Early snow has been reported at resorts across Europe and North America this week, from Ischgl in Austria to the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard resort in Nevada. Most resorts will be open fully next month, and while it remains to be seen if Europe will see a repeat of last season's epic snowfalls, now is the time to start thinking about your winter holidays.
One of this week's most exciting scenes is of 3440, Austria's highest cafe on top of the Pitztal glacier in the Tyrol. The restaurant, which opened last week, is named after its height of 3,440m. The futuristic structure features a free-floating terrace and panoramic seats behind a wide glass frontage and has seating for more than 100 people. It is connected to the surrounding area by a series of ski lifts, six of which are currently open. The new restaurant has unparalleled views of Tyrol's highest mountain, the Wildspitze, and the 50 surrounding 3,000-metre peaks. Along with the ski-in/ski out branch of Starbucks, which opened in California's Sqaw Valley earlier this year, the retail potential of the slopes continues to grow.
Staying in Austria, the Kaunertal Glacier received 30cm of fresh snow this week and has five lifts open; the Stubai glacier also received snow - nine slopes, 34km of pistes and 10 lifts are open. Montjola, a new four-star chalet in St Anton, owned by VIP Chalets (www.vip-chalets.com), which offers chalet accommodation across resorts in Europe, has just opened; a four-night break at the beginning of December costs from £399 (Dh2,351) including meals.
In Italy, Cervinia had 125cm of snow and will open this weekend.
Mammoth, California welcomed its first dusting of snow this week and its opening is scheduled for November 8. In Vail, Colorado, Beaver Creek has seen up to 40cm of snow this week.
In Canada, a new train link between Quebec and Le Massif in Charlevoix, 140km away, and a new hotel, La Ferme at Baie-Saint-Paul, makes for an attractive new experience. The train (www.lemassif.com/ferme), which will run year-round between Quebec City and La Ferme and on to La Malbaie (stopping at Le Massif for those who want to get straight to the slopes) has been luxuriously remodelled, with enlarged windows, a Bose sound system and an iPad at every table. GPS activates the iPad to screen a short film or selection of stills of the places you're passing, with optional running commentary.
For a bigger adrenaline rush, try heli-skiing in Africa. The French ski school Evolution 2 has opened a base in Marrakech with Chamonix guides Herve Favre and Regis Martinez. A helicopter picks you up from base camp, just outside Marrakech, and drops you on a mountaintop 20 minutes later for a 4,000m descent.