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How to book the perfect European ski holiday

29 December 2015

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In Europe we are spoiled for choice when it comes to ski resorts, and that can make the process of booking a ski holiday a little overwhelming! After booking two ski holidays a year over the last three years I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way and thought I’d share them with you in this beginner’s guide:

Package holiday vs independent booking

In the UK there are a lot of tour operators who will do all the hard work for you and allow you to book an all-inclusive ski trip - flights, airport transfers, accommodation, and often meals, lift passes and ski hire are all covered in the price. These are great as it can save you a lot of time and hassle but it does pay to do your own research as sometimes booking everything yourself independently can be a bit cheaper. I’ve tried both methods and sometimes the package holiday will be cheaper and other times it can be a lot more expensive so once you’ve narrowed down a few options make sure you compare the price of booking flights and accommodation directly to make sure you are getting the best deal. I have used both SNO and Neilson to book package ski holidays. I also find Crystal Ski to be a great site to use when researching although I haven’t used them for booking.

When should you go?

Generally in Europe the ski season lasts from late November/early December until April. Holidays at the beginning and end of the season will be the cheapest however you are at the mercy of the snow gods and chances are there won’t be a great deal of snow around. Mid-February is when you normally have the best snow conditions however this is also the most expensive time to go. During school holidays and over the Christmas/New Year period is also very expensive and the pistes will be a lot more crowded so avoid those weeks if you can. To get the best deal in terms of price and decent snow coverage I recommend looking at mid to late January or early March.

Choosing a resort

There are a few things to consider when choosing a ski resort:

  • Travel time. Some ski resorts are located fairly close to an airport so these are great options if you’re only going skiing for a weekend or a few days as you won’t be spending too much time travelling. Other resorts have a transfer time of 4 hours from the airport so these are only really worth considering if you’re spending a whole week out there.
  • Skiing ability. Most resorts will cater to all types of skiing abilities however there are resorts that are more suited to beginners, and some resorts that are more suited to the adventurous types. Make sure that the resort you choose is suitable for your level of skiing. I’ve found that welove2ski is a fantastic resource for detailed reviews of most of the major ski resorts.
  • Other activities. If you aren’t interested in skiing all day every day then you will want to choose a resort that has other things going on (eg, ice skating, ski-dooing, paraskiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing etc.). Another thing to consider is the nightlife. Some resorts have better nightlife than others so make your decision according to your preferences.

What to pack

The last thing you want is to feel cold when you’re on the slopes so having the right gear is essential. At a minimum you will need:

  • Thermal base layers
  • Fleecy top (for super cold days)
  • Ski jacket
  • Ski pants
  • Ski socks
  • Ski goggles or sunglasses
  • Helmet or beanie
  • Neck warmer or balaclava
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm

Most of my clothing was purchased at Ellis Brigham but if you’re looking for some low-budget options I recommend checking out Lillywhites, Sports Direct or TK Maxx.

Got any questions about planning your next ski trip? Let me know in the comments below.

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