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Quick Guide: Planning a Ski Trip
November 26th, 2020 | By: Matthew Williams
Planning your first mountain ski adventure can feel quite daunting with a lot more to think about than with a standard beach holiday. You need to choose one of the thousands of ski resorts across the globe, work out how best to get there, find suitable accommodation, choose an instructor, decide what to pack and what to hire when you get there and even book activities and party tickets before you arrive…But do not fear, it is not as difficult as it sounds, in fact it is quite exciting to plan a ski adventure! With the help of our tips below you will find yourself speeding down the slopes in no time.
Choosing a resort
A good place to start your holiday planning is to decide which ski resort you want to visit. While the sheer number of different options to choose from can feel overwhelming, there are a few easy ways to narrow down your list.
First off, how far do you want to travel? There are fantastic ski resorts all across the globe from France to New Zealand and, depending on where you are based, you can end up spending a few hours to a full day or more travelling there. As a ski holiday can be an exhausting experience, especially for those new to the sport, we recommend you opt for a close by resort. For instance, if you are travelling from the UK, a resort in France, Switzerland, Austria or Italy is a good choice.
The next thing to consider is the variety of slopes accessible from the resort. If you and your group are beginners, you want to choose a resort that has a good selection of nursery, green and blue slopes. This will give you a great start on the slopes and provide you with plenty of options for developing your skills on progressively more difficult runs. It is not much fun if you are confined to the same few slopes for your whole holiday!
If you are travelling with a mixed ability group, then you will need to find a resort with a good variety of slopes. In this case, a resort such as Méribel in the middle of the Three Valleys ski area in France is a sensible choice. It gives you access not just to the Méribel slopes, but also the whole of the Three Valleys ski area with the right ski pass.
You will also want to think about what sort of atmosphere you are looking for at the resort. Some resorts are renowned for their après-ski parties and late-night party scenes, while others are quieter and more family orientated. If you are travelling as a family, it is worth looking up what activities and facilities are offered for children. Larger resorts will offer dedicated children’s ski schools, day care and a host of other activities to keep the little ones entertained.
Finally, you will of course need to consider your budget. A ski holiday can be expensive, but it can also be done well on a budget. The prices for accommodation, ski passes and many other aspects of a ski trip can vary largely depending on the time of year you go, how popular the resort is and how big it is. The busiest periods are around the school holidays, especially in February, and around Christmas and New Year’s, while the beginning and the end of the seasons are a lot quieter. Plan your trip with this in mind and if you are trying to save money, consider less well-known ski destinations, such as Bulgaria.
How to get to your resort
Despite being located at the top of a mountain, it is not as difficult to access a ski resort as you would have thought. Even in the depths of winter, ski resorts are well-prepared to welcome visitors and ensure that roads and rails are cleared to allow ease of access. In most cases, you can either fly, take the train, drive or take a coach to European ski resorts.
Most people choose to fly to the nearest airport and take a dedicated transfer from there to the ski resort. This is one of the most convenient means of transport as you can be at your destination in a few hours in most cases, it is often one of the cheapest options and there are plenty of flights and transfers to choose from.
Airlines will put on special winter flights to accommodate ski travellers and smaller mountain airports become easily accessible. Make sure to book in advance to get the best prices!
Taking the train
The next most popular transport option is to take the train to the nearest mountain station and then take a private transfer or local bus to the resort. While taking the train can often take longer than flying, it does offer the benefit of a relaxing ride through some beautiful countryside and significantly reduces your carbon footprint. Travelling by train also makes it easier and cheaper to transport larger luggage items, such as your ski equipment.
You can choose to drive to your chosen ski resort either from home or with a hire car from the airport. This is a great option if you are looking for flexibility during your stay and the chance to easily reach other ski resorts from your base. It also gives you the opportunity to visit other towns and cities during your journey.
Keep in mind that you may need to pay extra for parking at your accommodation and that you will need to fit snow chains to your tyres.
Taking a coach
A good budget option is to take a long-distance coach to a major town or city near a ski resort and take a private transfer or local bus from there to the resort. This has become a lot easier in recent years with the growth of budget coach companies, such as Flixbus, across Europe. While it is a cheap option, it is good to keep in mind that it can be a long and tiring experience.
Choosing your accommodation
There are plenty of different options to choose from when it comes to finding a place to stay at a ski resort. You can opt for a hotel, a dorm, an apartment, or a catered or self-catered chalet. Two important and interrelated factors that will help determine your decision are price and location.
The general rule is that the closer you are to the slopes and the resort centre the more expensive and sought after the accommodation will be. The French resort of Courchevel is a great example of this. Courchevel is made up of four different villages, each at a different altitude. The highest village Courchevel 1850 is home to some of the most expensive accommodation in the Alps, while Courchevel La Praz, at the bottom of the valley, offers significantly cheaper and lower quality options. The main slopes of the resort are located just outside 1850, so if you are based at La Praz or at one of the villages in between you will have a much longer journey to reach the slopes each morning and the nightlife in the evenings.
