How to Plan an Unforgettable Ski Holiday

Family group ski instruction

So you’re thinking about a skiing holiday, and want some ideas on where to go skiing and how to organise your holiday. Here is a guide to skiing holidays with a few pointers that will set you on your way.

How to Choose Which Ski Resort to go to

You will undoubtedly spend quite alot going on a skiing holiday, and you want it to be just right. For those who don’t live near a ski resort, choosing the right skiing holiday resort is crucial. You will need to consider the following:

  • Ski resort character;
  • The type of ski slopes;
  • Snow reliability;
  • Ski Lifts;
  • Queues for ski lifts;
  • Ski Schools;
  • Accomodation;
  • Mountain Restaurants;
  • Resort Food and Drink;
  • Apres Ski;
  • Non-Skiers;
  • How to get there.

Ski Resort Character

The skiing resort as a whole will have its own character and attraction. There are some that consist of old concrete apartment blocks, whilst others are home to stylish hotels and excellent scenery. Vail is a ski resort that is strung out over a large area, while Wengen is quite compact.

The scenery will have a huge visual impact on you. You should find out whether the resort is in a valley, or whether it has fantastic panoramic views, such as at Crans-Montana. Some skiing resorts are have lots of bars, clubs and shops
like St. Anton. For somewhere a bit more peaceful, you may want to have your skiing holiday at Arabba. Some ski resort allow traffic, whilst others do not.

The type of ski slopes

Some ski holiday resorts provide a vast and complex area in which to ski with different grades of slope to suit all. You may prefer a smaller ski resort that has only certain types of ski slope. You will need to understand the grading of ski runs, and for the ski resorts you are interested in how the slopes are linked. You should be able to get hold of a piste map for each ski resort showing where the ski slopes are and how they are linked. It will also show where the ski lifts are.

On the mountain slope there are areas called pistes. These are officially marked. There are several grades of ski run on the pistes according to the gradient. These are:

  • Easy – Blue in Europe, Green in North America;
  • Intermediate – Red in Europe, Blue in North America;
  • Difficult – Black in Europe, Black in North America.

You can also go for the challenge of off piste skiing. This is where you tackle the terrain that has not been groomed and is outside of the piste governed area. Off piste skiing should not be attempted without a qualified resort guide.

When there is warmer weather, some ski resorts use artificial snow to enhance the lower slopes. Ski resort information can be obtained indicating what percentage of the slopes use artificial snow.

Snow reliability

when you pay for a skiing holiday, you expect to have snow where you are going. The reliability of snow varies from one ski resort to another. Some ski resorts don’t have to worry about getting snow, whereas others may provide you with a range of snow, mud, slush and ice on the ski slopes. This all depends on the location of the slope and how much artificial snow is used.

Ski Lifts

Well, it’s a big hill, and you have to get up it before you can ski down it. Ski lifts are very good at getting you up the ski slope, however they do seem to be rather popular for some reason and often gather queues of skiers all wanting to have a go. Check to see whether your ski lift pass is included in the price of your skiing holiday.

Queues for ski lifts

Queueing is boring at the best of times, but queueing for a ski lift in the cold is not fun. Improvements in the ski lifts have reduced this, but very popular resorts may still have them.

Ski Schools

If you want to improve at skiing on your skiing holiday, then you may want to attend a ski school. A lot of the ski schools have young children in them and as a teenager you may feel a bit of a wally learning with little kids. Then there is the potential language barrier if your instructor doesn’t speak your language. You may even be unfortunate enough to be in a large class which prevents the lesson progressing very much.

It is better to be able to ski before you go on your skiing holiday. If you want to be seen to be cool on your skiing holiday, it would be a good idea to have a few lessons on a dry ski slope before you go. Lessons don’t cost too much, and you can fall down without getting cold and wet.

Ski Accommodation

Centaure Lounge in Flaine
Luxury ski holidays in Flaine

There are a few different types of ski accommodation you can choose from for your skiing holiday. You could stay in a chalet, a hotel, or an apartment. You can even stay in rooms above the mountain restaurants (if they have them). You should try to see pictures of your accommodation before you go so that you can choose the one you like. Some people don’t care where they stay as they are there purely for the skiing. You should also find out how far your accommodation is from local amenities such as places to eat and drink.

Mountain Restaurants

Once you have reached the part of the mountain where you ski, you don’t have to go all the way back down the valley to the resort for food and drink. There are usually mountain restaurants. When you go skiing for the first time, it can be rather odd going from the cloudy cold gloom of the skiing resort in the valley, and go up above the clouds and sit outside of the mountain restaurant in the sunshine in the warm.

