/ Travel & Leisure

Skiing holidays – do you love them or loathe them?

Two skiers jumping for joy

Whenever a conversation amongst friends gets round to the topic of skiing holidays, there seems to be a Marmite moment – people either love or hate them. So which camp are you in, and how do you get a good deal?

As someone who’s skied since they were nine, I’m definitely in the first category, and can’t put into words the excitement I feel when those ‘early bird’ ski brochures pop through my front door. This is usually around September, long before the first snowflake has fallen.

Just the thought of being outdoors on the slopes every day brings a huge smile to my face. I can picture the stunning white mountains, the breathtaking blue skies, and the ruddy pink cheeks I have by the time it gets to après ski time! Yes, for me, nothing can beat a week in the snow.

Would you swap sun for snow?

For others, though, the very idea of perhaps giving up a holiday in the sun for a week in the cold is complete and utter madness. Skiing holidays don’t come cheap, especially if you need to pay for all the gear and lessons too, so that tends to be my main holiday every year – and I’m perfectly happy with that.

But good friends are bewildered, especially those who have tried skiing holidays (normally as a result of my enthusiasm), then return from a truly miserable time, not understanding what all the fuss is about. And almost refusing to mention the ‘skiing’ word ever again!

Is it best to book early?

So, are you in the ‘love’ or ‘hate’ camp? Or perhaps you head down the slopes on a snowboard rather than skis?

For those who do look forward to playing on the slopes, how do you get a good deal? Booking early when significant discounts are being offered by ski tour operators sounds like a good idea, but then you are taking a bit of a risk – what if there’s not enough snow to ski on?

In February this year I visited Les Gets in France, and skied past sheep eating grass on my way down the slopes. The pistes were well groomed, and had some snow-making facilities, but you had no other option but to stick to them. This season, I’ve booked early again, saved myself £200, and am now looking forward to visiting Sauze d’Oulx. It’s a fairly high altitude resort, so I’m ever hopeful.

But my love for skiing means that I’m tempted to go on a second holiday this year, and want a cheap deal – anyone got any suggestions?


I wonder if the love for skiing holidays is (as in your case Lorna) always born of a childhood spent skiing. I hadn’t skiied (or snowboarded – is that the right word?) until the age of 24 when I went on a short break to a ski resort in Japan. I tried snowboarding, fell on my face repeatedly, got concussion, then swapped my snowboard for a plastic sledge which I found far more entertaining. My friends who had started skiing/snowboarding as children, on the other hand, couldn’t understand why I was so nonplussed by the whole experience. By the end of the 3 day trip there were two camps: those who’d done it as kids and were whooshing off down the slopes having a great time, and those who hadn’t started young who joined me in the ‘plastic sledge’ camp!

But I think the main thing that puts me off about these holidays is that you’re usually based in a ‘resort’ and spend most of the time skiing/snowboarding rather than travelling around. My ideal holiday is one where I get to do lots of wandering, see all the local (and not-so-local) sights, and ideally cover a fairly large area. So whether it’s sunny or snowy, anything resort-based is likely to be bottom of my travelling list.

Laury says:
10 January 2012

Im currently in the hate camp. I first attempted skiing at age 30. Found it painful to learn but got a little enjoyment on shallow slopes. Now on my second attempt at skiing at age 33 I’m completely hacked off with the whole expensive painful experience. Are ski boots meant to be a form of foot torture? Are beginner slopes some sort of cynical joke on those of us whose legs do not bend unnaturally to prevent us crashing into the nearest snowboarder/ski lift/tree/hotel??? This will be my last ski holiday. My wife who learned to ski very competantly as a teenager yet cannot drive a car without hitting something has vowed to go on her own next year. Action sports holidays! Pah! Give me the best museums and galleries Europe has to offer.

Jonathan Vernon says:
21 December 2013

On my first trip age 13 I broke my leg so badly I was off school for a term and didn’t ski again until I was 15. I’m surprised I don’t live in the Alps. I compare it to dancing especially if you have music too – and of course a sport that requires gaining and maintaining skills and being fit and flexible. A ski season gap year, another season since and I am delighted to be taking my family out for the third time in a decade. Yes, it is expensive. We’ll save for it and have no other holiday. Perhaps body boarding/surfing is another thing we have done as a family but without any doubt this is the only thing we all love, love, love. I had the children out first when they were 5/7, then when they were 10/12. This has been enough for them to be like riding a bike. I’m usually ignored but I try to get everyone onto a dry slope a few times in the weeks before we go out simply to get them mentally prepared – I do the dry slope as my only form of exercise bar walking the dog. As well as Which? I value membership of the Ski Club of Great Britain for advice and discounts. Then it is horses for courses …. ‘Ski Sportif’ in a block of flats skiing to the door in France doesn’t suit everyone, so you pick a resort town like Wengen or Kitzbuhel.

I love skiing and always ski’d for one or sometimes two weeks per year, until our daughter was born 7 years ago. Now we are tied to school holidays when prices absolutely rocket to the extent that the cost of a one week trip to a reasonable resort comes in at about £5000.
In general, though, if you want guaranteed snow go high. Low level resorts can get great snow some years and very little the next. I love Val D’Isere/Tignes, guaranteed snow, huge variety of runs and a mix of accommodation.

I have tried to find a reasonable priced ski package for three of my grandchildren a few times and comparing prices either side of the February school break, the holiday and flights literally treble. The Tamworth snow dome can’t compete with a ski resort environment but reduces prices during school breaks so a good choice for beginners and refreshers until they can experience the real enjoyment of the mountains. I often wonder if the cost of school ski packages include paying for most of the teachers’ costs, which shouldn’t be the case of course?

Just returned from Bansko, Bulgaria. Four hour flight then three hour transfer. Two hour que for gondola until they opened half hour early. Blamed on Turkish half term. Britons the main holidaymakers, but large numbers of Bulgarians, Russians, Israelis and many others. Only 14 lifts.
But you cannot beat the price. £149 for ski pack (lift pass, instruction, skis, boots). Hotels great value. Tuition very good, even for good intermediate/advanced. Snow as good as many Alpine resorts. Apres ski is as lively as the best resorts, but half the price.