What to Think About When Planning a Ski Holiday
It may seem strange to be thinking about ski holidays in the middle of summer, but this is the time of year when the package holiday companies are publishing their brochures for the next winter season. Unless you’re a seasoned skier, booking a ski holiday can be a jump into the unknown so we’ve put together some tips and advice to help you find the best trip for you and your family or friends.
Europe v US/Canada
The Alps are the most popular destination for most European skiers. The majority of ski resorts in France, Austria, Switzerland and Italy are in the Alps with many of the resorts linked to create vast ski areas. The Alpine resorts have the advantage of being easily accessible whether you choose to fly or travel by car, coach or train. However, these resorts can tend to be very busy and very expensive to book during peak times, ie New Year and during school holidays.
If you fancy skiing somewhere different in Europe, you could try the resorts in the beautiful Dolomite Mountains in Italy or head for Bulgaria, renowned for cheap and cheerful ski holidays. Scandinavia is becoming an increasingly popular ski holiday destination, particularly for cross country skiing, or you could try one of the small ski resorts in Andorra or Scotland.
The US and Canada are attractive to many skiers as the slopes tend to be wide and well-groomed and are often tree-lined. The North American resorts have the advantage of being English-speaking and therefore can offer English-language ski lessons, handy if you don’t understand “bend the knees” in French, German or Italian!
Obviously, the resorts in North America take longer to travel to, so many people book 10-day ski holidays to compensate for the extra travelling time. As a result, they also tend to be expensive. Be aware that the resorts in Canada and on the US east coast in New England can get very cold which is great for ensuring plenty of snow but may be too much for novice skiers.
Beginner or Expert?
Your skiing expertise, or lack of it, should influence which slopes you head for. Some resorts are known for being challenging whilst others have plenty of nursery slopes and wide, cruisy pistes which are ideal for novices.
There are a plethora of websites offering resort reviews and if you’re booking with a tour operator their brochure or website should include a difficulty rating alongside the resort description. These ratings are worth taking seriously – as a novice skier you want plenty of slopes with the easy green or blue grading or you may find your available skiing area very limited.
In Europe, resorts such as Meribel and Les Deux Alpes in France and Obergurgl in Austria are rated highly for beginners or try Winter Park in the US. Experts should head to resorts such as Chamonix in France and Verbier in Switzerland. Jackson Hole in the US is regarded as a great resort for expert skiers and freeriders.
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Cost: What to Take into Account
The total cost of skiing holidays can come as a shock if you haven’t booked one before. Unlike many other package holidays, the brochure price for travel and accommodation is only the start! Additional costs include lessons; ski, boot and helmet hire; lift passes and childcare if you’re travelling with young children. These can add several hundred pounds onto the brochure price!
Hotel, Chalet or Self-Catering?
Tour operators offer a variety of accommodation options for skiers. There are pros and cons to each so it depends what type of holiday you want and who you are travelling with.
Large groups holidaying together often opt for a chalet, which is like living in a large shared house. Chalets tend to be very sociable as there is usually a lounge area for everyone to gather and everyone eats together in the evenings. Hotels will usually have a bar and often entertainment and self-catering units offer flexibility and are usually cheaper.
Package or Independent?
If you are relatively new to skiing holidays it’s easier to book a package as you will be looked after from the moment you arrive at the airport. Booking independently can give you more flexibility and may save money but means you will have to arrange your own transfer between the airport and your resort accommodation and you won’t have access to tour reps to help you in the resort.
Book Early or Last Minute?
If you are travelling with children and are restricted to school holidays you should book as early as possible. Many tour operators offer Early Bird incentives such as free child places or free kit hire and spaces during school holidays fill up quickly. If you’re not bound to the school breaks you could risk leaving it to the last minute when you can get some great deals.