The first busy periods in the Alps are behind us. It is not crowded in the Alps until the 2nd of February. After that, it will get busier again. January is therefore a perfect month to go storm chasing. Last minute chasing storms to ride the deepest powder. Especially on the weekdays it can be very quiet in the small family resorts.
The table above shows nicely how the crowds spread during the winter season. From 7 million skiers and snowboarders during the New Year's week, we will return to a maximum of 1 million skiers and snowboarders in the coming week. No crowds, no lift lines, less tracks.
Despite the fact that the crowds are gone, it can still be busy in the weekends. Just think about the fact that 15 million skiers and boarders live in Germany and 9 million in France. Many of them also regularly go on a weekend trip to enjoy the sun and snow in the mountains and escape the smog and gray skies from the big cities. You can also consult the underlying figures yourself. Laurant Vanat has been researching winter sports for years and publishes a report about it every year. For this article we have used the 2017-2018 report. Crowds during the weekend is something to take into account.
It may be less busy on average, but there are times during the week and areas where it is still busy during the low season.
1. Bad weather is good weather A lot of skiers and boarders don't like bad weather and snowfall and as a result it's not that busy on a snowy day. Especially in the areas that are not known as a freeride area it can be extinct during snowy days.
2. Avoid the big (freeride) areas It is busy in the large areas in the low season during the weekends. This not only puts pressure on the local facilities, it also results in much more crowds just off the slopes and on roads to and from these areas. But even outside the slopes it is often busier. Not bothered by any kind of knowledge and encouraged by the beautiful pictures from the holiday leaflets and the website of the ski resort or tour operator they dive en masse down the slopes in search of the white gold. Many laymen are overwhelmed by powder panic and pop up everywhere. This applies to all large areas that have a name to keep up. Examples of freeride areas where it can become quite busy nowadays are: Espace Killy, Paradiski, Val Thorens, Chamonix, Verbier, Courmayeur, St. Anton am Arlberg, Ischgl.
3. Go for smaller family resorts Smaller ski areas with many (dense) forests have a lot of potential and it is rarely crowded in the low season. Especially the small areas with few lifts, or which are far from the highway are often uncomfortably quiet. There's plenyt of powder to find in these areas during and after a dump, often still days after the last snowfall.
4. Switzerland is too expensive Switzerland simply is too expensive. First there was the huge inflation which caused the price of an espresso to rise to 5 Swiss Francs, after which they let go of the connection to the euro and the Swiss Franc got even more expensive. Switzerland has therefore become (too) expensive for the rest of Europe and the Swiss have seen how much they can buy for their Swiss Francs in the surrounding countries. There are simply no crowds in many small areas. Of course it is still busy in the large areas and there are crowds in the freeride areas where the powder jetset spend their weekends.
5. Italy isn't crowded on weekdays Italy is mainly a country for skiing and snowboarding Italians. Often very friendly locals who are joined in the weekend by some powder searching people from the big cities. Italy is a country with a lot of private ownership (accommodation) in the ski areas, a large part of which is only in use during the weekends, school holidays and as a cool alternative to escape the humid heat of the Po valley in the summer. The ski areas that mainly focus on Italians are often very quiet when the regional schools are open.
Any more advice? When you still have tips? We like to hear them. Do you want unlimited adventure? Then go on a road trip. Nothing better than to search for deep powder every day in constantly changing areas.