The ski slopes will be back in business this winter but that doesn’t mean you can’t cut costs, writes Jeremy Gates.
There’s a growing feeling the country might be heading towards economic revival, and as a result, thousands of families are already booking skiing holidays for the winter. In fact, leading operators predict what could be the biggest trek to the Alpine slopes since 2007-08, the season before the global crash shredded the UK ski market by 30 per cent.
Switzerland, US and Canada are probably still beyond the purse of average skiers, but old favourites in the Alps – France, Italy, Austria – are very much back in fashion.
Andy Perrin, group chief executive of leading family ski brands Inghams, Esprit and Ski Total, says: “After a few years of doom and gloom in the ski market, we are back in business. While skiing and snowboarding sets the pace, there is a big jump, about 20 per cent, in bookings to see Santa in Lapland too – a sure sign that families across Britain feel the worst of the recession is behind us.”
That doesn’t mean people aren’t still keen to cut costs on a notoriously expensive holiday though, and, luckily, there are ways to make your pound go further. Skiing commentator Chris Gill, editor of Where to Ski & Snowboard 2014, says: “Catered chalets holidays, where your holiday price includes wine with dinner and cheap or even free drinks before dinner, have expanded fast in recent seasons.
“Inghams have also been dynamic in recent seasons in adding chalet-hotels (hotels run along chalet lines, so you still get the wine with dinner, but usually more comfortable bedrooms).”
Gill also says self-catering breaks, especially in France, seem to be back in demand. But forget dingy apartments with brown carpet on the walls, many smaller operators offer quality accommodation in traditionally styled, low-rise developments with good pools and spa facilities – Kalinda Village at Tignes 1800 is one beautiful example.
Back among the bigger boys, Thomson’s programme includes 63 new properties and 13 new flights routes, up to E100 credit in selected hotels and reduced price first-time ski or snowboard packages. Thomson’s Platinum holidays also promise accommodation in picturesque locations with high standards of service, excellent facilities and fine food.
Though Thomson prices for seven nights self-catering in the French Alps start at £335, with flights ex-Gatwick in March, Perrin reckons a week of quality skiing is likely to average £700-750 per person – with only the additional costs of lunch on the mountain and, of course, a bit of apres-ski…