Even though we have taken the plunge and booked a ski holiday for this winter, we still have to prepare lots of things before we go. It is rather pricy, and we have several things to organise to make it a great holiday for all, so I will share with you how we are preparing for the big event.
We have only been on a family ski holiday to France twice, and that was because we could get some really good prices at Easter. Then on the second ski holiday, due to snow melting, the resort we were booked at closed and we had to transfer to Les Deux Alpes. The trip was a bit of a disaster due to incorrectly graded icy slopes causing very challenging skiing conditions, and the very noisy parties that went on in the apartment above us every night into the early hours.
So, the friends we went with decided to only go in December or February when snow was guaranteed. This meant that we were totally priced out of the ski holiday. The accommodation that was only 300 Euros at Easter becomes 1500 Euros at Christmas and the February half term. Add on top of that ski lift passes to get up the mountain (300 Euros each) plus ski/boots/helmet hire (100 Euros each) and clothing and ski goggles and motorway tolls and fuel and overnight hotel on the way and Channel crossing (80 GBP each way) and it all adds up to a phenomenal amount for the average person like me. Then there’s the roofbox to buy, snowchains, European breakdown cover, winter driving kit from Halfords and more. To fly costs even more. If you aren’t self catering it costs yet more again.
Learn to Ski Before You Go on Your Ski Holiday
Oh, and then there’s ski lessons and practice sessions. To maximise the time on the mountain when you get to the French Alps, you want to be able to ski already. Not only does it make it more enjoyable, it is cheaper and makes it safer as well. Ski school with companies like ESF will cost you a small fortune. We booked lessons at a dry slope in the UK beforehand, and although we could all ski reasonably well, encountering snow for the first time was a totally different experience. The children struggled to cope with it being so much more slippery than the sticky brush matting of a dry slope. So we had to pay out more for further ski lessons rather than risk their safety taking them up the mountain ourselves. I can however highly recommend the one to one instructors that you can hire from ESF for tailored one or two hour lessons. They will provide bespoke instruction on the mountain for up to three people focussing on exactly the skills you need to develop.
Even if you can ski fairly well, it is a good idea to have a few practice sessions before you travel. We use The Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead because it is the closet ski slope to London and has real snow! This is the closest thing to actually being on the slopes. Or if you are aiming at perfecting your technique, you should try Chelski. This is a conveyor belt type slope which can be set at any angle, comes with your own instructor and a great big mirror so you can see what you are doing wrong, I mean right. No ski tows required, you spend the entire time perfecting your skills and are pretty much tired after the hours session.
As for this year, these are the things we have done to plan and prepare for the most amazing ski holiday ever.
Choosing a resort
This was fairly straightforward because we wanted to go to Morillon on the Grand Massif where our friends go skiing. This is so that the children can all spend time together skiing. It is a lovely small resort with wooden chalets and cabins, and is ski in, ski out. The ski runs are all delightful, some on open mountain and others running through the trees. A good range of different runs to suit all abilities, with great restaurants and service. So, that is sorted.
Finding the Accommodation
This was the next biggest step. We worked out possible dates with our friends and then had to track down available self accommodation at the same place. The key thing here was whether we could find something of the right quality for the right price. All of the ski holiday companies were way too expensive. The apartments on homeownersdirect were all large ones and had been booked a year in advance. So we had to find out a few owners at the resort who knew of owners who knew of owners who had something. We were fortunate enough to grab a cancellation that had been booked months ago. So, after getting the deposit paid, we had our accommodation sorted.
Travel Insurance With Winter Sports Cover
We already have the travel insurance for cancellations and health cover. We just needed to extend the cover for winter sports. Most policies will have this as an additional option and can be added at any time. It is vital because should you have an accident on the slopes it will cost a small fortune to get you airlifted off the mountain and receive medical treatment and arrange for you and your family to get back to the UK.
Ski and Snowboard Hire
If you don’t own your own ski equipment, you can hire it from one of the many ski rental shops in the resorts. We use Skiset, who offer online discounts if you book in advance. You can rent your skis, boots and helmet.
Buy Your Ski Gear
If you want to have your own gear, do you research first as to what will best suit you. If you don’t want to shop around or can’t afford the prices in Snow and Rock, your best bet is Decathlon. The prices are cheaper, but the gear is reasonable for beginners and those who might go a few times. If you are after something a bit more specialised, then you will need to shop at one of the specialised ski stores or buy your ski gear from Amazon if you know what you want.
You will need:
- Goggles for sun
- Goggles for low visibility
- Salopettes, ski trousers
- Ski Jacket
- Base layers
- Big pockets to pay for it all
You have four ways to get to the French Alps:
- Snow Train
If you fly, you will have to think about how much you are taking with you. You will need a lot of clothes. If you are taking your ski gear, that is going to cost you extra to put it in the hold. and then you have to pay for a hire car or transfers to the resort. And pay for parking your car at the airport, unless you got a taxi there.
If you drive, you are going to have to pay for the Channel crossing by ferry or Eurotunnel, European breakdown cover, snowchains, roofbox for all the stuff you will want to take, headlight beam deflectors, alcohol testing kit, sat nav (remember to turn off the speed camera function because it is illegal to use it in France), tolls, and petrol for the 10 hour drive.
The train and coach take the pressure off having to drive the distance and in snow, but you have to put up with your fellow passengers getting ready to party all the way there.
Buy or Update Snow Chains
If you are driving, you legally have to have snowchains. If you change your car, you will find that if you have different tyre sizes then you are going to need to get new snowchains. Snowchains.co.uk will exchange old for new with a slight discount. You can also buy secondhand snowchains from them.
Enroute Overnight Hotel to Ease the Journey
If you aren’t up for driving 10 hours in a day, you will want to stop somewhere overnight on the way. France is very good in that they have plenty of places to stay enroute. Booking.com seems to have the best selection all on one website, but a web search will usually find you the places direct.
Winter is Coming!
Whatever way you organise your ski trip, ask those who have been before for tips and insights. The ski companies like Erna Low, Alpine Elements and Mark Warner, all now have excellent advice on their websites. Give them a call if you’d rather talk in person and they will be happy to help.
If you want to find out everything you need to know about ski holidays all in one place, visit the Telegraph Ski and Snowboard Show in London in the October Half Term.