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Obviously one of the big considerations when booking a ski or snowboarding holiday is which resorts are the most reliable for snow cover. So if you're worried about spending all of your hard-earned pennies booking a holiday and then stepping off the transfer bus to find it's all a bit, erm... green, then this is the page for you.

So what are the key factors for a good chance of snow cover ? Is it all about comparing the annual snowfall figures ? Not necessarily - whilst some resorts such as Zermatt, Saas Fee and Cervinia are in traditionally drier areas and don't get the same total depth of snowfall as others, what snow they do get can hang around for longer periods, so they can be a safer choice than some resorts with a higher average.

Ok, so what else makes a resort snow-sure ? Key things to consider are it's altitude (the higher the resort, the colder it will tend to be), it's geographical location (those in the heart of the Alps can be protected from the milder weather fronts that from time to time affect those on the edges of the Alps) and also the direction a resort's slopes face is also a key factor (north facing slopes tend to hold the snow longer than their south-facing friends). And if it has access to a glacier then this provides further insurance if the snow doesn't arrive. Be aware that there are some disadvantages to the extremely high-altitude resorts - weather, mainly high winds, can sometimes shut the lift systems. Lower-altitude snow-sure resorts don't suffer as much with the same problem and so are sometimes a better bet in such circumstances.

Factors like these can be just as important when picking a reliable resort as how much annual snowfall it averages.

But anyway, to save you trawling through all the facts and figures in the brochures, we've picked our top ten, you should be pretty safe with any of these...

  1. Tignes (France)

If you were going to have to put your house on which Alpine resort would have good snow cover for long periods of the season then Tignes is the one you'd pick. The ski resort is actually made up of five villages, the height of three of them is 2100m, and this is one of the key factors, along with the top height of the pistes - 3750m, that make Tignes such a great resort for those wanting guarantees of decent snow cover. These are a couple of stats that not many other resorts can match.

  2. Val Thorens (France)

When it comes to reliable, extensive, skiing terrain, few places can rival Europe's highest resort. As well as the altitude advantage, Val Thorens also has a high proportion of north-facing slopes and access to not one, but two glaciers. If there's no snow at Val Thorens towards the end of the season then it's highly likely that there's no snow elsewhere in the rest of Europe !

  3. Val d'Isere (France)

Like it's neighbour Tignes, this is one of the most reliable resorts in Europe for good snow. Historically, 'Val' has always been picked by the FIS to host one of the early season World Cup races, the simple reason being that there is generally more chance of having snow here than anywhere else in Europe. Just in case the snow cover doesn't turn up early or late in the season then rest assured that you'll still be able to ski - there are two glaciers to ski on.

  4. Saas Fee (Switzerland)

Often overlooked in favour of it's more famous neighbour Zermatt, Saas Fee is one of the one of the Alps' most reliable resorts. As with Zermatt it's situated in one of the drier areas of the Alps, but again the high altitude of the resort, a ski range right up to 3500m, and a glacier right above the village, all adds up to a great choice for those wanting a good chance of early pre-Christmas snow right through to end of the season dates in April when other resorts may have closed.

The glacier that overlooks the village actually allows skiing all year round, but if you can wait until December then many more of the surrounding pistes and lifts will have opened, allowing a much wider range of difficulty and terrain.

  5. Obergurgl (Austria)

It may be one of the few high-altitude resorts that doesn't have a glacier but that doesn't stop Obergurgl being one of the most snow-sure resorts in Austria, and indeed the Alps. It's Austria's highest resort at 1930m, and this altitude, along with it's location right in the heart of the Alps (giving it some added protection from the affects of any mild weather fronts) means it tends to hold onto it's snow more than many other resorts. Obergurgl has one the best snow-making systems around as well, with 90% of the runs covered by snow-making just in case the white stuff doesn't turn up naturally. Unlike many of France's less-aesthetic purpose-built high-altitude resorts, Obergurgl has the advantage of having a more traditional, picturesque village centre at it's base. Which is nice.

  6. Andermatt (Switzerland)

What it lacks in the size of it's ski area (about 40km, modest in comparison with many other resorts) Andermatt more than makes up for in it's abundance of snow. Yes, Andermatt's snow record is excellent, one of the best in Switzerland, especially on the Gemsstock mountain that serves the resort, which is one of Switzerland's snowiest areas, with a massive average annual snowfall just nudging 10m. The upper slopes of Gemsstock are nearly 3000m as well, which ensures decent snow when lower areas are suffering, whilst it has a northerly facing aspect too, so is less affected by the sun. On the other hand, one of the resorts other ski areas - Natschen, has more southerly-facing, lower altitude slopes, and doesn't hold the snow as well.

  7. Warth Schroecken (Austria)

If they had an official annual award for "the Snowiest Resort in the Alps" then this place would have more titles than most. Warth-Schroeken may not offer the same kilometres of pistes as others in the list, but if it's snow you want then this is the place to come and get it. With it's own micro-climate making things colder and more precipitous than others in the area, Warth-Schroeken averages over 10m of snowfall each year. Even it's bad years are snowier than many of it's higher-altitude rivals.

  8. Ischgl (Austria)

One of Austria's liveliest resorts is also one of its snowiest. A traditional Tyrolean village set at 1400m with pistes coming down from a top height of 2870m, Ischgl is not as high as many other resorts but with a great snow record and a great record of the snow lasting, this is a fantastic choice for skiers who like to book resorts that don't have to rely on snow-making.

  9. Zurs (Austria)

Along with neighbouring Lech this is one of Europe's snowiest resorts with the sort of annual average snowfall to rival some of North Americas top-rated resorts. It appears to have it's own special micro-climate that sees it receiving nearly double what nearby St Anton gets. And for those of you who like both skiing and wandering around with Europe's glitterati, you'll be pleased to know that it's also one of the most fashionable resorts in Europe.

  10. Ruka (Finland)

What it lacks in altitude and black runs Ruka more than makes up for in reliable snow. The Finnish resort has one of the longest ski seasons in the world, not half bad considering there isn't the sniff of a melting glacier in sight.

Despite it's lack of height (the fell's top height is just under 500m) Ruka normally has enough snow knocking around to be able to start running it's lifts during mid October, and keep them going right through until June. And the good thing is that once the cold weather's got hold and the snow starts falling, that tends to be the trend for the rest of the winter - for instance, it's rare to get a warm mid-winter or pre-Christmas spell that you sometimes get in the Alps. Now that's what we call a snow-sure resort.




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