Austria comes out of the cold

Austria is back in favour as skiiers return to the Alps
Austria is back in favour as skiiers return to the Alps
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With Britain’s million or so skiers already planning winter visits to the slopes, Austria is back in favour, according to a new guide. The 2013 edition of Where to Ski and Snowboard analyses the cost of a holiday in the 100 biggest ski resorts – and exchange rate movements this year have made North America look expensive.

The guide gives each major resort a price index, with the average European resort scoring 100.

In the last year the pound has regained a more reasonable euro exchange rate of about 1.20 euro to the pound, while the rate against the US dollar has gone down.

Most US resorts are in the 150 to 170 range, and most Canadian ones are in the 140 to 160 bracket. And of course getting to North American resorts is no longer cheap, thanks to rising aviation fuel costs.

So if you settle for the Alps, where should you look? In recent years France has dominated the British market, with the traditional favourite – Austria – unable to match the appeal of the big, high-altitude resorts of France. But Chris Gill, co-editor of Where to Ski and Snowboard, thinks things may be changing.

“There’s a definite, continuing swing back towards Austria,” says Gill. “The annual industry analysis carried out by Crystal Holidays shows Austria’s share of the market increasing year on year, hitting 28 per cent in 2011-12. France is comfortably ahead with more than 34 per cent, but its lead could be threatened.”

For years, Austria has had the slickest lift systems in the Alps and some of the most impressive snowmaking systems. But the key thing in times of austerity is lower prices – specifically, cheaper meals and drinks.

“Even if you get 1.20 euro to £1,” says Gill, “ski resorts are expensive places to inhabit. It’s a fact that Austrian resorts are less expensive than French ones. Italian resorts are relatively cheap too, but Italy simply doesn’t have enough big ski areas to challenge the two big boys.”

Meanwhile, Switzerland continues to labour under the burden of a currency that is very attractive to investors, and therefore expensive to buy.

The Swiss government intervention has pegged the exchange rate, but British visitors pay 66 per cent more for everything than five years ago.

Where to Ski and Snowboard 2013, published by NortonWood, is available now, priced £18.99.