If you have the budget for the ski-in-ski-out options at the centre of the resort or on the pistes and want to be at the centre of the all the action, then accommodation here would be ideal for your trip. If you are looking for something a bit cheaper and are travelling with a group, then you can also consider renting a well-located chalet. By spreading the cost between 6 to up to 14 people or more in one chalet, you can make big savings and enjoy a fantastic location, potentially a hot tub, great views and a traditional, cosy mountain experience.
If you are travelling on a budget, then consider staying a bit further from the centre and do your research when choosing a resort to ensure you will not be too far from a good lift or bus connection. Keep in mind that you can also save by opting for self-catered accommodation either in an apartment or a self-catered chalet. With often high costs on food and drink in the resort, this is an easy way to stick to a budget.
Another top tip is to make sure you book your accommodation as soon as you have chosen your resort. The further in advance you reserve your accommodation, the better the availability of popular options and the higher the chance of finding a good deal and lower prices.
If you would like some more guidance on choosing a resort, you can check out our guides on Tignes, Morzine and Courchevel.
Finding a ski school
Whether you are a complete beginner or an experienced skier, it is always recommended that you take some lessons with a professional during your trip. Beginners need to learn how to safely navigate the slopes and for the intermediate and advanced skiers there is always something new to learn, especially in a new environment.
When choosing the right ski school or instructor for you, make sure to do some research beforehand. Read the school information and instructor profiles and choose the one that best suits your learning style. You will also need to decide whether you want to take part in a group lesson or a private lesson. With a private lesson you will receive a more tailored service and will advanced faster compared to a group lesson. However, there can be significant prices differences between them and the prices will vary by resort, the time of year and even the time of day as some times are more popular than others.
Advanced skiers will also be able to find schools that offer off-piste training and guiding to help you find the best spots and explore them safely.
Ski Trip Packing List
If you are planning your first ski trip, deciding what to take with you can be a bit daunting, especially if you are travelling from a warm country. The snowy mountains are a cold place and you need to come prepared, but this doesn’t mean that you need to bring suitcases stuffed full of winter clothing! Many items can simply be hired for the duration of your trip or bought at one of the many well-stocked shops at the resort, saving you the stress of having to transport everything and removing the worry of forgetting something.
Clothing and ski accessories - What to bring?
Layers are key for a ski trip. Skiing is an energetic sport and you can easily get too warm with overly thick clothing. You will need to bring a layer of thermal underwear, leggings or thinner sports trousers and long ski socks for your bottom half and t-shirts (ideally thermal or of breathable material), a thin jacket or a long sleeved top and a snood or balaclava.
It is also a good idea to bring your swim gear in case your accommodation has a hot tub or you want to visit the resort spa and make sure to bring good footwear for navigating the often-icy resort paths.
Clothing and ski accessories - What to hire?
On top of these layers you will need an outer layer comprising a waterproof ski jacket, ski trousers, ski boots, googles and waterproof gloves. We recommend that you hire these items, especially if it is your first trip, as good quality items are quite an investment and you do not know whether you will want to go again.
Our favourite option for renting skiwear is to use the convenient service from Skigala.com. This fantastic company allows you to choose a high-quality ski outfit online for each member of your group, including children, and have it posted for free to your accommodation. Your ski clothing rental options include ski jackets, pants, gloves and goggles.
Using SkiGala services allows you to travel with less luggage and enjoy the convenience of having your clothing waiting for you when you arrive. At the end of the trip, you simply need to pack your clothing back into the packing it arrived in, attach the prepaid postage label and a courier will pick up the package from your hotel. It could not be much easier!
You will also of course need skis, ski poles, ski boots and a helmet. These are best rented at the resort where a professional will ensure you receive the correct sizes that are comfortable and safe to use.
Many accommodation providers will be able to help you find the best options in your resort and some also offer discounts through their partners. Alternatively, you can also find some great deals by doing your research online in advance. Whichever you choose, make sure you have equipment secured in advance, this will save you both time and money when you arrive at the resort, especially at busy times.
Things to do off the slopes
A ski holiday is not all about your time on the slopes, there is also plenty of down time where you can choose to relax, take part in a variety of activities or party into the small hours.
For those looking for time to rest and recover from a long day on the slopes, there are a number of options. You can of course simply spend some time in your cosy accommodation with a hot chocolate or something a bit stronger or you can head out. Most resorts have some form of spa facility and the larger ones will offer a whole complex or even an indoor water park. You can soak your tired limbs in a hot tub, clear out your pores in a sauna or enjoy a well-deserved massage.
For something a bit more active, many resorts offer alternative snow activities such as husky sledding, tobogganing, ice diving, cooking lessons, star gazing and a whole host of other memorable options. Some of these will need to be booked in advance, especially during the high season.
For the party seekers there are an exciting array of options, if you choose the right resort! France’s Val Thorens has an infamous après-ski scene with DJs starting as early as midday at La Folie Douce, a huge open-air club. World renowned DJs and performers regularly make appearances at the bigger resorts with tickets selling out fast and there is often an eclectic mix of bars from the traditional mountain lodge to upmarket cocktail bars.
That ends our quick guide to planning a ski holiday and we hope you have found our tips and advice useful. Above we have provided you with the basis for a fantastic holiday in the world’s snowy mountain ranges, you simply need to do a bit more research and decide which options are best for you.
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