Do you feel that? It’s the seasons changing. The kids are settled in at school, the nights are approaching and it’s time for you to start planning your getaway to the slopes.
Skilled skiers and snowboarders stand to gain big by thinking ahead, and with just two months left until destinations begin to open their doors, operators are reporting an “unprecedented number of advance bookings.”
“As of early September we are already more than two-thirds full for next season and more than 80 percent sold out on most peak season dates,” said Andy Sturt, owner of VIP Ski. “That’s pretty amazing by historical standards.”
A big factor driving early bookings is flight availability. But alarm bells are already ringing about rising prices. “It’s hard to pick just one reason to book your ski holiday in advance, but the price of flights could have the biggest impact,” warns SkiLine’s Angus Kinloch. At the time of writing, a search for easyJet return flights from Gatwick to Geneva during the February half-term returned prices of up to £1,198 per person, excluding luggage.
Those flying from regional airports could also be affected. “Tour operators always adjust flight supplements, especially on peak dates. Traditionally, this could mean an extra £39 per person from Birmingham or £100 for Scottish airports,” Kinloch said; the former now sees a £449 surcharge for a half-term flight in February. Skiers are also starting to book train tickets, following the news that the ski train is backalthough under another new guise.
The chalets are still a hot topic of conversation – and far fewer packages now offer the traditional elements Brits know and love (breakfast, dinner and afternoon tea, a host in a chalet, flights and transfers). Therefore, demand continues to exceed supply. “Chalets are more specialist than ever and their popularity, new regulations and additional costs have driven up prices,” says Nick Morgan, specialist director at Le Ski. “We have already sold 60 percent of our program for this winter.”
Even those for whom money is no object can benefit from leaving early. “Since each luxury villa is totally unique, when it’s gone, it’s gone. Being first is important, and customers who embrace this sense of urgency will reap the rewards,” said Rupert Longsdon of Oxford Ski Company.
And, if you really want to get ahead, Crystal Ski Holidays has already launched its packages for the 2024/25 season, the first that many experts have seen.
Now, with a renewed sense of urgency, it’s time to plan your winter—here are the tricks to make sure you’re ahead of the crowd and the mistakes to avoid along the way.
1. Watch the weather
All eyes remain on changing weather patterns and what it means for the future of skiing. “Altitude is everything,” says Sturt of VIP Ski, which now only offers breaks in resorts with safe snow above 1,800 m.
When it comes to make sure the slopes are open, “the seasons have become a lot more creative,” explains snow reporter Patrick Thorne. “They pile it (snow) up when it’s cold, they push it down the mountain when it’s too hot, they even pile it up under the shelter of the previous season. The resulting white ribbons on the green and brown slopes of the valley are not the most attractive, but we can continue skiing.” Low temperatures permitting, advances in snowmaking offer travel insurance both early and late in the season.
If you have doubts about Europe, opt for a powder shelter like The island of Hokkaido, northern Japan or safe snow resorts Scandinavia and British Columbia in Canadathat benefit from different weather patterns.
2. Discover a new resort
Ultra-fast lifts are turning off-the-beaten-track towns into smart bases for some brilliant ski resorts. In the heart of the Maurienne Valley, it is a 15-minute drive from orelle to Cime Caron (2,300 m), a starting point for the largest ski area with lifts in the world, Les 3 Vallées. This summer the new Matterhorn Alpine Crossing has opened a faster link between the Swiss resort of Zermatt and its more affordable Italian neighbor, Cervinia, via a 1.6km (about a mile) mastless stretch that skims the Theodul Glacier in just four minutes. For easy access and a quiet retreat from Verbier, consider a base at Le Châble – its lift station is the first train and gondola link in Switzerland and offers cable car connection from dawn to midnight.