The last two winters haven’t been kind to skiers. In early 2020, most resorts shut down abruptly because of the onset of the pandemic; this past season, capacity restrictions made booking lift tickets so frustrating that many skiers simply passed altogether.
For half the world, however, this year’s ski season is just getting started. “This upcoming summer ski season should be a big one,” says Pete Kovacevic, an expert on South America for the tour operator Alpine Adventures. What’s more, since travel restrictions are still in flux, Kovacevic notes that many places are offering extremely flexible reservations policies.
Aside from the novelty of snow in July, alternate-season ski trips offer unusual fringe benefits, such as being able to combine warm-weather pursuits—golfing, cycling, even sunbathing—with time on the slopes. From the mountains of South America to the glaciers of Europe, here are the best places to carve out a summer ski vacation.
The number one summer destination for snow lovers, Chile is the choice of many national teams and World Cup racers for off-season training. The Andes are the second-highest mountain range on earth, with epic snowfalls, yet Chile’s top resorts are affordable and accessible—a little less than two hours’ drive from Santiago, which means you can mix world-class skiing with visits to vineyards, art museums, and, if you’re willing to go a tad farther, the beach.
Ski Portillo is a longtime favorite of legends such as Bode Miller and Chris Davenport, and the Portillo Hotel, at its base, operates like a landlocked cruise ship, with value-packed all-inclusive weeklong stays featuring great food, Chilean wine, and even a disco. The country’s other big ski resort, Valle Nevado, meanwhile, plans to open two of its three base hotels—the mid-range Hotel Puerta del Sol and the deluxe Hotel Valle Nevado—this season. Chile is also rich in opportunities for those who want to try heli-skiing. Both major resorts offer on-site day-trip heli-skiing, and several tour operators offer itineraries to various mountains throughout the country.
“Valle Nevado and Portillo are always hot ski destinations, and the most popular in South America,” says Kovacevic, but he also recommends the up-and-coming resort Nevados de Chillán, which has a new luxury hotel, tree skiing not found at its competitors, and thermal hot springs. Alpine Adventures also puts together trips to Ski Arpa, in the shadow of Aconcagua (the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere), and Corralco Mountain Resort, in the Araucania region.
Chile may get more attention, but there are several notable ski resorts on the east side of the Andes, in Argentina. Bariloche, a Patagonian city with Swiss-style architecture, is the gateway to the nation’s largest resort, Cerro Catedral, which has around 3,000 acres of skiing and stunning views of the glacial lake Nahuel Huapi. While there are plenty of accommodations at the resort base, Bariloche, just 30 minutes away, offers a truer ski-town experience, and it has one of the best luxury hotels in South America, Llao Llao, where the Obamas vacationed in 2016. Hotel guests have access to free transfers to Cerro Catedral and a private club at the base of the mountain, plus backcountry and Nordic skiing at a nearby mountain reserve.
Argentina’s other major resort, Las Leñas, is farther north, in Mendoza Province. With 14 lifts, a nearly 4,000-foot vertical drop, plenty of hike-to expert terrain, and night skiing (plus the highest casino in the world), this is the preferred option for adrenaline junkies.
France, Italy, and Switzerland
Resorts with glaciers retain snow year-round, meaning they’re great for winter and summer skiing. Most of these are found in the Alps, which means visitors can combine the full Alpine experience (including fondue and schnapps, of course) with amazing cycling and hiking. Ski.com CMO Dan Sherman calls Switzerland’s Zermatt “our favorite for summer glacier skiing in the Alps,” citing the resort town’s world-class trams and gondolas, as well as the Gornergrat Railway, which affords spectacular views of the Matterhorn. Sarah Plaskitt, owner of the tour agency Scout Ski, also says Switzerland is the place to be. “For glacier skiing in Europe, Saas-Fee has some of the best,” she says. “It’s a charming Swiss village high up in the mountains, and it would be a delightful trip if you want to do some hiking, eat cheese fondue, and have a couple of runs.”
In Italy, meanwhile, Sherman recommends the Passo Stelvio resort in Bormio. “Thanks to its elevation—9,045 feet above sea level—the summer glacier stays in great condition and serves as the training ground for some of Europe’s best racers,” he says. France also has summer skiing, especially at Les Deux Alpes, which has more than 220 acres of marked runs on a glacier that reaches a height of nearly 12,000 feet.
Australia and New Zealand
While Australia and New Zealand may be far-flung destinations, Oceania affords the chance to combine skiing with many other activities and attractions, such as diving the Great Barrier Reef or hiking Fiordland National Park. On New Zealand’s North Island, Mount Ruapehu is home to two adjacent resorts, Whakapapa, the nation’s largest, at 2,600 acres, and Turoa, which has the highest chairlift. The most popular South Island resorts are Treble Cone, which is known for its expert trails and off-piste terrain, and Coronet Peak, which offers a wide range of intermediate runs.
The largest ski resort in Australia is Perisher, which is located about halfway between Sydney and Melbourne and has more than 3,000 acres, with nearly four dozen lifts. (Americans, take note: Perisher is owned by Vail Resorts, so the Epic Pass covers skiing here.) Not far away is Thredbo, which boasts the continent’s greatest vertical drop, 2,205 feet, as well as a charming village. No matter which you choose, if you want to trade the ski boots for flip-flops, you’re less than three hours’ drive from the nearest of New South Wales’s South Coast beaches.