Is Christmas week low season?

Here we are in July and prices for catered chalet holidays for the Christmas week have just come down in price. Christmas week used to be a high season period of the winter with high demand and high prices. A week in the snow and mountains was a hot ticket for a festive family ski holiday. However, after three relatively poor seasons for early snow in the Alps it’s not so much ‘ho ho ho’ as ‘low low low’ for the festive period in 2017. So we ask ourselves, “Is Christmas week low season, with great value prices to match?”

It’s hard to say if the low prices for this Christmas is a new trend which will follow for many years to come or if the low prices are just a reflection of the relatively poor starts to the season in recent years regards snow cover. We suspect that if we have a couple of winters with bumper early snowfalls in November and December that the Christmas week will be back to its status as a prime week to ski. However, for this season, at least, it would seem that British holiday makers are holding back from booking a Christmas  ski holiday forcing the hand of tour operators to stimulate demand with some generous price cutting.

Contrary to what one might expect this price cutting has not just been confined to just the lower lying resorts but has also been extended to traditionally snow-sure high altitude ski resorts like Val d’Isere and Tignes. Does this mean a family Christmas ski holiday is actually no longer as highly sought after as it used to be? Perhaps the poor early snow of recent seasons has little to do with the drop in demand for skiing at this time of year and other holidays around the world have become more appealing – heaven forbid! Without a full scale MORI poll we might not fully understand the reasons behind the current fall in popularity of Christmas skiing. However, the good news is that for those that do love a Christmas ski holiday there are some great value holidays to be had.

Christmas week low season example prices (as at 27th July):

Chalet Echo (sleeps 8 – 9) in Val d’Isere was priced at £1,019 per person (flights and transfers included) and is currently priced at £849.

Chalet Colombero (sleeps 6) in Tignes was priced at £939 per person (flights and transfers included) and is currently priced at £799.

Chalet Christian (sleeps 8 – 12) in Alpe d’Huez was priced at £979 per person (flights and transfers included) and is currently priced at £799.

Chalet Meleze Dore (sleeps 12) in Meribel was priced at £939 per person (flights and transfers included) and is currently priced at £769.

Chalet Abode (sleeps 8 – 10) in St Martin de Belleville. Book this luxury chalet for Christmas week and every member of your party receives a FREE lift pass (worth approximately £250)

 

The perfect Christmas ski holiday chalet
The perfect Christmas ski holiday chalet – Chalet Abode

If you would like to book a great value family Christmas ski holiday this winter then check out our full selection of chalets:

Ski chalets available for Christmas week 2017

Christmas week certainly seems to be low season for the 2017-2018 season but many families will see that as something to celebrate. Only 150 more days to go!

 

 

New development in Val d’Isere

This autumn marks the start of an ambitious and exciting new development in Val d’Isere. This will be the largest undertaken anywhere in the Alps within a generation – not since the creation of Arc 1950 has such a project been executed.

Le Coin de Val d’Isere is the name given to the €200m (£170m) redevelopment of the very heart of the resort over the next five years.

The project entails the demolition and reconstruction of a giant triangle of the centre of Val d’Isere which extend around 250m along the main road (Avenue Olympique) from the present bus station in the direction of La Daille.  The apex of the triangle is roughly the present site of Dick’s Tea Bar.  Dick’s and Le Petit Danois bar are two of scores of businesses that will be relocated, along with the central bus station.

A new piste will allow skiers to cruise on past  Bananas restaurant and bar. Importantly, an underground moving walkway from the centre of town will bring skiers back up to the main access lifts on the ‘front de neige’ with the ski school meeting points and the Olympique and Solaise gondola stations. At present, the majority of visitors are reliant on the efficient Train Rouge free ski bus service to reach the slopes. However, Le Coin will create the five-star level of 21st-century ski convenience that Val d’Isere previously lacked.

Key elements of the new development in Val d’Isere

  • A total of 900 extra tourist beds, bringing the total of Val d’Isere to 25,760
  • Two new three/four star hotels, one of them with 51 bedrooms
  • Two apartment complexes, one of them with 19 units. The prospect of around 100 new private homes in prime locations in the very centre of such a world-class resort is unprecedented. More than 60% of Val’s clientèle is English-speaking and keen interest is expected from potential British buyers, as well as from other international guests.
  • A new arrivals centre on the Avenue Olympique that will incorporate a welcome desk. Children’s crèche and a new covered bus station.

