still Christmas to look forward to! I love skiing with my kids but the first week is perhaps better for couples, groups of friends or older children as there’s less laid on in the way of kids activities.

Most of our resorts are open from 10th December, and I’m sure the story is the same here – a great time to go, as long as you can be confident about the snow. Perhaps best to focus on our resorts which offer access to the highest slopes – Val d’Isere, Tignes, Arc 1950, La Plagne, Chamonix – which should provide the best early ski opportunities.

Fed up of lift queues? Try this!

Fed up of lift queues? Try this!

The Benefits:

  • Empty, pristine pistes and not a lift queue in sight
  • Lower costs – the price of everything is much lower than even a week later – accommodation, flights, etc.
  • More deals on ski hire and lift passes (many resorts have 2 for 1 offers in this week)
  • Quieter, less crowded bars and restaurants for lunch and Apres Ski
  • Small ski lesson class sizes – we effectively got private tuition for the price of group lessons
  • People are pleased to see you!
  • Quieter airports and flights
  • Such good value, opens the opportunity to go twice in a season

The Risk:

  • You need enough snow of course! But with only a few weeks to go, it’s looking very good so far – keep track of snow conditions and resorts with the Ski Club of Great Britain, or your favoured source for resort conditions.
Beautiful Quiet Streets and Eateries

Beautiful Quiet Streets and Eateries

Watch the First World Cup Races

A bonus for choosing Val d’Isere is to experience the Critérium de la Première Neige, with 5 Ski World Cup races spread over 2 weekends. This year, the men’s slalom races down the infamous Face piste are on December 10th and 11th with women’s slalom and downhill into La Daille on the 16th, 17th and 18th. The Chalets de Solaise are just a few minutes from the bottom of Le Face and Les Balcons de Bellevarde apartments look directly out over the finish line of the women’s races. There’s a great atmosphere around the races, especially as entry into the enclosure next to the finish is free.

Right by the action at the Critérium de la Première Neige

Right by the action at the Critérium de la Première Neige

Free Access to Critérium de la Première Neige Finish Area

Free Access to Critérium de la Première Neige Finish Area


If the course isn't already scary enough ...

If the course down the Face piste isn’t already scary enough …

... at night they pump water in to make it sheet ice!

… at night they pump water in to make it practically solid ice!

Go High!

Of course, the big risk for this first week is not having enough snow. It is a fairly fundamental point. Our recommended resorts sit higher up and have access to even higher level slopes. At the start of the 2014 Val d’Isere Première Neige week, none of the resort runs were open, but the slopes higher up were still fantastic.

Regular stops to take on liquids are advised - especially here!

Regular stops to take on ‘liquids’ are advised – especially when you have this to appreciate !

Hit the town!

This week also sees the opening parties for the main bars and clubs, including La Folie Douce and Dick’s Tea Bar in Val d’Isere, so there’s plenty of entertainment off the piste as well as on it! But the atmosphere is generally still relaxed and quiet. It’s easy to find space in restaurants and bars and everyone’s pleased to see you.

La Folie Douce: Probably the only place you'll fight to sit at or stand on a table!

La Folie Douce: Probably the only place you’ll need to fight to sit at (or dance on!) a table


Empty Restaurants - Full Tummies!

Otherwise, Empty Restaurants = Full Tummies!

Take it All In…

With the slopes so empty, you won’t get a better chance to appreciate the mountain top experience. With some clear weather the views from the slopes or a mountain restaurant deckchair are unbeatable and pretty much yours alone!

How about this for an uncrowded lunch spot?

How about this for a lunch spot?

No Better Time to Learn

2 years running we’ve been lucky and pretty much got private ski tuition for the price of group lessons. Most ski schools will run a ‘group’ lesson if 2 people show up, which is what happened with us. That, coupled with the empty slopes and the absence of those strings of 5 year old French children who look like penguins and make you feel totally inadequate, mean this is the perfect time for beginner or improver lessons.

Michelle tests New Generation ski school to its limits

Michelle tests New Generation ski school to its limits


Our Top Tips:

– Keep your eyes on the snow reports and on our accommodation. Although these early weeks are much less busy than other weeks, the amount of accommodation available is usually limited, so if the snow looks good – book!

– You should find some attractive flight prices still, and remember, you may be able to flex your arrival dates to take advantage of the best prices.

– Alternatively, driving to the French ski resorts is far easier than you may think (especially if you live in the South), and certainly far far cheaper than flying. We can provide cross-channel packages, fully protected with our ABTA assured status.

– We can also help with car hire, resort transfers, discounted ski-hire and pre-booked lift passes in many resorts, to help you get on the slopes more quickly!


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