Two people skiing in the mountains

How To Ski All Year: Challenges, Strategies, & Future Considerations

Rockfall is an unmistakable sound. The cracking and rumbling invoke scenes of destruction and mayhem, pulling everyone’s gaze for miles. But, if you’re like me and drawn to unique outdoor challenges, you learn to mitigate the risks. You analyze dangerous slopes, and then you avoid them… Well, usually.

However, when the challenge is to ski all year, and you can’t afford to travel to chase summer resort turns, you have to make do. For me, that meant hunting down anemic slivers of backcountry snow in early September. Dodging rocks just felt like the standard entrance fee. 

As I stood there, watching one the size of my head slam into a neighboring snow patch, a few truths emerged.

  • Skiing all year is an epic challenge
  • Outdoor folks are drawn to epic challenges
  • There are multiple ways of doing it, some much harder than others
  • Climate change will make it harder to do in the future

So, my fellow ski enthusiasts, if you’re wondering how you can ski all year, I’ve got some tips and reflections to share. 

Coping With The Snowmelt Blues

The closing down of ski resorts in the spring is a curious time. Many look forward to the sunny days of summer. But a lot of us approach the end of ski season with a bit of melancholy. All you’ve learned and experienced, from powder days to epic ski streaks, comes to an end. If you’re like me, it’s all a bit sad. 

Snowmelt blues is another way of saying seasonal affective disorder. Most associate this with the onset of winter, but for us snow disciples, it comes around in the spring. It doesn’t mean we dislike summer, far from it, but transitions are tough. And if you’ve had a great ski season, it’s so much harder to say goodbye. Well, what If I said you could ski all year round?

For most of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the ski season ends in April or May because most resorts shut down by then. However, there are places where turns continue. You can reasonably ski all year with a little creative planning and some flexibility. Perhaps most importantly, you can do it without dodging rockfall.

Why Would Someone Do This?

There are several reasons why someone would ski all year, but the most obvious one is for the challenge. A lot of outdoor recreation is built upon the idea of a challenge. In fact, most modern ski culture has elements of “the challenge” baked into it. 

Skiers and riders are constantly seeing how many days a season they ski, how many vertical feet they can descend in a day, and how fast they can go. This revenge of statistics has led to several athletic records dropping in recent years. New challenges are often the fuel skiers use to propel themselves to new heights.

Backcountry skiing in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Photo: Timo Holmquist of AlpInsider)

Participating in outdoor challenges also helps us discover more about ourselves. I learned a lot about my body and mind hauling ski gear into the mountains in early September. Because of those physical and mental trials, I emerged feeling better about my abilities and outdoor competency.

Skiing all year also provides unique memories and fantastic experiences. Not many in the Northern Hemisphere can say they’ve skied in August or traveled to the southern hemisphere to ski. For those that take their craft to the backcountry, chasing snow in the summer can take you to some surreal and stunning places.

Increase Human Agency

Another reason is the personal touch. Sure, challenges have rules, but operating creatively within them is part of the fun. How and where you ski is up to you, you just have to ski. The plan, execution, and timing are all a form of creative expression and increase human agency.

Human agency is one of my favorite sociology concepts. It’s defined as “an individual's capacity to determine and make meaning from their environment through purposive consciousness and reflective and creative action” (Houston, 2010). Exercising your agency is like answering the question “why would you do that?”, with “because I can.” It’s a form of autonomy and freedom.

So, what can skiing all year give you? A challenge, increased physical ability, discovery (personal and environmental), purposeful planning, autonomy, and creative expression sprinkled with freedom. Sounds pretty sweet, right?

Mid-June skiing in the Rawah Mountains. (Photo: Timo Holmquist of AlpInsider)

The Challenge Parameters

As with any challenge, there need to be some guidelines. For this one, they’re pretty simple, ski all year. 

The most popular way to break the challenge down is by month. Skiing once every month for 12 months gets you in. That’s how I approached the challenge when the idea first crept into my brain.


However, there is no upper limit. You can go for as long or as often as you have the strength to. There are veterans that are in their 5th or 6th decade of turns all year and don’t plan on stopping. 

