With more than five months to go until ski lifts around the world begin to whirl into motion, booking a trip to the snow would seem to be a low priority for British holidaymakers. But after three winters of disruption due to the global pandemic and surging demand, skiers and snowboarders are being reminded of the importance of securing their places on the pistes early – and many are already doing so.
“More clients are booking earlier than ever before,” says Craig Burton, managing director at travel agent Ski Solutions. “We had our biggest May and June months on record this year.” Inghams also reports sales ahead of pre-pandemic records, while Crystal Ski Holidays notes “a higher than usual level” of new customers. The story is echoed at Ski Line. “Our bookings are up 35 per cent on our best ever season,” says managing director Angus Kinloch. “Our clients have been booking earlier to grab the best deals and have a winter holiday to look forward to.”
With Covid travel disruption and border closures hopefully a storm to be forgotten, a place on the pistes during the 2022-23 season looks set to be the hot ticket. “Our recent research suggests that while around 85 per cent of regular UK skiers skied last season, 99 per cent plan to ski in the forthcoming season,” says James Gambrill, general manager at the Ski Club of Great Britain. If numbers return to industry standards, close to two million UK skiers could be gearing up to travel abroad to the mountains – and the race to secure a place on the slopes is already on.
According to the latest research by the Ski Club and industry group the Mountain Trade Network, the majority of British skiers book their trips to the slopes more than six months before travel. “Pre-pandemic, typically around a third of the market had booked at least one ski holiday by the end of the summer,” says Gambrill.
This matches the habits of Telegraph readers, though many are polarised on the need to book their ski holiday when their beach towel is still in regular use. In a recent survey, 34 per cent revealed they plan to book their trips during the summer months, while 37 per cent plan to book at the last minute.
However, for those who are passionate about visiting their favourite resort and being able to ski on specific dates – especially peak weeks – for the best price, the key is to book early.
Flights are on sale
Ryanair’s launch of 13 new winter routes last month – including to Turin, which acts as a hub for enticing Italian and French ski destinations such as Champoluc, Courmayeur and Serre Chevalier – alongside a major flight sale sparked a recent surge in booking.
“Although this schedule offers plenty of choice, demand is growing swiftly, so customers should book their winter 2022/23 getaways early to ensure the lowest possible fares,” advises Jason McGuinness, Ryanair’s director of commercial.
Despite current turmoil over summer flights, easyJet has also launched tickets to the likes of Innsbruck and Grenoble up until the end of the season, with flights to Geneva each day throughout the winter from the UK’s major airports – ideal for those independent skiers looking to escape to major resorts across the Alps.
Travel is back on track
Launched last winter, the Travelski Express train service offers an alternative to flying with the protection of a package holiday. Tickets are now on sale – more than two months earlier than last year. In its inaugural year, more than 5,000 skiers boarded the carbon-saving train, which travels directly to the French Alps, where transfers take holidaymakers to major resorts including Les Arcs, Val d’Isère and Méribel. But with just one service a week, skiers are being advised to book early to avoid disappointment.
“There is a lot of focus on discounting and late availability when referring to ski holidays,” says Guillaume de Marcillac, chief executive of Travelski Express. “This is fine for people who don’t really mind where they ski or stay, but if you want a specific resort, or style of accommodation, at the best price, the simple advice is to book your package as early as you can.”
Soaring demand for chalets
For many skiers, it is the type of accommodation that determines their holiday and Britons have long been fans of the traditional catered chalet. But operators are once again reminding customers that, due to a combination of Brexit and Covid-19, there are a fraction of properties now available and beds are in short supply, especially during peak weeks.
“The chalet market is significantly reduced thanks to Brexit,” Gambrill says. “For example, Skiworld, the biggest independent UK ski operator, had over 115 chalets pre-Brexit and now has around half this number.”
Demand is indeed soaring. Le Ski, a British-run chalet specialist, is 43 per cent full for next winter already. “That’s well ahead of normal levels,” says Nick Morgan, managing director. “Our early offers end on July 31, by which time we will be well over 50 per cent full.”
Last-minute is no longer a bargain
Last-minute bookers may have their hearts set on deals and discounts to get them to the slopes at a moment’s notice, but operators confirm that with much less availability and higher costs to contend with, there will inevitably be fewer bargain packages around. “Demand is in many cases outstripping supply, so in general there are fewer deals around than in pre-pandemic times,” says Gambrill. “Discounting – such a feature of the UK ski market pre-pandemic, especially in January and March – may well not re-appear, at least not to the same level and not this season.”
Skiers will be rewarded for forward-thinking, though. Operators such as VIP Ski (frozen prices), Le Ski (free lift passes), Inghams (discounts on Canadian trips) and Crystal Ski (free kids places) all run offers during the summer months to entice people to the mountains. “This season is the hot ticket. We have kept our prices at last winter’s prices to offer better value during the summer and ensure a spot in a favourite resort,” says Andy Sturt, owner of VIP Ski. If you book now for seven nights in January 2023, the operator is also offering an early-bird discount of £100 per person.
“Now more than ever, skiers know the value of having a fantastic experience on their holiday and also the countdown, anticipation and excitement of securing something to look forward to,” says John Mansell, Inghams’ chief operating officer. “Summer therefore becomes a very appealing time to book a ski holiday.”
The best pre-season deals
*all prices are per person, based on two sharing, unless stated otherwise.
Short chalet break
Le Ski (leski.com) is currently running early-booking offers on its chalets in Val d’Isere and Les Trois Vallees. The British operator offers Chalet Grande Casse in Val d’Isère, France, which sleeps eight, with an outdoor hot tub, from £1,066 for a five-night short break departing January 3 2023, including chalet board, flights, transfers and a free ski pass, if booked before July 31 2022.
Long haul luxury
Ski Independence (ski-i.com) is offering the chance to save 30 per cent on the trips to five-star US resort Aspen, if booked before the end of summer. Seven nights at the Limelight Hotel in Aspen Snowmass costs from £3,956, including bed and breakfast in a deluxe king room, flights and transfers, departing January 28 2023 – must book by August 31 2022.
If you’re keen to travel by train to the Alps book now before prices rise and peak dates sell out. TravelSki (uk.travelski.com) offers a week’s stay at the four-star Résidence Les Balcons de Belle Plagne in La Plagne, France, from £652, including self-catered accommodation, train travel, transfers and seven-day lift pass, departing January 14 2023.
SkiLine (skiline.co.uk) is offering the chance to save on added holiday extras, with half-price ski hire or carriage when pre-purchasing a lift pass as part of a package. A week three-star at Hotel Villa Cary in budget-friendly Sauze d’Oulx, Italy, costs from £679, including half board, flights and transfers, departing January 8 2023.
Five-star self catering
Self-catering specialists Pierre et Vacances (pierreetvacances.com) is offering up to 20 per cent early-bird bookings. A seven night, self-catering stay at the five-star residence Arc 1950 Le Village Ski Apartments in Les Arcs, France, costs from £807 total in a studio apartment, arriving January 14 2023.
Crystal Ski Holidays (crystalski.co.uk) is offering low deposits and incentives such as free lift passes and child places to early bookers. A week’s stay at the three-star Pension Valentina in Mayrhofen, Austria, costs from £640, including bed and breakfast, flights and transfers, departing December 24 2022.
Inghams (inghams.co.uk) is offering 25 per cent off trips to Canada’s top resort Whistler, if booked before August 31 2022. Seven nights at Hilton Whistler Resort costs from £1,115, including room only, flights and transfers, departing March 9 2023.