 

New development in Val d'Isere
New development in Val d’Isere – Le Coin de Val d’Isere

 

Le Coin is a joint project between the Val d’Isere town hall and local architect Jean Charles Covarel, who has been responsible for key parts of the renaissance of the resort in recent years.  Much of this re-birth has been connected with the creation of many new luxury chalets. Covarel’s architectural style, both exterior and interior, is easily recognisable and Chalet Papillon, currently with Scott Dunn, is a fine example of his recent work.

The new village redevelopment will cover 22,000 square metres and replaces a whole range of 30-year-old buildings. The first of these will be demolished this autumn (2017).

Respect for the environment is a key component of Le Coin de Val, with smart systems designed to minimise energy consumption. Notably, rainwater and snowmelt are employed in the buildings’ sanitation system and geothermal energy is harnessed to heat the hotel rooms and apartments. Environmental studies into the effects of the development will be carried out this coming winter prior to the issue of final building permits next spring.

Construction will be completed in phases, designed to have minimum impact on visitors during the winter months. Work is scheduled for completion in 2022.

New ski resorts to consider for winter 2017/2018

We enjoy recommending new resorts to our clients because we have gone off the beaten track or tried a new destination and more often than not have been pleasantly surprised.

Our team at Alpine Answers have been to every large resort in the Alps and North America. We know these large resorts intimately and by the numbers we send to these resorts, you our clients know these resorts as well as we do. In fact our top ten best sellers have stayed more or less static for 25 years – Val d’Isere, Meribel, St Anton, Tignes, Courchevel, Verbier, Zermatt, La Plagne, Morzine and Val Thorens.

The reasons why the above resorts are so popular with our clients are quite clear; the above resorts offer everything you could possibly want when you go on a ski holiday: access to a large snow sure ski area, an amazing array of choice when it comes to accommodation, modern efficient infrastructure, and a lively town with lots going on besides the skiing. So why go anywhere else?

Well we think you should consider something new if you feel you have exhausted the large super stations and possibly want a resort which is less crowded, more intimate and possibly has more of an authentic Alpine charm.

HERE IS OUR LIST OF RESORTS WE THINK YOU SHOULD TRY

ITALY

ski resort of Colfosco
Stunning scenery near colfosco and corvara

 

LA THUILE – attractive old village charm combined with an extensive ski area as linked to La Rossiere in France. Limited night life but crowd free slopes. Best for beginners and intermediates.

Any of the MONTEROSA RESORTS: Three unspoiled and uncrowded valleys all linked by lifts.

GRESSONEY – This is the perfect resort for families as it is the middle of the three resorts, offering easy access to the large ski area.

CHAMPOLUC – The largest of the three resorts this charming village has much to offer.

ALAGNA – This is a charming little village with just the one lift out of the resort. Don’t let this fool you as Alagna with the right conditions is a great place for off-piste skiing. Would suit strong skiers best.

COLFOSCO – perfect resort for families to stay in the Sella Ronda with excellent nursery slopes. Having access to the vast ski circuit means stronger skiers will enjoy this delightful resort.

SWITZERLAND

Any of the resorts in the area known as VAL D’ANNIVIERS – Cute, unspoilt villages beneath high, snow-sure slopes.

Our favourite resort in the area is GRIMENTZ. A classic chocolate box Swiss resort with cobbled streets and beautiful scenery. This is a resort which really works well for families. Having said that, stronger skiers will enjoy the easy off-piste opportunities as well.

Other resorts also worth trying in the area – ZINAL and ST LUC

Ski resort Grimentz
Classic chocolate box Swiss resort of Grimentz

AUSTRIA

The iconic resort of KITZBUHEL. We have started sending more clients to Kitzbuhel as it is a resort the ticks every box. A charming town with a large ski area that suits all standards and some great après ski. Excellent destination for a weekend.

For those of you looking for something a little smaller in scale than Kitzbuhel we recommend the resort of MARIA ALM. This charming traditional resort is uncrowded and fairly Brit free -a real Brexit winner! With access to 150 kms of piste there is skiing for everyone.

