There’s no spectacle quite like a line of skiers holding torches as they snake down a mountainside on a cold night.
But even more spectacular is joining the moonlight parade itself.
Resorts across the continents hold torchlight ski events all year round – also known as flare runs. Skiers wrap up in dozens of layers and gather at the top of a piste to descend with torches, LED lights or flares, lighting up the mountain like tiny fireflies.
It’s very much a group affair. In January 2006, nearly 3,000 skiers in Switzerland ventured from Riggisalp to Schwarzsee after dark, making the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest ever flare run.
What it’s like to ski a torchlight run
Every Saturday from June to September in Australia’s Thredbo resort, skiers drink hot cider before catching the Snowgums chairlift in the twilight.
At the top, lab goggles and red flares are handed out with chitter-chatter ricocheting around the quiet dark-blue hills.
Soon skiers begin to drop off, one-by-one, down the piste, forming a long line that curves and weaves between the tree lines. Skiers are guided through the dark only by the little red spotlights on the snow and the star-studded sky.
At times, it’s odd trying to gage the group speed with limited visibility – like a white-out day but instead it’s pitch black. But everyone works together – holding their lanterns high with wind rushing by – to create a stunning group spectacle. It’s pure magic.
As the parade reaches the bottom, the skiers form a huge circle opposite Thredbo village. They hold their flares in the air above their heads, before stubbing out the flames in the snow. Fireworks immediately erupt and everyone heads back to the bar to join the group of après onlookers for another hot cider.
So fancy an out-of-this-world torchlight run? Here’s where to go:
The glamorous French resort holds a number of activities including a torchlight descent several times throughout the season.
It comes with or without dinner up the mountain and you can choose to ascend by bus or sky lift.
Professional skiers accompany the group.
Skiers end the run with a cup of mulled wine and a fireworks display.
This small family-run Italian resort holds a huge New Year’s Eve party complete with a torchlight parade.
The event usually runs from San Pietro to Bormio and is also followed by fireworks and mulled wine.
During the Ice Magic Festival, which is usually held towards the end of January, the resort hosts a torchlight dinner and ski.
This year the resort told Mabey Ski that it has yet to set a date for the event. But keep an eye out on its website for the latest news.
The après ski party begins at the mid-mountain lodge, Whitehorn Bistro for ski drinks, live music and appetisers.
Professional skiers join the torchlight run which ends at the Sitzmark Lounge where a buffet dinner awaits.
Drinks and dancing end the evening and the whole family is welcome.
There are plenty of torchlight parades in ski resorts throughout the US although few allow guests to join the spectacle.
Enter Colorado’s Monarch Mountain – the resort runs an annual torchlight and firework show every New Year’s Eve.
Guests are able to register and sign a liability waiver to participate in the Torch Light Ski Down ahead of the fireworks display.
At the base lodge area, food, drinks and games for children will await after the parade has weaved its way down the Freeway piste.
As the sun sets, Thredbo holds its adult flare run every Saturday evening with timings dependent on when it gets dark.
Skiers and snowboarders light up Supertrail before a big fireworks display, followed by drinks in Thredbo village.
For kids, there is a mini flare run on Friday Flat on Thursdays. Little skiers are loaded onto the Easy Does It Chairlift, accompanied by snow sport instructors. They then descend the gentle learner slope with glittering LED flares. The tradition is also followed by a spectacular fireworks show.
Every Friday night in Chile’s ski resort, Portillo, instructors perform a torchlight parade to mark the end of the week as part of a 50-year-tradition.
Guests can observe the display while sipping cocktails on a starlight terrace. Occasionally the ski school director will approve guests to join for the run itself, according to Outpost.
The reason for its exclusivity appears to be the difficulty of the descent – a 3,100-metre shoot to the side of Roca Jack, where several global speed records have been broken.
Japan’s biggest torchlight skiing event takes place every New Year on Niseko’s Grand Hirafu ski slopes.
Around 150 to 200 people pick up torches to welcome in the Hokkaido New Year. Anyone who loves skiing or snowboarding can take part, regardless of nationality.
Afterwards, a fireworks display lights up Mt Yotei in the background and guests could end up being a winner in the “New Year Lucky Draw”.