15 minutes to choose your ski break
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15 minutes to choose your ski break

  • TN-AlfSkiingHughRhodes
  • 17 Oct 2014

Now’s the time to be thinking about booking your next ski holiday to ensure you get exactly what you want this winter. We asked Ski Journalist of the Year Alf Alderson for his top recommendations.

Which resort?

If you're never been on skis before, look for a resort with good ski schools, lots of green and blue runs and no T-bar lifts! Alpe d’Huez, Saas-Fee and Courchevel are all good options. Families should focus on the kind of user-friendly skiing to be found in resorts like Andorra’s Soldeu or Italy’s Cervinia. Keen skiers will enjoy more challenging destinations such as Chamonix and La Grave in France, or maybe a North American resort like Alta in Utah or British Columbia’s up-and-coming Red Mountain. Intermediates will be after long, flattering cruiser runs – resorts like La Plagne in France and Laax in Switzerland are ideal.  

Mixed ability groups can be difficult to cater for, but big resorts like Val d’Isère and Aspen have enough variety of terrain to provide all levels of skier and boarder with a great time.

If you're going early or late season, youou need to have an eye on the snow conditions. Ensure you get decent skiing by going high. Resorts such as Val Thorens in France and Hintertux in Austria have guaranteed snow throughout the season thanks to their high altitude.

And should it be Europe or North America? The big advantage of travelling to the Alps is quick and easy access, but although the States and Canada are a bit of a schlep they do tend to have much quieter slopes and impeccable guest services both on and off the mountain.

Viluchinski Bay, Alf Alderson
Image: Viluchinski Bay, © Alf Alderson 

When to book

Late deals do come up, but only if you can be flexible on both dates and the type of accommodation you want. So, booking early is usually the way to go. And, if you book early you may find that you only need to put down a low deposit and can pay off the balance over the coming months. As well as accommodation, you can often pick up early booking discounts on lift passes, ski and board rental as well. This can make a significant saving on the cost of your holiday – especially for families and groups.

Alf Skiing, Hugh Rhodes
Image: Alf Skiing, © Hugh Rhodes

What kind of accommodation?

Booking early means you have a better chance of getting the accommodation you want. This is especially important if you want something a little specialised, such as a large chalet for a group of friends, or are restricted to travelling at the peak periods of Christmas/New Year, February half-term or Easter.

Hotels are great for couples or anyone who wants to be cossetted, while self-catering is a good way of keeping costs down and often works well for families or groups of friends who can have their chalet or apartment all to themselves.

Catered chalets are a great half-way house; someone else does all the work, but you have the chance to meet other guests and maybe ski with new-found friends. They’re not common in North America, mind.

Alf Skiing 2, Hugh Rhodes
Image: Alf Skiing, © Hugh Rhodes

What gear?

Do you want to rent your gear or take your own tried and trusted kit to the mountains? If you rent, you don’t have to lug everything out there (and pay airline surcharges); you get to use the newest skis and boards and you can even change them if you want. On the other hand, your own boots should come with a guarantee of comfort that you don’t get with rentals, and your own skis will likewise feel familiar. If you're a regular skier investing in a properly fitted pair of ski-boots will be the best investment you've made in a long time.

How to get ready

With several weeks (if not months) to go until you hit the mountains, you’ve got plenty of time to get in shape. By being ski-fit when you get to the slopes, you’ll have a much more enjoyable (and safer) ski holiday.

You can improve your basic aerobic fitness with exercises such as running, mountain biking, cycling or swimming, or gym sessions. The key areas to strengthen are your calves, quads and core. These can be trained with exercises such as lunges, split squats, step-ups and deep squats. You can even do all these exercises at home, so a gym isn’t strictly necessary.

Alf Skiing, Hugh Rhodes
Image: Alf Skiing, © Hugh Rhodes

Snowboarders should also consider some upper body exercises as they use their upper body and core muscles more than skiers.

Finally, it’s a great idea to have a stretching routine to reduce stiffness – both after your training exercises and after the slopes themselves – as well as to help prevent muscle tears and strains.

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