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If you are looking for ski holidays or snowboarding holidays, TravelSupermarket can help you to pick the perfect winter sports break. Use our search tool to find ski deals and read our guides for inspiration on where to find the best slopes, nightlife and accommodation.
The European ski season kicks off in November and carries on through to the end of April, although some of the Nordic resorts remain open until June. Prices rise to a peak around Christmas, tailing off slightly after that, before spiking again during February half term and the Easter holidays.
You’ll net the cheapest deals early and late in the season. However, December and January bring better snow conditions with a packed calendar of events to enjoy into the bargain.
Eastern Europe is the go-to destination for the cheapest ski holidays. Try Bulgaria for perfectly groomed slopes and bargain-basement prices – Bansko, the country’s largest resort, combines 75 kilometres of piste with a sizzling après-ski scene and a delightful old town.
Vogel in Slovenia is another up-and-coming gem, while Andorra’s Grandvalira is one of the biggest European resorts outside of the Alps. If you prefer to stay in Alpine territory, the cheapest options include remote Livigno in Italy and the French resort of Serre Chevalier.
Kids need quiet slopes, good instruction and bags of family-focused entertainment. You’ll get all three at Avoriaz in France, a magical car-free resort where visitors are transported to and from their accommodation by sleigh. Try Switzerland’s Haslital for crowd-free pistes, an excellent ski school and plenty of fun sledge runs, or head to Alback in Austria where the top-notch nursery slopes are right in the centre of the village.
Fancy a side of partying with your snowy main course? Some resorts are just as famous for nightlife as they are for mountain sports, with jet-set hangouts such as St Anton in Austria and Switzerland’s Verbier among the best for après-ski entertainment. The Three Valleys in France is another social hub; you can party with the glitterati in Courcheval, immerse yourself in Meribel’s British-style pub scene or check out the funky festival line-up at Val Thorens.
Beginner, intermediate or expert – picking a resort to suit your experience is the key to a perfect ski holiday. If you’re just starting out, choose a resort with good tuition, plenty of blue runs and a good après-ski scene to enjoy when you need a break. Les Deux Alpes and low-profile Samoens in south-eastern France, and Slovenia’s Kranjska Gora all fit the bill.
Intermediates can step up to a ski area with more scope and plenty of red pistes such as Courcheval or Corvara in the Italian Dolomites. For experts in search of hair-raising black runs and plenty of off-piste action, Tignes, Verbier and Andermatt are all good choices.
The Holy Grail of any snowboarding holiday is powder - although fun natural features and big jumps are the icing on the cake. Try Zermatt in Switzerland for fabulous powder bowls and couloirs or Les Arcs for endless off-piste action and plenty of thick powder. For something a little different, Ruka in Finland is a great place for beginners to earn their spurs while Saas Fee in Switzerland has a glacier where snowboarders can train year-round.
Après-ski is part and parcel of the ski holiday experience, and if you've never seen a good mountain bar 'going off' at 6.30pm - well, you haven't lived. The sense of euphoria that being in the mountains can bring, plus the extra buzz the adrenaline provides, means the party atmosphere goes from 0-60 faster than you can mumble 'ein bier bitte' at the bar. At the best bars, it's like New Year's Eve every night.
Not all ski resort nightlife is so supercharged, however, and if you want to sample the best of it, you want to shop around. But if you can't bear the idea of being marooned in the middle of 1,000 sweaty, beery twenty somethings, that's fine too: the mountains are full of resorts where a quiet and relaxing drink is the more acceptable means of unwinding after a day on the slopes.
5 top tips to remember for après-ski
Finding the right kind of après-ski
Not all après-ski is the same. In fact, a lot of it can be disappointing if you find yourself in the wrong resort. So here are few rules of thumb by which to steer yourself.
A word of warning about your travel insurance
One important point to note is that most ski and snowboard insurance policies have specific exclusions for accidents caused by excessive alcohol or drug consumption. If you were to hurt yourself after a night out on the tiles, your cover may be void.
This almost certainly applies during the evening itself - unless you can either show the drinking was totally unrelated, or there are other circumstances that apply (for example, someone spiking your drink). It may also apply if it can be shown that any accident suffered on the slopes the next day was directly caused by your drinking the night before.
Ski holidays with large groups of friends or family are a blast. You've got a readymade social life, a vast pool of skiing buddies, and guaranteed night life. It's no wonder so many people take their ski and snowboarding holidays this way. And skiing and snowboarding are very social activities. Any piste, whether green or black, is better skied in company. And all off-piste descents should be tackled as part of a properly organised group, for safety's sake.
But what if your friends and/or family don't want to come skiing with you? Could you go on a solo ski holiday instead? Follow our tips for group and solo ski and snowboard holidays.
Group ski holidays
5 top tips to remember
What type of accomodation?
It depends how many of you there are. If there are less than 20 of you, you'll probably find a chalet to house everyone - provided you start your search early enough (up to a year in advance in the case of New Year's Eve or February half term if you want an A-list resort).
If there are more of you than this, then a chalet-hotel is the answer. These are hotels run along chalet lines, and have the capacity to house and feed really big groups (don't expect the highest quality of décor and service, though).
Party leaders have serious purchasing power. At every stage you should be looking for discounts - from the tour operators, from the ski hire shops, from ski school. The only place you probably won't get a sympathetic hearing is from the lift-pass office.
The cardinal rule of group skiing is - don't ski in a group! At least, not in a mixed-ability group. It may seem like the sociable thing to do, but you'd be much better off splitting up into smaller parties who ski more or less at the same level. You'll actually do group cohesion more harm than good if the experts start dragging the intermediates down slopes that are too steep - and besides, they'll get bored waiting at the bottom for everyone else to follow them.
