Runs for your money

Faced with a sharp drop in bookings this winter, the big ski operators seem likely to slash prices in the next few weeks in an attempt to kick-start the market during the run-up to Christmas.

Offers already on the table include savings of up to £1,700 for families in the Trois Vallées region of the French Alps over Christmas with Ski Famille, free lift passes from Powder White early in the New Year and discounts worth up to 39 per cent over New Year from Mark Warner.

Neal Collins, managing director of family-run, says: “The UK and Irish ski industries currently face one of the most challenging periods ever, with figures from the Ski Club of Great Britain and Crystal Ski showing up to 25 per cent fewer skiers taking holidays than when figures peaked in 2008.

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“Price has become critical in this market and we have always kept them as lean as possible.”

Adam Johnson, head of ski sales for online retailer, adds: “New Year is usually one of the most sought after by skiers, especially families, and is normally the most expensive of the season.

“This year, however, we have the unprecedented situation of operators already discounting New Year like crazy, with examples of £1 lift pass offers and chalets more than halved in price.

“This is because the vast majority of New Year ski holidays start on December 30/31 and return on either Jan 7/8 – and those return dates are well past the start of the new school term for most British children.

“Virtually all operators, including Inghams, Crystal and Total, are struggling to sell New Year week - presumably because they didn’t foresee the problem.

“In more than 20 years in skiing I’ve never known a situation like it. Most years it’s impossible to get a deal for New Year but this year, holidays are being massively discounted, with incentives thrown in on top.”

A seven-night catered chalet stay in Alpe d’Huez, for example, departing Gatwick on December 31, has fallen in price from £1,380 to £520, he says.

Among the few operators rescheduling holidays to get children back before schools reopen are Club Med and Olympic Ski.

Says Adam Johnson: “If you’re flexible on dates and resort, there are some great deals out there.”