Where To Ski In March
- by Admin
- Posted on February 28, 2023
March is always a great month in the ski season.
The days are getting longer, the temperatures a little warmer and the atmosphere more relaxed in the mountains. You can still have great snow conditions, particularly in the morning, but there’s the ever-growing temptation to head to a mountain restaurant terrace around lunchtime and just kick back and relax.
The choice is yours though, head for a resort with high-altitude slopes or up at a northerly latitude and you’ll find great conditions all day.
Spring Is Here! Or Is It?
There are two different measures of the season, ‘meteorological springtime’ used by weather forecasters begins on March 1st, but the traditional ‘astronomical’ measure of the seasons has sporing starting in the march equinox which can be on the 19th, 20th or 21st of the month. After that, the final week or so of the month is springtime by both measures.
Springtime typically means warmer temperatures and in the northern hemisphere definitely means longer days. Some ski areas like Kitzbuhel actually keep their lifts running half an hour longer each day so people can enjoy the longer daylight hours. The clocks also go forward at the end of the month in most countries giving even more evening daylight.
However, the weather in the mountains is never predictable, and it’s common to have big snowfalls and low temperatures in March too. We can only talk about averages and what’s ‘usual’ while knowing we should always be prepared for unusual conditions for the time of year and that above average or below average is just as likely as average!
March is often one of the more affordable months for hitting the snow. After the peak weeks of February when schools across Europe take holiday weeks, they’re usually all done by the first weekend of March and afterwards prices drop to try to keep business level up, as minds start wandering towards summer activities.
The one hiccup in this plan can be an early Easter. March 22nd is the earliest possible date although April is more usual, but the last week of March can be in the Easter holidays driving prices back up.
Another consideration if you want to hit the slopes in March is that travel is likely to e easier. A bit like the weather, you can never be sure, but overcrowded airports and roads are less likely as are weather delays en route.
Springtime means festival time in the mountains with music festivals of all kinds taking place across the Alps and North America.
Not just music either, food festivals are in full swing with great conditions for enjoying a long lunch in the sunshine on a mountain terrace.
Of course, St Patrick’s Day falls in the middle of the month and is celebrated across the skiing world, particularly in the 100 or so Irish pubs in ski resorts in North America, Japan and Europe. Perhaps New England is the world ski capital for St Paddy’s Day festivities however with many of the skiers here claiming Irish ancestry.
How’s The Snow?
Although you can still see full-on winter conditions in March if Mother Nature deems it so, “freeze-thaw conditions” are typical in March. The temperatures still drop below freezing overnight but get into positive numbers during the day and the snow, particularly at lower elevations, gets sticky by the afternoon.
This effect increases through the month as average temperatures rise and are more marked on lower ski slopes and at southerly latitudes. For a higher chance of more winter-like snow, ski high or head to the far north.
What’s known as ‘corn snow’ in North America can start to develop too, very thick-grained snow. It forms when a thick layer of large melt-freeze grains of snow get larger as they mature and start to take on a shape similar to corn.
Scandinavia Comes Into Its Own
Most of the well-known ski areas in Norway, Sweden and Finland still have two months of the season left as we start March, as they aim to stay open until the start of May. After the cold, dark winter in the north, the days are now longer than they are in the alps and temperatures rising – although usually still cooler than the al[ps, keeping the snow in great condition. Sweden’s “spring skiing capital of Europe” – Riksgransen, 200km into the Arctic Circle, doesn’t start its season until the end of February each year.
Low Centres Start to Close
Although most of the major ski areas will aim to make it through to Easter, assuming it falls before mid-April, some will call it a day by the end of March. These are usually low-lying centres where snow cover is less reliable once spring is here.
High Centres Ever More Appealing
Glacier resorts and centres with plenty of terrain above 2000m become more appealing as spring wears on and particularly in April and in some cases may or even later.
But even in March, if you’re still planning to ski hard all day, you should probably be looking for a resort with terrain above 3000m so you know you should be safe to ski 1000m or more of vertical right through the month. That said, plenty of lower resorts will keep runs open down to 1,000m, it is just what state the snow will be in by the afternoon if it is warm.
Competitions Wind Down
March usually also sees the end of most World Cup tours, that kicked off the previous autumn/fall.
The Men’s and Women’s World Cup Alpine Tour, which began together in Solden, Austria the previous October will wind down with all disciplines coming together too (the speed and technical tours) and the crystal globes handed out to best-in-class for the two main genders and all the disciplines, as well as the ‘big globes’ for the best overall man and woman.
March is always a great month in the ski season. The days are getting longer, the temperatures a little warmer and the atmosphere more relaxed in the mountains. You can still have great snow conditions, particularly in the morning, but there’s the ever-growing temptation to head to a mountain restaurant terrace around lunchtime and just…