Sloping off – ski holidays

This winter’s ski season will see Brits heading to the slopes in huge numbers, with Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria and Canada leading the way for bookings, says Jo Gardner

“I bet by the end of the week they’ll have us doing that,” says Rich, my fellow ski school traveller pointing at a child no older than seven effortlessly jumping over a hump in the snow. I look on in horror.

It’s day two of a Crystal Ski beginners course in Austria and we’re already on a blue run. We spent yesterday learning how to master the plough stop on the nursery slope – kids as young as two flying past us as we reached the bottom – and now we have moved onto runs. 

I am finding the lift experience scary enough but this skiing-across-the-ledge-while-trying-not-to-look-down business has my stomach in knots. 

Rich falls over – and takes me with him. We land on the ground in a heap. My left ski tries to escape down the mountain without me, clearly mortified by my performance. 

I drown my sorrows that night in beer, fully embracing the après culture, hoping tomorrow will be better.

Yet by the end of the week I’m managing blue runs (and the lift) by myself, and a few red runs with the instructor’s help. On the last day, we try the jumps –as Rich said we would – and I manage it without falling over. If that doesn’t deserve a Jägermeister, I don’t know what does! 

On the up

This upcoming ski season is set to be the first full, undisrupted season since winter 2018/19, following three years of travel restrictions. 

Despite rising costs leading to uncertainty in the market, it’s set to be a busy one on the slopes. Club Med’s annual ski report suggests that, despite the current cost of living crisis, more than half of British skiers are prepared to book a ski holiday away and 60% of frequent skiers are planning to spend more on a luxury ski holiday this year.

The survey did find that value for money is now the single most important factor however, with 53% of those polled considering a different winter sports destination for that reason. 

France comes out on top as the destination perceived to provide the best value for money.

Christophe Lavaut, Managing Director of Val d’Isere Tourisme, reports that some hotels are already at 90% occupancy for the entire season. He says: “It’s still early, but we are seeing signs that customers and tour operators have a lot of trust in this season.”

In terms of destinations, Switzerland (38%) continues to be the most popular for skiing, followed by France (37%), Austria (28%), Italy (27%) and Canada (23%), according to Club Med’s report.

Michael Williamson, Ski Product Manager for Frontier Travel, confirms that Christmas and half-term are already full at Canadian resorts, with Whistler, Sun Peaks and Big White all proving popular.  

“We are managing to meet demand except for key dates; agents will be able to find space for holidaymakers that can be flexible on dates and the number of nights.” 

He added: “Anything beyond the typical seven-night Saturday to Saturday holiday should work out.”

Meanwhile, Crystal Ski Holidays has unveiled Japan as its new skiing destination with holidays to the resort of Niseko running until December 2. 

“With an average of 15 metres of snowfall each season – and 51 kms of pistes – the resort caters for all levels of expertise and offers the chance to relax at the end of the day in a traditional Japanese hot spring known as an Onsen,” says Chris Logan, Managing Director.

“Whether it’s knee-deep powder, beautiful bluebird days, a different culture or distinctive cuisine, Japan won’t disappoint. 

“Agents can sell extras such as tobogganing, snowshoe walking, snowmobiling, reindeer sledding and snowcat skiing, too.”

DC BC Golden KBialous GF11247

What’s new

EasyJet will launch twice-weekly flights from Newcastle to Geneva on December 10 for the ski season, departing Wednesdays and Saturdays. easyjet.com 

British Airways has relaunched its winter ski routes, with London Gatwick to Salzburg running from October 31 until March 25, 2023, including three flights a week until December and daily for the remainder of the season. The airline’s daily London Gatwick to Geneva route will also recommence on December 4. britishairways.com

Jet2 has launched its winter ski programme for 2023/24 with ski services operating from 10 UK bases to Chambery, Geneva, Grenoble, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Turin, from December 2023 to April 2024. jet2.com

The French resort of Val d’Isere is offering free lift passes for children under eight from November 26 until next April, as well as more in-resort dining options. A number of electric buses will also shuttle skiers to and from the airport. valdisere.com

 Onefinestay has introduced luxury chalets in Colorado’s Blue Mountains for the 2022/23 ski season including Poma Lodge North in Steamboat,  The Bear’s Den in Breckenridge, Stag Lodge in Vail and Pioneer Lodge in Beaver Creak. onefinestay.com

Inghams’ Winter 22/23 Ski Holidays features 44 new properties across 25 ski resorts in Italy, Switzerland, Canada, France, Lapland and Austria. inghams.co.uk

Desolation Hotel is now open in South Lake Tahoe. The hotel – comprised of 21 suites, each with al fresco soaking tubs – is within walking distance of South Lake Tahoe’s ski slopes. desolationhotel.com

The Mandarin Oriental will open its first mountain resort in Cortina, Italy, in the summer of 2025, ahead of the Milano-Cortina Winter Olympics. Mandarin Oriental Cristallo sits above Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites. The hotel will feature 83 guestrooms, many with balconies. mandarinoriental.com

Club Med’s new mountain resort in Val d’Isere is due for completion on December 18. An Exclusive Collection space is due to open at La Rosière, offering 43 suites, from December 2023 and a new resort in San Sicario in the heart of the Italian Alps will debut for the 2025/26 season. clubmed.co.uk

Top ski experiences

Hokkaido shows its dark side: Located in northernmost Hokkaido, Niseko is known for its powder snow. Keen skiers can test their skills with newly-opened night skiing routes at the Hanazono Niseko resort. Shuttle services and bar opening hours have been extended to accommodate. Try a highball, made of one part whisky and three parts soda.

Train with Olympians in California: Mammoth Mountain boasts the highest summit of any California resort and overlooks California’s High Sierras. The Unbound Terrain Park, a favourite of the Olympic US ski team, has three halfpipes, 100+ jibs and up to 50 jumps spread across seven parks. Those looking for a slower pace should try cross country skiing with views of ice-covered lakes.

Enjoy small town skiing in Austria: Innsbruck in Austria is a prime location if clients fancy a short city break and ski holiday all rolled into one. Buy a SKI plus CITY Pass and enjoy 13 ski resorts around Innsbruck, which boast more than 300km of pistes. Kasespatch, a traditional Tyrloean dish, can be enjoyed in many traditional tavernas in the resort. 

Adrenalin kick in British Columbia: British Columbia is the “home” of heli-skiing, where adventure enthusiasts get dropped at the top of a mountain and ski down the fresh powder snow. Extremely Canadian offers a full guided day of backcountry skiing zones such as Mt. Currie, Cayoosh, Birkenhead or Snowspider. 

A night under the stars in France: Opened in winter 2021 is the Chéry Dôme in the picturesque hamlet of la Sarre near Les Gets in the Portes du Soleil, France. The bubble accommodation provides 360° views of Mont Blanc and the surrounding peaks. Clients can ski by day and enjoy a night stargazing beside the wood burner.

Where to book it

Ski Independence

Ski Independence offers a nine-night Easter break departing April 6, 2023 from £1,846pp based on a family of four sharing a one bedroom suite at the five-star Western Whistler Resort & Spa, including flights from Edinburgh to Vancouver and transfers. The resort has on-site childcare. ski-i.com