A short ski break or a skiing weekend may be just the thing for you if you don't have time for a week-long holiday in the mountains or if you just need an extra dose of skiing or snowboarding pleasure before the season ends. Admittedly, it's a lot of hassle and expense for the sake of two or three days' skiing. But think of what you might be doing with a winter weekend in the UK instead. Shopping? Fixing shelves? The more you think about it, the easier the decision gets. Here are a few pointers to get you started.
5 top tips to remember
• Don't try to have a ski break or a ski weekend over peak weeks such as New Year or February half term. The hotels won't be interested in letting rooms for anything less than a week.
• Scrap your usual hit list of ski resorts. The only resorts that matter are the ones close to the Alpine airport you can fly to most easily from the UK. Of course, if you live in London, you can access just about every airport in Europe, but the principal still holds. You don't want more than a two-hour commute by car at the end of a busy working week. Especially if it's snowing. So pick ski resorts with short transfer times.
• Over a two or three-day break you won't need hundreds of miles of piste to keep you happy. So think about smaller ski resorts. Chances are, they'll be cheaper, and less heavily-booked, which means you should find the short-term accommodation you'll need.
• If you're driving yourself, check the weather. If snow is likely, hire a four-wheel drive car. Try to get one with snow tyres too. You don't want to be fiddling with snow chains at 11pm in the middle of a blizzard.
• Try to avoid flying out on a Friday night, and back on Sunday night if at all possible. The flights are dearer then.
Nearest ski resorts
There are too many these days to list in detail, but here's a taster of what's out there.
Geneva: A great option because of the choice of flights from the UK, and the number of resorts which are nearby. These include Chamonix, Courmayeur, Flaine, Morzine, Samoens, Morillon, Avoriaz, and Megève (all of which are less than 90 minutes' drive). Swiss resorts such as Verbier can be reached from here too, although the commute is slightly longer.
Grenoble: Good for Alpe d'Huez, Les Deux Alpes and Serre Chevalier. At a pinch, you can also use it to get over to the resorts of the Tarentaise in France (for example, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Meribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens), although the transfer times are longer.
Chambery: Provides the best access for the famous resorts of the Tarentaise in France, for example Les Arcs, La Plagne, Meribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens (although it's more susceptible to fog). You might struggle to find accommodation for just a weekend in these perennially popular destinations.
Turin: Good for Sestriere, Sauze d'Oulx, Pila, Cervinia, La Thuile, and Monterosa.
Milan airports: Not bad for Pila, Cervinia, La Thuile, and Monterosa.
Innsbruck: No airport is better placed. In 20 minutes, you can be in the village of Igls, where the men's downhill of the 1976 Winter Olympics was held. There is huge number of other resorts to look at, including Mayrhofen, Solden, Obergurgl, St Anton, Ischgl, Kitzbühel and Alpbach.
Salzburg: Again, handy for a huge range of resorts, including Schladming, Obertauern, Saalbach, St Johann in Tirol and Kitzbühel.
Zurich: Handy for Laax, Klosters and Arosa.
Verona: Provides best access for the resorts of the Italian Dolomites, such as Selva/Val Gardena.
Transfer to your ski resort
A lot of weekenders book hire cars, and for more than two people it usually works out cheaper than a transfer bus. Don't get the smallest car, though, because you'll struggle to fit in your luggage, and might have difficulties on steep mountain roads too. Consider roof racks and snow chains as well.
One final thing - if you're booking a hire car in Geneva, never rent it from the French side of the airport, always the Swiss side. Access is much easier, snow tyres come as standard and your Swiss motorway tax will be paid.
Ski or snowboarding equipment
Travelling light on a weekend ski break is all very well - if you only have hand luggage, you won't be held up at the carousel in baggage reclaim. But weigh against that the time you'll spend in the resort kitting yourselves out. If you have your own skis and boots you're better off taking them with you and spending an extra half hour in the airport.