Ski resort Maria Alm
Family friendly resort of Maria Alm in Austria

FRANCE

There are not too many resorts in France that we sell that skiers have not heard of, here are few that may not be on everyone’s radar –

VAUJANY – This is a unique village resort with amazing amenities which links in effortlessly into the Alpe d’Huez ski area. Perfect for families as there are some nice chalets an excellent ski school and crèche in the resort.

LES CONTAMINES – Very underrated resort as the ski area is impressive. Good value for money accommodation and would be a good spot for a weekend ski.

ST MARTIN DE BELLEVILLE – We always like to throw this one into the mix as it’s such a nice place to stay in the Three Valleys. With even more luxury chalets now available in the resort this really is a super place to spend a week skiing the best ski area in the world.

We would love to send you to a new ski destination so do please pick our brains as we know the resorts well and can give you our honest opinion.

Happy skiing as always from the Alpine Answers team. 

Cheap powder skiing in Switzerland – the Val d’Anniviers

Cheap powder skiing in Switzerland really does exist and we’ll let you in on the secret destinations. The Val d’Anniviers area in Switzerland is a well kept secret but for those ‘in the know’ it offers everything you could possibly want from a ski region. The high altitude mountain valley is made up of five beautiful, traditional villages which are situated in a plateau far above the main Rhone Valley below. Each village has its own separate ski area (two of these areas are connected by ski lifts) and all five offer a unique ski experience.

Skiing in Switzerland,Val d'Anniviers, Chandolin, St Luc

St Luc and Chandolin looking pretty in the evening sun.

St Luc (1,655m) and Chandolin (1,936m)

These are the highest villages in the area, and in my opinion two of the most beautiful and traditional resorts in the Alps. The tiny streets, hardly wide enough to drive a car through, are lined with traditional mazots, century old chalets, a few hotels as well as a pretty family run 4 star hotel called the Bella Tola . The Ski area is relatively small – St Luc and neighbouring Chandolin which is linked have about 75km of pisted runs between them but they also plenty of easily accessed off-piste terrain. This offers great touring possibilities off the back side of the mountain as well as access to skiing over 3,000 metres. However, the real bonus is getting away from other skiers. During your week you might well find that you have the entire mountain to yourself and certainly it is quite normal to ski two or three runs without seeing another skier at all – a unique experience these days!

Accommodation in the Val d'Anniviers
From top clockwise: Hotel Bella Tola, Chalet Charr and Chalet Edelweiss – all in the Val d’Anniviers

There are a couple of good local bars and restaurants in town and plenty to keep you going for a shorter stay. There is also a lovely catered chalet here which provides an experience quite unlike anywhere else in the Alps. Forget the crowds of the Three Valleys, the rowdy Brits in Val d’Isere, the poor snow in the Portes du Soleil. At the Chalet Charr you can truly escape from everyday life, forget about work and just relax, you are in the mountains and it’s blissfully quiet.

We have become somewhat desensitized as to what a ski holiday can really be. All the best holidays I have been on have been about connecting with friends or family, enjoying the skiing, the snow and indulging in great food. A stay in Chalet Charr combined with the skiing of St Luc / Chandolin delivers this special ski holiday experience which would be suitable to any skier.

Cheap powder skiing in Switzerland - freeride, Chandolin, St Luc, Grimentz, Zinal,
Ben getting excited – ready to drop in

Grimentz (1,553m) and Zinal (1,600m)

These two villages are about 20 minutes drive from St Luc and are covered under the same lift pass. Here you have access to the largest connected ski area in the Val d’Anniviers region which makes the skiing here more suitable to those looking to do some piste cruising. Although the off piste here is also excellent it does tend to get tracked out rather more quickly than in St Luc and Chandolin. This is partly due to the influx of Scandinavians which the resort has seen in recent years. However, these days all of the best freeride and powder resorts in Europe have a Scandinavian presence, in effect giving the resort a seal of approval if you are after some challenging skiing. Although the off piste tracks out a little quicker here there is still plenty of snow to go around and it stays fresh a lot longer than in most parts of the Alps.

