Difficult as it might be to comprehend after the sweltering temperatures of last week, for a certain type of traveller, the arrival of September means only one thing: the ski season countdown has begun.
But for anyone considering a first trip to the mountains this winter, there are, a number of crucial questions: Will I enjoy it? Will I be any good? Is it really worth the eye-watering outlay? Once you factor in lift passes, kit hire, lessons, travel and somewhere to stay, a week’s skiing for a family of four can easily cost in excess of £2,000 — no small sum as we struggle through the worst cost of living crisis for decades.
No wonder first-timers are looking for ways to mitigate the expense. “The best thing I learnt was to book a package holiday with a tour operator,” advises Marina Sugak, 36, from London. “It meant everything — from the equipment to our accommodation — was included.” Taking her two children, aged seven and nine, to the slopes had long been a dream for Sugak and she opted for Pas de la Casa in Andorra, pictured above, with Crystal Ski because it was the cheapest to visit during February half term. She found the resort very well organised, full of happy, helpful people, and everybody spoke English, from the ski instructors to the hotel and lift staff.
In Europe alone, there are nearly 4,000 ski resorts to choose from, with many of the most popular to be found in France and Switzerland. But opting for a less established resort is a great way to alleviate the financial burden of a ski trip — as more than half of British skiers are now doing according to a recent report from Crystal Ski Holidays.
“Lots of beginners choose Bulgaria or Andorra as they’re more affordable for the first time on the slopes,” explains Scott Britton, head of commercial at the tour operator.
This is the kind of advice that’s on offer to visitors of the London Snow Show event, taking place in partnership with the Evening Standard, next month at ExCel London. Alongside Crystal Ski, tour operators, resorts and industry experts will be on hand to share their insight, and they will be joined by a raft of inspirational speakers, hosting talks, workshops and hands-on demos in areas such as The Snow Skills Cabin, all designed to give visitors a taste of what makes a ski holiday so special.
“Considering when to go skiing can help save some money,” says Dominic Killinger, publisher of In The Snow magazine, who advises not to rule out big-name resorts in the French Alps or Austria’s Tirol, for example, which are well known for a reason and can offer incredible value, particularly for groups of mixed abilities.
“There are often good deals at the beginning and end of the season, when conditions can be less reliable, and February is always expensive because of school holidays. January is cheaper, but will be colder, while March can be the sweet spot for great snow, sunny days and mid-range prices.”
The general consensus is to book early to secure the best prices. Crystal, for example, is running a buy one lift pass, get one half price deal, and also offers the option to spread the cost of your holiday over several months, securing it with just a low deposit.
So you’ve bitten the bullet and booked the holiday, but what next? “If you live near an indoor snow dome or dry ski slope, it’s definitely worth going for a taster. It’ll make your time in the mountains so much easier,” says Killinger.
Ski lessons in resort might appear expensive but are also worth their weight in gold. “I was really surprised at what I achieved in my lessons by the end of my first week on snow,” says Sugak. And these, like your equipment hire, are also worth booking in advance.
If you’re wondering if it’s worth the expense, the overwhelming answer is yes. “The fabulous thing about ski holidays is they can be as active or as sedate as you want,” says Killinger. “The whole thing just feels good for the soul.”
The London Snow Show runs 21-22 October at ExCel. For programme and entry info (use code ESLDN for a free ticket), visit nationalsnowweek.com/London