Touring the Glaciers of Summer Ski Season

Touring the Glaciers of Summer Ski Season

Glacier skiing is undoubtedly one of the classic alpine experiences, often times requiring equal parts touring, hiking, mountaineering and skiing. These ice flows enable skiing during the summer months in certain Northern Hemisphere locations when the temperatures are warmer, the sun is higher in the sky and the feeling of endless winter abounds. 


Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Open daily in summer. Lifts operate from 7am -2pm. Lift tickets: $66

Situated at the upper limits of the Timberline Lodge ski area on the south side of Mt. Hood, Oregon, the Palmer Glacier solidifies Timberline's status as the lone ski area in the US to offer year-round skiing. Skiers take the Magic Mile chairlift up to the glacier, which sits in the shadow of Mt. Hood's summit, stretching from 6200' to 9300'. The Palmer lift shuttling skiers to the top of the glacier only spins in the spring and summer. 

The glacier itself has a fascinating history of alpinism. Joel Palmer, the glacier's namesake, was a wagon train captain on the Oregon Trail and needed to find a way to pass through the Cascade Range to avoid dangerous rapids on the Columbia River. His solution: hike to the 9000' level of Mt. Hood wearing only his moccasins to scout a mountain route for the wagon train. It was Mt. Hood's first recorded climb.

The skiable area of the glacier today was originally thought to just be a snow field until 1924, when the Portland-based Mazama mountaineering club set out to study it and deemed it a designated glacier. 


Whistler, British Columbia

Open daily in summer, weather permitting. Lifts operate 12pm - 3pm. Tickets: $66

The Horstman Glacier is the epicenter of summer ski activity at Whistler Blackcomb, which already boasts a lengthy winter ski season.

Quickly after the main ski season ends, Whistler transforms a good portion of the glacier into a massive terrain park with seemingly endless features. Summer camps attract skiers from all over the world to work on freestyle, racing, and even powder skiing thanks to the fresh snow from the (not uncommon) June snowfalls and the man-made snow Whistler blasts on the glacier in an attempt to slow its retreat.


Zermatt, Switzerland

Matterhorn Glacier Paradise open daily. Lifts operate from 9am - 4pm. Tickets: CHF 66 ($68 USD)

Glacier Paradise seems to be a fitting name for the largest and highest summer ski area in the world, lying in the shadow of the iconic Matterhorn. Like many other summer ski areas, there are plenty of ways to explore the glacier; from skiing to tubing, and exploring the history of the Theodul, the Matterhorn and Zermatt in the visitors center at the top.  21km of groomed pistes await skiers during the summer months. 

The recommended line: take the cable car from Trockener Steg to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise to ski the Plateau Rosa, where you can enjoy the views of the Matterhorn, the Breithorn and the Mattertal Valley in the distance.


Tux, Austria

Open daily in summer. Lifts operate from 8:15am - 4:30pm. Tickets: EUR 42.50 ($48 USD)

Austria's only year-round resort lies right in the heart of the Zillertal Valley in Tyrol. Fantastic conditions for summer skiing are a by-product of the massive ice thickness of the glacier - over 390 feet  at the thickest point, and containing a total of 190 million cubic meters of ice. While all that ice is good for year-round skiing, it has wreaked havoc on the lifts - the lift masts have to be replaced frequently to keep them upright, as the masts bend under the pressure of the moving ice. 

Hintertux is also a great destination for mountaineering and touring through the series of managed huts that dot the surrounding mountain rage, the Tux Crest.


Tignes, France

Open daily in summer. Lifts operate from 7:15am - 1pm. Tickets: EUR 45 ($50 USD)

Lifts at Tignes shuttle skiers above 11,000' for some of the best summer skiing in France with over 20km of on-piste runs. While the glacier features some outstanding runs, our favorite part may be sitting outside at the mid-mountain restaurant terrace at 3000 meters, admiring the spectacular features of the French Alps: Mont Pourri, Grande Sassière, the Grande Casse and Mont Blanc itself.