While you certainly don’t have to ski for decades in a row, getting to ski every month for a year is quite the feat on its own. 


You’re free to pursue this challenge as you see fit, but there are some requirements that should be obvious.

  • You need to be or become an expert skier or rider
  • If you’re using resorts, get a ski pass, transportation, and ski equipment
  • If you’re using the backcountry, you need backcountry ski gear, avalanche gear, and a partner or years of prior experience
  • ALWAYS tell someone where you are, what you’re doing, when you’ll be back, and who to call if you miss your return window
  • Get avalanche educated, or educate yourself if you plan to use the backcountry
  • If you plan on traveling to follow the snow, get a passport and keep it updated
Backcountry turns in early April. (Photo: Timo Holmquist of AlpInsider)

How Can I Do This?

How you go about doing this is part of the fun! In general, there are three broad strategies to consider: resort-only, hybrid, and backcountry. Each one is valid and comes with rewards and hurdles.

The easiest way is to stick to resorts, but that requires a deep wallet and a lot of travel. If you’re from North America, you can get resort turns from November through May. In productive years, October and June are in. 

For the rest of the summer, you need to travel to the southern hemisphere, where seasons are flipped. Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, and Australia all have ski resorts to choose from. The season there runs from roughly June through October.

The hybrid version is to utilize a full ski season and then head to the backcountry. There are hundreds of glaciers and permanent snowfields left to take advantage of. I’ve listed only some of the big ones in North America below.

  • Cascade Volcanoes: Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. Baker, Mt. Shasta, and North Cascades National Park all have glaciers or permanent snowfields
  • Western Canada: Columbia Icefields, Coast Ranges (especially near Mt. Logan in Yukon), Northern Rockies (Banff NP, Jasper NP) 
  • Eastern Canada: Torngat Mountains (Quebec/Labrador)
  • Alaska: Alaska Range, Wrangler-St. Elias
  • Montana: Beartooth Mts., Bridger Range, Glacier NP 
  • Wyoming: glaciers and snowfields in the Wind River Range
  • Colorado: permanent snowfield and glacial remnants. The best options are in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Indian Peaks Wilderness, the Rawahs, Elk Range, and Park Range

The full backcountry version, which I decided to do, is the hardest variety. In the spirit of making things harder on myself, I also decided to stay in one place: Colorado. If you value the challenge portion above all others, this may be the best for you. However, it is, by far, the most dangerous, and you may have to deal with things like poor snow conditions and rockfall.

All three of the challenge strategies are possible in many places, but there’s a time consideration. Climate change is ramping up, and skiing is on the chopping block. 

Some years are great (2018/2019 and 2022/2023 stand out), but they are often surrounded by below-average winters. Over time, the trend line has pointed consistently down. We’re slowly running out of snow. So, no matter how you do it, if skiing all year sounds interesting, get after it sooner rather than later.

Summer Skiing on Andrews Glacier, Colorado. (Photo: Timo Holmquist of AlpInsider)

Ski Resort Resources: What’s Open The Longest

If you’re set on the ski resort version of the challenge, this information will be very helpful. The resorts I’ve listed below consistently stay open the longest in their respective regions. Weather will have the ultimate say, but these options are as close to reliable as you’re going to get.

Northern Hemisphere

  • Europe: Zermatt, Switzerland; Hintertux, Austria (both access glaciers for year-round skiing)
  • North America: Timberline Lodge, Oregon (November-Sept. 30); Mammoth Mountain, California (October-July); Arapahoe Basin, Colorado (October-June)
  • Asia: Zhangjiakou, China (late October-early May); Kagura, Japan (late November-early May); and Ski Dubai, U.A.E (It’s an indoor resort, so conditions are managed for skiing all year)

Southern Hemisphere

  • South America: Cerro Castor, Argentina (mid-June thru mid-October)
  • New Zealand: Mt. Ruapehu (early July-October), Coronet Peak, Treble Cone, Remarkables (June-October)
  • Australia: Thredbo, Perisher, Mt. Buller (late June-late September)

Backcountry Resources

Backcountry options abound, but they also come with a lot more risk than ski resorts. Make sure you have the skiing or riding skills and proper equipment before attempting. Summer skiing is fun, but the consequences of a fall when surrounded by rocks instead of snow are very serious. 