Narrow and traditional streets in Grimentz and Zinal
Beautiful traditional streets in Grimentz and Zinal

This area is still relatively undiscovered by the UK chalet market and although there are quite a few self-catered chalet options here there is only one catered chalet which is worth looking at. This is the Chalet Edelweiss which is run by an English couple, Penny and Eric Kendall. These guys really know their ski resorts and after 10 years travelling the world and testing out ski areas as ski journalists they decided that the Grimentz and Zinal area was the best of the lot. They run a spacious 10 – 12 person chalet just outside the centre of Zinal called the Chalet Edelweiss. The chalet is sold on an exclusive use basis for high season weeks but by the room at other times of the season. You can expect a warm and friendly welcome, excellent food and plenty of space to relax. Eric will even take you out for piste orientation on two mornings, and if your lucky he will also point out the best routes for some epic off piste skiing!

Grimentz, Zinal, Chandolin, St Luc
Amazing terrain in the Val d’Anniviers

Finally you have Vercroin (1,330m) which is a small beginner and intermediate ski area at the front of the Val d’Anniviers region. I have not actually skied here yet but Nick from Backcountry Adventures tells me that this is where you can find the best tree skiing in Europe. Apparently it’s the best place to ski when it is snowing as the entire area is covered in perfectly spaced trees.

So, all in all, this magical place has something for everyone, be it hard core freeride, chilled out piste cruising or learning to ski on empty slopes. It doesn’t have the nightlife or après ski scene of larger resorts but the Val d’Anniviers is such a beautiful, unique and calming place that it would be totally ruined if it did.

Let us help you organise some cheap powder skiing in Switzerland for your next trip to the mountains. Telephone: +44 (0)20 7801 1080

Fernie, Canada. Escape the crowds

After my sister disappeared to do a season in the relatively unknown Canadian resort of Fernie, I decided I had to check it out, escape the crowds and to see what all the fuss was about. And I was not disappointed! A small mining town with a mountain most suited to intermediate/expert skiers, there is so much to love about Fernie – not least the epic amounts of snow it gets most years (more about this below).

View from Fernie looking down the main valley
View from Fernie looking down the main valley

I stayed at Lizard Creek Lodge which is right by one of the main chairlifts that whisk you up into the mountains. It was a fantastic choice of accommodation with hot tubs for each building, as well as an outdoor pool (heated!) and an ice bar for vodka tasting. There is also a ski hire shop on site, so no need to trudge over to the centre of the village.

The skiing in Fernie is something else – I was there in late March/early April 2017 and was treated to three significant snowfalls during my 10 day visit – my holiday was a powder skiing nirvana! Most of the runs are for intermediates and there are plenty of expert runs that go through trees and down gorges and chutes – these runs are un-groomed but are still patrolled by SOS making it some of the most adventurous ‘on-piste’ skiing I’d ever encountered. For beginners, there are plenty of green runs around the base of the mountain and there is a small freestyle park and ski cross course as well. Like many Canadian resorts, the lifts are all open chairlifts so wrap up warm if you’re there between December and March!

Escape the Crowds - Fernie's wild landscape!
Escape the Crowds – Fernie’s wild landscape!

Another great thing about Fernie is the amount to do off the slopes (I would recommend hiring a car for the duration of your trip). Being only one hour from the USA border, we took a trip to Whitefish, Montana to experience some skiing over there – it was only 2 hours total drive from Fernie and it was great to be able explore another resort in a different country!

I also took a trip up to Island Lake Lodge, a beautiful wooden lodge high in the mountains that is only accessible by snowmobile or piste basher. Most people travel up here to do cat-skiing but we decided for the more gentle approach of snow-shoeing and a leisurely lunch which was absolutely delicious and so peaceful none of us wanted to leave! In town, there is a local brewery that does tours and beer tasting as well as walking trails along the river – although you may see warning signs about aggressive moose!

'The moose are loose!'
‘The moose are loose!’

If you are looking for a ski experience that is completely different from a European holiday then I couldn’t recommend Fernie more highly – I’ve never experienced anything like it. From all the incredibly friendly locals to the epic snow, I can’t wait to go back!

The price for a group of 4 adults travelling to Fernie for 10 days in January 2018, staying in a 2 bedroom condo at Lizard Creek Lodge (room only basis), with return flights from London Heathrow and private resort transfers is £1,540pp. Why don’t you escape the crowds next season?