Ski season starts early in Alps

The resort of Alpe d'Huez is opening three weeks ahead of schedule after abundant snowfall

The resort of Alpe d'Huez is opening three weeks ahead of schedule after abundant snowfall

SEVERAL pistes at French ski resort Alpe d'Huez, one of Europe's top skiing venues, will open at the weekend, three weeks earlier than planned after abundant snowfall.

The five ski pistes of about 10 kilometres are located on a local glacier at an altitude of between 2,600 and 3,300 metres.

Alpe d'Huez said they will now be open every weekend up to December 6 when the season was originally scheduled to start.

"Conditions on the glacier are excellent," said Fabrice Hurth, head of the local tourist office. "It is rare that we open this early in such good conditions."

Alpe d'Huez, in the northern French Alps, expects more snow tonight with up to 40 centimetres of powder in areas over 1,500 metres (5,000 feet).

A bumper winter for snow in the Alps and Pyrenees had helped France retain its crown as the world's top skiing destination, figures published in September showed.

Visitors racked up a total of 57.9 million days skiing over the 2012-13 season, a rise of 4.9% on the previous season.

The United States trailed in second place with 56.9 million days spent on the slopes, a rise of 11.7%.

The US was the traditional holder of the top position until being dethroned by France last year.

Photo and text: AFP/Relaxnews

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