Make sure everyone in your group has insurance! Depending on which country you're skiing or boarding in, mountain rescue and medical treatment can be expensive. So too are lost or stolen equipment and delayed flights, so ensure that everyone understands the importance of a good quality winter sports policy.
5 Top tips to remember
Solo friendly holidays
Several companies based in the UK organise holidays which are either aimed specifically at solo skiers or snowboarders, or which tend to suit them. In the latter category are the holidays which are designed to help you improve your technique. On them, you'll find plenty of other skiers or snowboarders who want to master a new skill and can't find anyone among their friends and family who has the same ambition. When you book, you can tell the company whether or not you'd like to share a room, and they'll try to match you up with someone of similar age and interests (of the same sex, of course - they're not dating services!).
Regular tour operators are also clued up about the solo-skiing scene - some offer a range of hotels which offer one-person rooms with no single supplement charged.
When to go
Avoid the school holidays like the plague. Holidays during these weeks are far more expensive than at other times of the season, and other adults without children avoid them too.
Picking the right resort
Don't go to the ski resorts with family-friendly reputations. It's better to pick one of the bigger resorts, with good nightlife, which are favoured by the Brits - such as Val d'Isère, Méribel, Sauze d'Oulx and St Anton. That way, you'll have plenty to do in the evenings, and you'll find plenty of your fellow-countrymen in ski school - you don't want to be the only English-speaker there!
Follow our great advice on getting the right gear and lift pass.
Gearing up for a ski holiday isn't as hard as it seems. You only need to buy a bare minimum of ski equipment - and the rest can be rented, if you can't borrow it from friends or family. Check out the full list of what to bring, below.
How do I know if my ski boots fit?
The first time you put on a pair of ski boots you won't believe how clumsy they are. But despite what people will tell you, they don't actually need to be uncomfortable. The feel you should be looking for is that of a firm handshake, but not a bone-crunching one. Ski boots need to fit snugly, or else they won't communicate the movements of your legs and feet to the skis, but if they're too tight it quickly becomes counter-productive. You'll be in too much agony to be able to concentrate on what you're doing.
What ski equipment to take with you
Your lift pass
Some ski resorts will allow you to use the lifts on the nursery slopes for free, so you may not need a lift pass for the first few days of your skiing holiday. Check before you buy one! If you do need to open your wallet, make sure you're buying only the basic pass. Many resorts have, over the years, clubbed together to offer joint passes, which allow better skiers and snowboarders to access a wider area. But these passes are more expensive, and you won't do them justice in your first week.
Insuring your equipment and lift pass
One of the benefits of ski insurance is that you're covered if you lose your rental equipment, or if it's nicked - which is not an unknown, especially if you stack it outside a busy après-ski bar on a village street. However, do ensure that you have read the terms and conditions of your policy to ensure you are aware of looking after your equipment, what to do if items are lost or stolen, the levels of cover for any individual item, and any relevant excess that would need to be paid.
It's also worth checking out whether your policy will cover you if you have your lift pass stolen or you lose it. With some passes costing in excess of £100 for a week, it's well worth having this precious item protected. After all, it's your access to the slopes you've been so looking forward to.
How do you get the most out of your skiing or snowboarding holiday, now you're really getting a handle on your technique? Here are a few pointers for advanced skiers and snowboarders.
5 top tips to remember
How advanced is advanced?
These days, a lot of skiers and snowboarders tend to subdivide this category. At the very least, they like to talk about advanced, expert and freestyle. Be honest with yourself about where you stand in these categories, and design your holiday accordingly. Remember: just because you can ski a black piste when it's covered in freshly-groomed snow, or pull a 360 in the half-pipe, doesn't mean you can handle yourself in a 45-degree couloir when the clouds come down.
Advanced skiers and snowboarders are the ones who have broken away from groomed snow, and are reasonably comfortable on bumps and in powder. They're probably masters of neither yet, and need both tuition and guidance to get the most from their holidays. American-style 'camps', such as those run by the Warren Smith Ski Academy in Verbier, are tailor-made for this kind of rider - taking them into terrain they might never before have attempted, and offering tips on how to deal with it. Many who try them never look back.
Expert skiers and snowboarders are the guys who know how to handle themselves in the toughest terrain, and have probably tackled tricky off-piste descents without guides in a 'home' resort. However, whenever they go to a new resort, they should still always hire a guide. No two mountains ever avalanche in quite the same way.
Freestyle skiers and snowboarders are the terrain park junkies. Obviously, they'd be nuts to visit a resort without a terrain park - but these days some terrain parks are much better than others. The European website 'snow-parks.com' offers a great introduction to the range of quality out there.
These days, there's a growing trend for freestylers to take their tricks out of the park and onto the wider mountain. But it's a dangerous game to play if you don't know the mountain and its avalanche risks.
What to take with you
At the advanced level, it's time to get serious about your equipment. If you don't already have them, it's time to invest in your own all-mountain skis, and high-quality Gore-Tex outer wear to keep you dry even on the sweatiest days. You should buy avalanche transceivers, poles and probes, too - and make sure all your skiing and snowboarding buddies have them as well. One other useful purchase at this stage is a book called 'Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain' by Bruce Tremper. Reading it is a great way to learn about how little you know.
Safety on the slopes
Advanced skiers, or those who believe they are close to that level, can sometimes find themselves in unexpected and challenging situations on the slopes. In most cases, their existing skills are enough to help them deal with that situation. But there may be times when that challenge is too much to cope with. So, regardless of your skills, take care when you are out on the slopes. Always make sure you have a phone with you - and that people know where you are heading for the day.
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