After the winter that never was, thousands of snow-starved British skiers are counting down the days to the coming season
After the winter that never was, thousands of snow-starved British skiers are counting down the days to the coming season.
Since mid-March 2020, resorts in France and Italy have largely remained closed. Last winter, you could still ski in Switzerland — but first you had to find a way of legally getting there. Austria’s lifts were only open to locals.
But now, with vaccines allowing travel — and an expectation of early snow — a full ski season should kick off in the Alps.
Across the Atlantic, Canada is also open, and the U.S. will be in November.
A word of warning, however: do not delay booking your ski holiday. There are at least 75 per cent fewer holidays on offer than in 2019/20 due to company failures and remaining tour operators cutting programmes.
Indeed, so great is pent-up demand that some operators are reporting up to 80 per cent of breaks have already been sold.
A shortage of flights on peak dates has caused high prices, meaning more people are expected to drive to the Alps than usual this winter. The good news is that if you book and your holiday is cancelled because of subsequent travel restrictions or one of your party develops Covid, most companies now offer acceptable cancellation schemes.
You should be able to either defer your holiday to a later date or get your money back. Here’s our pick of the holidays on offer, with prices based on seven nights for two people sharing a double/twin room including flights, transfers and half-board accommodation, unless otherwise stated.
Mayrhofen (pictured) is a major party village with a huge and sometimes challenging ski area
If you have proof of being fully vaccinated, you do not need to quarantine on arrival.
Around 980,000 British nationals visit Austria during each ‘normal’ travel year, with skiing a major draw. Face masks are compulsory in enclosed public areas.
Entry to restaurants, bars and shared indoor spaces requires proof of vaccination, recent Covid recovery or a recent test.
To enter nightclubs, you must have proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours.
Off to Obergurgl
Obergurgl is an attractive, high-altitude village with an outstanding snow record and a long season.
Best suits: Beginners, lower intermediates and families.
Stay: Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl is a friendly, family-run hotel. From £1,049pp on January 3 with Gatwick-Innsbruck flights (inghams.co.uk).
Party in Mayrhofen
Mayrhofen is a major party village with a huge and sometimes challenging ski area.
Best suits: Those who like to ski hard and dance the night away.
Stay: Three-star Alpin Hotel Garni Eder is in a quiet location. From £830 pp on January 8 with Heathrow-Innsbruck flights (crystalski.co.uk)
Action in St Anton
St Anton, pictured, suits strong intermediates and above – plus those who like a party
St Anton, the classic resort with a giant ski area linked to Zurs and Lech ski areas, constantly maintains its position on the podium of world-class ski destinations.
Best suits: Strong intermediates and above, plus those who like a party.
Stay: Montjola is a comfortable chalet-hotel. From £1,105 pp departing on March 20, with ski guiding or coaching included (neilson.co.uk).
SLOPE OFF TO ITALY
Ski holidays to Italy should be safe this winter, especially as Covid cases per 100,000 inhabitants are currently about half of those in the UK.
At the moment, Italy requires visitors to have proof of being double-jabbed and also to take a Covid test with a negative result within 48 hours of travel. You must also complete an Italian ‘passenger locator form’.
Cervinia, one of the highest resorts in Europe, has guaranteed snow cover.
Best suits: Those who like thigh-wobblingly long intermediate runs, but it caters for all standards, families and partygoers.
Cervinia, pictured, is one of the highest resorts in Europe and has guaranteed snow cover
Stay: Grand Hotel Cervino is a new five-star hotel from £1,249 pp on January 15 with Gatwick flights (inghams.co.uk).
Ski the ‘milky way’
Pragelato is a hamlet in the giant 400km Milky Way ski region, close to Sestriere and home to a Club Med village with chalets. The resort has undergone a recent makeover.
Best suits: Those who like to put a long mileage beneath their feet each day, plus families.
Stay: Stays at the Club Med include accommodation, meals, drinks, lessons and lift passes are from £1,414 pp without travel or transfers (clubmed.co.uk). Easyjet returns London-Turin from £50 (easyjet.com).
Champoluc is a sleepy, unspoilt village in the Monterosa ski area. If a proposed link to Cervinia goes ahead over the next couple of years, this will become the largest linked ski area in the world.
Best suits: All standards of skier and snowboarder, and families with young children.
Stay: Chalet Hotel de Champoluc has childcare on site from £1,049 per adult with Gatwick-Turin flights (espritski.com).
FUN IN FRANCE
Stay for seven nights at Hotel Le Taos in Tignes from £1,296pp B&B
BEST OF THE REST
Banff in Alberta is the jumping-off point for the three ski areas of Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise in the Banff National Park. To fly, you must be fully vaccinated and take a Covid test with a negative result within 72 hours of travel.
Best suits: All standards plus non-skiers can enjoy the scenery.
Stay: Banff Rocky Mountain Resort is a comfortable three-star hotel from £970 pp for seven nights from January 29 with Calgary flights and transfers (skiworld.co.uk).
Lauterbrunnen, gives easy access to the skiing in Wengen, Grindelwald and Murren. You must be fully vaccinated to travel to Switzerland.
Best suits: Intermediate skiers and snowboarders looking for lots of daily terrain. Not ideal for beginners or apres-skiers.
Stay: Chalethotel Rosa from £647 pp with Gatwick flights on March 26 (skimiquel.co.uk).
Geilo in Norway lies halfway in the wilderness between Oslo and Bergen and offers mainly gentle slopes. You must be fully vaccinated to enter Norway or have a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of travel.
Best suits: Families looking for beautiful surroundings and a gentle introduction to wintersports.
Stay: Four-star Bardola Cabins are lodges set in woodland beside Hotel Bardola. From £1,129 pp on January 16 with flights (crystalski.co.uk).
If you have had both jabs, you can enter France as a tourist — those not fully vaccinated can only enter for ‘essential reasons’ (which does not include skiing). Cases per 100,000 people are slightly lower in France than in the UK.
Face masks are required in all enclosed public spaces.
As rules stand, to enter public spaces with more than 50 people you will need to demonstrate your negative Covid status via a ‘pass sanitaire’ (gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus/pass-sanitaire).
Value in Val d’Isere
Val d’Isere is a traditional ski area linked to Tignes with 300 km of pistes.
Best suits: Strong intermediates and above, but also good for beginners and families.
Stay: Seven nights at Hotel Le Taos in Tignes from £1,296pp B&B on January 7 with flights (sunweb.co.uk).
Ski with altitude
Les Arcs is linked to neighbouring La Plagne in the Tarentaise Valley and is split into different villages at varying altitudes.
Arc 1950 is the most attractive of these and its lofty height ensures reliable snow cover throughout the season.
Best suits: Big mileage skiers.
Alpe d’Huez, in the heart of the Isere region, is famous for its epic Tour de France climb, but it is also the hub of a 249 km ski area complete with the Sarenne, which at 18km claims to be the world’s longest black run.
Best suits: All standards, but strong for intermediates in particular, plus partygoers.