In all honesty there's never a bad time to get your ski fix and head to the mountains! But different months have their pros and cons depending on what youa re looking for. So, when is the best time for you personally to ski in Val d'Isere?
When is the season?
Obviously you will need to come during the winter season in order to benefit from the ski lifts being open and not having to walk up the slopes to get your fix!
The ski season in Val d'Isere generally runs from the first weekend in December to the first weekend in May. This coming 2023/24 winter season will be open from Saturday 2nd December 2023 to Sunday 5th May 2024.
When to come with kids?
OPTION 1 is to take them out of school. Not something I am condoning in any way but if it is an option for you then definitely think about doing it to reduce costs as well as avoiding busy slopes.
OPTION 2 is to come during the school holidays. This gives you around 5-7 weeks of the season to choose from and the following is a guide as to what you can expect during the holiday weeks.
Christmas is often not as busy as New year or half term. However, it can be cold.
New Year is usually busy, cold & expensive.
Feb half term is normally crazy busy & expensive.
Christmas, New Year and February half term will overlap with French school holidays.
Easter is usually quieter than other holidays. This is because the French school holidays tend to run from the end of the first week in April to the end of the first week in May so don't always overlap with the UK holidays. And also because people fear the quality of the snow at this time of year. Snow conditions are not an issue in March in Val d'Isere due to its high altitude. In fact they don't become much of a consideration until late in April. Being quieter it is also cheaper with longer (generally) warmer days. If Easter is late then the snow can get quite slushy in the later afternoon and you will definitely want to choose a high altitude resort like Val d'Isere.
Check your child's school holiday dates against other dates within the UK as it may be that your child/ren are on holiday during a week where less schools are on holiday, eg private vs state school holiday dates.
Don't forget to check school holiday dates in the country you are headed to as well.
Early December, January, late April into May.
MONTH BY MONTH SNOW CONDITIONS - generalisations
Val d'Isere is a high altitude resort. Village level is at 1850m, the majority of the skiing is above 2000m and there is a glacier that takes the skiing above 3000m. On top of which the snow making facilities are second to none. As a result the snow is pretty sure here all through the season. Of course the following are generealisations and designed as a guide - it is not unheard of to have a very dry January and fresh dumps of snow throughout April.
December snow - can be great, can be mediocre
January & February snow - likely to have best fluffy wintry snow
March snow - generally good with a base built up over the previous months and the days getting longer makes for some fun on the slopes & at apres
April snow - getting slushy in the afternoons towards the end of the month. However, it is not at all unusal to have fresh dumps of snow into the month of May. Often the slushy afternoon snow freezes overnight making pistes fairly solid & "chattery" first thing.
MONTH BY MONTH WEATHER CONDITIONS - generalisations
Again the following are generalisations & designed as a guide - January can be wall to wall sunshine with high winds & low temperatures in April.
December - usually fairly cold, especially as the sun doesn't rise so high at this time of year meaning the slopes are in shadow for a large part of the day.
January - similar to December.
February - the days start feeling a bit more spring like as the month goes on and one can feel the days getting longer.
March - spring is definitely in the air. The days get longer, the sun rises higher taking the slopes out of the shade for longer portions of the day. And then the clocks change at the end of the month giving everything a new lease of life!
April - the days start to warm up, the days are definitely longer but huge dumps of snow are definitely not out of the question!
EARLY & LATE SEASON
These can be amazing times of year to get your ski fix on super quiet slopes & for an absolute bargain... At these times of year (early December & late April/early May) it might be worth just keeping an eye on snow conditions and booking a little more last minute.
EARLY SEASON - the season opens on 2nd December, giving 3 weeks before the Christmas holidays to get your ski fix in. Early December skiing is cheaper & quieter. There are often special deals on lift passes. Some of the minor lifts may not yet be open but there is still plenty of skiing. If you are looking to get skiing in early December then you will need to pick a high altitude resort, like Val d'Isere. The snow is usually absolutely great. And even if it is just mediocre we have skiing up to 3500m so there will always be options.
LATE SEASON - the season closes on 5th May, which gives plenty of time between the end of the Easter holidays and the end of the season to get your ski fix. It is quiet & thus cheaper than other times of year. The snow will tend to get slushy towards mid afternoon and it is advisable to ski a long morning, from around 10am when the snow has started to soften after an overnight freeze to around 2pm. Take a long lunch on a sunny terrace and then wend your way to some apres ski!
Check out my "Spring Skiing" blog post here
MONTH BY MONTH SUMMARY
Pre-Christmas... Quiet & cheaper. Snow could go either way but in a high altitude resort like Val d'Isere you will always have slopes to ski on. Some minor lifts may be closed due to demand, but the lift pass prices will reflect this and tend to be cheaper. It can be cold and the sun doesn't rise as high over the mountains giving a shorter window of sun drenched slopes.
Post-New Year... Quiet & cheaper. Generally colder temperatures meaning light & fluffy snow.
The first week in February would have the same merits as January (above). From the end of the first week the French school holidays begin and it starts to get busy & expensive. France do their holidays by zone, and the holiday weeks for each zone change each year. Zone A is the local area to Val d'Isere, zone C includes Paris (many of whom come to Val d'Isere), zone B is the other areas and tends to have less of an impact on busyness in Val d'Isere.
The first week of March is still French school holidays. How busy it is will depend on whether it is zone A, B or C. From the end of the first week in March until the start of the UK Easter holidays is usually heavenly. The days are getting longer & the weather is a little more clement.
Early April tends to be the UK Easter holidays so can be busy. After this it calms a lot. The French tend to ski less at this time of year, even over their school holidays. The weather is usually warmer and the days longer. The snow can start to get slushy towards mid afternoon on the bottom slopes, which can also make for quite solid refrozen pistes first thing in the morning. But we have plenty of higher altitude slopes here in Val d'Isere. And at the end of the day you can avoid the bottom by taking the lift down to resort level!
We remain open until the first weekend in May. Very often there is a huge dump of snow to finish the season. It can be a magnificent time to come and enjoy truly empty slopes at a fraction of the usual cost. Maybe one to keep an eye on and book a little more last minute depending on snow conditions that season.
The above are all generalisations. Snow & weather conditions vary from day to day, month to month and season to season, of course. Sometimes it is balmy & dry in January with more snow than we know what to do with in April, some years the snow comes in October & others in early December. It is difficult to know but a ski trip to Val d'isere will always be worth it!!
Remember the BEST time to go skiing is whenever you can fit it in as there is no single bad time to be on the slopes! But the main takeaways would be (generally)
If you don't have kids & aren't a teacher skip the school holidays.
Check school holiday dates for both UK and also France (or the country where you will be skiing).
Powder hounds should consider January/early February and avoid the end of April.
If you like sunny lunches & mountain apres sessions then March/April will be for you.