Ski Resort Food and Drink

The range of restaurants available in the skiing resorts differs enormously. Some resorts have little on offer as the skiers prefer to self cater in their apartments.

Apres Ski

It’s not just about skiing. Once you come down from the mountain, you then want to retell your friends about your day’s exploits and the cool things you did. Some resorts have places to eat and drink that close early in the evening, whilst others have clubs open all hours. Find out in advance what is on offer.


If you go on a skiing holiday with your family but don’t want to ski, find out what else there is to do. Where can you sit in the sun with a drink and read a good book? Where is the best place to chat to people?

How to get there

How you get there will depend on where you are travelling from. You may prefer to drive if don’t live too far from the ski resort. If you do, then you will need to think about if your car is up for the task and if your driving skills are. You may have a Channel crossing to pay for, as well as snow chains, a snow shovel, decent tread on your tyes, a reliable battery, antifreeze to cope with -30 degrees, winter screenwash and headlamp deflectors. If you have never used snow chains before, then practice putting them on before you set off. Always take great care on the roads, even if it doesn’t look icy or snowy. Brake on the straights, never on the bends.

You will also have to think about your luggage. Can you fit everyone in the car as well as your skis? If you are flying, how will you get all of your skiing stuff to and from the airport?

Get Discounts on Ski and Snowboard Hire

Snowboarding and Skiing Holidays

Renting or buying ski gear from the shops can quite pricy. However, Active Outdoors has teamed up with Skiset to provide you with big discounts. This is becasue we want you to get the best from your ski holiday at a low cost.

Winter Sport Insurance

Travel insurance for a skiing holiday is advisable. You can get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from the Post Office. It gives free basic medical insurance for Europe. You will need additional insurance though, as it does not cover getting back home if you have an accident. You will also need to state that it is winter sport insurance that you need. Normal holiday insurance will not cover you for skiing accidents!

Safety on the Ski Slopes

Always stick to the marked piste. These are well marked out, and patrolled so that injured skiers will be found. Do not endanger others. Ski in control. The skier in front always has priority. Always leave plenty of space when overtaking. Look up and down the mountain before setting off. Only stop at the edge of the piste. Obey all signs and markings. If oyu come across an accident, provide help where you can and alert the rescue services. Everybody involved in an accident must exchange names and addresses.

Links for Skiing Holidays

Top Ski Holiday Companies

There are so many ski holiday companies out there now that it is easy to get lost in all of the ski deals. Here is a list of the most popular skiing holiday companies who provide ski holiday packages as well as just accomodation.

  • Crystal Ski
  • Inghams Skiing Holidays
  • Neilsen Ski Holidays
  • Alpine Elements
  • Ski Solutions
  • Igluski Skiing Holidays in France
  • Thomson Skiing Holidays

Best Ski Resorts

Each resort has its own style of pistes. Depending on whether you are a beginner or an expert, skier or snowboarder, the width and gradient of the slopes will be a big factor for you. Here are some of the most popular ski resorts in the world.

Best ski resorts in France

  1. Les Deux Alpes
  2. Tignes / Val D’Isere
  3. Flaine
  4. Courchevel


  1. Engelberg
  2. Laax
  3. Saas Fee


  1. St Anton
  2. Solden
  3. Mayrhofen
  4. Obertauern
  5. Ischgl


  1. Cervinia
  2. Passotonale
  3. Livigno

North America

  1. Whistler
  2. Breckenridge
  3. Fernie
  4. Aspen
  5. Mammoth

This list was compiled by the Telegraph.

When to get the best ski holiday deals

Woman with skis

For the ski holiday companies, their season begins in September, when they put together their ski holiday packages and deals for the winter ahead. There are conferences and lots of meetings to get their ski marketing information and ski brochures ready for you.

The end of October sees the ski and snowboard shows in Birmingham and London. This is where you can get some fantastic offers and deals on ski holidays. All of the ski holiday companies are there under one roof. It is the perfect way to ask all of your questions and compare offers. You can also get discounts on ski and snowboard gear. Expert advice is on hand from all of the ski resorts and ski holiday companies.

So, visit the ski shows and look online for some great deals on skiing holidays, skiing lessons and skiing holiday packages.

The Ski Guide Manual: Advanced Techniques for the Backcountry – Paperback 1 Nov. 2020

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