Here are some great resources compiled by AlpInsider to get you started:

In addition to that, look up avalanche education courses and avalanche forecasts (if they’re available for the region you plan on skiing in.)

Summer Skiing on Andrews Glacier, Colorado. (Photo: Timo Holmquist of AlpInsider)

What You Can Learn

This section alone can take volumes but in short, a lot!

In general, you’ll learn about:

  • Your own physical and mental capabilities
  • How to plan and execute ski adventures all year long
  • What to pack for backcountry and resort adventures
  • Risk and reward, and how to successfully manage both
  • Climate change. Sorry deniers, it’s happening, and that becomes increasingly apparent when you’re hunting for scraps of snow late in the summer
  • Glaciation, natural history, and ski history
  • What it’s like to ski in other countries (if you choose to stay at resorts)

What I Learned

For my version of the challenge, there were a few points that really stood out for me.

  • If it snows about 6 inches or more, you can ski it. For best early season results, ski low angle, grassy slopes. Rocks can still poke through until there’s about a foot of coverage
  • Ski resorts stay open a lot longer in North America than you think. On good years, that could be through July
  • September and early October are the toughest times to ski in North America. Resorts are closed (except Timberline), and any holdover snow that isn’t part of glaciers or permanent snowfields has melted
  • Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses, headwear, and hydration. Between the summer sun, light reflected off the snow, and the heat, you’ll be thankful you had these items!
  • June may be summer, but in high mountainous areas, there’s still a lot of snow left over
  • North and northeast facing slopes hold snow the longest because they aren’t exposed to the sun as much as other slopes
  • Summer skiing is best mid-late morning if the sun is out. By the afternoon, it turns into a slushy, slidey mess
  • Take a look at the temperatures where you plan to ski. Snow that freezes overnight is more supportive but will be rock-hard until warmer temperatures soften it up
  • Clouds can actually lock in temperatures, which prevents the snow from hardening up overnight
  • Ski gear is heavy if you’re carrying it on your back. Take breaks often
  • Your summer hiking pace is not your ski-skinning or ski gear-carrying pace. You’ll be a lot slower, so budget more time for adventures than you normally would
  • Rock glaciers. This one’s kind of cool. With glaciers in full retreat, they don’t just disappear. Over time rocks and dirt (products of erosion) fall onto the glacier. Layers and layers of this creates a kind of adhesive mix with rocks held together by firm layers of ice. When the rocks are on top, and the ice is underneath, it’s a rock glacier!
  • A good snow year is a blessing; take advantage of it when it happens
Mid-winter snow in the Rockies. (Photo: Timo Holmquist of AlpInsider)

What The Future Holds

Climate change is a much better descriptor than global warming. Yes, the planet is heating up, which is bad. However, it isn’t a linear trend. There are still years when snow falls deeply and abundantly. They don’t often happen consecutively, and droughts between them are growing, but there will be several big snow years in the next few decades.

The resorts listed above, especially those attached to glaciers, will continue to offer longer ski seasons into the near future. These will be your best bet to get resort turns all year. Lower-elevation areas with shorter seasons are looking at an increasingly uncertain future.

As time churns on and snow melts earlier, in order to do this challenge, you’ll need to get into the backcountry. While there are still thousands of places left to ski with lower risk, eventually, they’ll be harder and harder to reach. In a generation or two, you may find yourself forced to dodge rocks in a forgotten pocket of the mountains because it’s the only option available. 

Final Thoughts

For all my fellow skiers and riders out there, take heart. While overall trends look pretty bleak for the future of skiing, there’s still plenty of snow to go around right now. And if I’ve learned anything about the outdoor recreation crowd, uncertainty fuels opportunism. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, so get after it when you can.

By employing creative thinking, you’ll be able to continue racking up ski days through the next few decades. If the chance comes to ski all year, I hope you’ll consider taking it.

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*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.