Where to start skiing

I’m sure there are quite a few people out there who love the idea of a ski holiday but think that they are too old to start, not sporty enough, prone to breaking bones etc…

Well, enough of the excuses! It’s time to go for it and get hooked on skiing. I didn’t start skiing until my mid 20s but I have not looked back since. Yes, the first few days were not easy and I thought I would never ‘get it’. People kept telling me that it will just suddenly click, which seemed very unlikely as I sat frustrated on the edge of a green run, unable to master the art of turning. However, after a few deep breaths, I dusted myself off, got the snow out of some hard to reach places, and tried again. I was surrounded by the most spectacular views of mountains and trees laden heavy with snow. Not a bad place for humiliating myself with a group of French girls who ‘got it’ after half an hour.

After that low point, I am so happy that I didn’t give up, and around the 3rd day I actually started enjoying it.

In my opinion, it’s a great idea to have a couple of lessons in a ski dome or on a dry slope before you go on your first holiday. Somewhere like the Chill Factor in Manchester is an ideal place to get to know the basics. You’ll be shown how to use a poma lift (a type of drag lift to get you up the slope, also known as a button lift) and learn how to do some of the basic things. This way when you arrive in the mountains you can enjoy the experience from the start, and will not waste precious time being shown how to clip your boots in to your skis. Make sure you book some more lessons in resort as well. I enjoyed doing adult group lessons as there is a certain amount of bonding over falling over and seemingly endless attempts to put your skis back on. However some people develop a lot quicker during one on one private sessions with an instructor. In this case you might benefit more from 2-3 private lessons than you would from a week’s group sessions.

If you are not sure which type of lessons would best suit you, then check with your ski school. They may let you trade some group lessons for a private lesson or vice versa.

Make sure you choose your ski school carefully, and ask around for recommendations. It’s true what they say – “You never forget your first ski instructor”. A positive, cheerful instructor will make the experience a lot more enjoyable! If you feel like your group is holding you back, or that they are a bit too advanced for you, then don’t be scared to join a different level.

No matter where you start your lessons, the key is patience, perseverance and a good attitude. I can guarantee that you will have an amazing time! Yes, it can get frustrating at times but you have to laugh it off and carry on. You don’t have to be sporty or particularly fit to learn to ski, it’s all about confidence! 😉

Another thing to remember when booking your first ski holiday is that some resorts are better suited to beginners than others. Some resorts have special ‘Learn-to-ski’ packages for complete beginners, with lessons and a limited lift pass included. If you have done some lessons before your holiday then you will probably want a local area lift pass for a bit more variety.

Here are some of the best ski resorts for beginners

Bansko, Bulgaria

Bansko is a relatively small resort, but 35% of it is given over to slopes suitable for beginners. In addition to this, Bansko is much cheaper than other European ski resorts so it is a good place to give skiing a go if you are not sure you are going to love it.

The closest airport to Bansko is Sofia – click here to get the best prices on transfers from Sofia Airport to Bansko.

Flaine, France

Flaine is a great resort for beginners for a few reasons. It is easy to get to, being just over an hour from Geneva airport. It is mainly a ski in, ski out resort meaning that you can avoid walking around carrying your ski gear. Finally, it has a great snow record and many of the beginner areas are close to the centre of the resort.

The closest airport to Flaine is Geneva – click here to get the best prices on transfers from Geneva airport to Flaine.

Soldeu, Andorra

Soldeu is a great place to learn to ski. There are a number of English ski schools and the great nursery areas are close to the resort centre.

If you are going to Soldeu, you can fly to Barcelona, Girona, Carcassonne or Toulouse.

Click here to get the best prices on transfers from Barcelona airport to Soldeu.

Click here to get the best prices on transfers from Girona airport to Soldeu.

Click here to get the best prices on transfers from Carcassonne airport to Soldeu.

Click here to get the best prices on transfers from Toulouse airport to Soldeu.

Courchevel, France

Courchevel has a reputation for being one of the most expensive places on earth, but this is down to the highest village of Courchevel 1850. However, Courchevel 1650 (Montriond) is a great option as there is a beginners area near the resort centre, and there are some very long blue runs to progress on to. You can also stay in Courchevel 1550 and take the fast gondola up to Courchevel 1850 where there is one of the best beginners areas in the world.

To get to Courchevel, you can fly to Geneva, Chambery, Grenoble or Lyon.

Click here to get the best prices on transfers from Geneva airport to Courchevel.

Click here to get the best prices on transfers from Chambéry airport to Courchevel.

Click here to get the best prices on transfers from Grenoble airport to Courchevel.

Click here to get the best prices on transfers from Lyon airport to Courchevel.

Obergurgl, Austria

Obergurgl has vast areas for beginners to practice, and also has a good number or wide, long blue runs to progress on to.The ski schools in Obergurgl are also very good.

The best airport to fly to for Obergurgl is Innsbruck.

Click here to get the best prices on transfers from Innsbruck airport to Obergurgl.

How to ski on a budget

Skiing is notoriously expensive, but there are a few ways you can bring down the cost of a ski holiday:

Book flights way in advance but accommodation last minute

It is normal behaviour to sit down and try to sort out every aspect of your ski holiday at the same time. But if you want to ski on a budget, this is not the best way to go about it.

Flights with low cost airlines such as easyjet are cheaper the further in advance you book, and then get more and more expensive the closer you get to your departure date, so you need to get your flights booked as soon as possible.

Accommodation, however, works the other way round. No hotel or chalet wants to have empty beds because it is a total waste. Ski seasons are short and so accommodation owners want the highest possible occupancy rate. You are therefore likely to find great last minute deals on places to stay.

Choose a resort you have never heard of (or at least are not sure where it is…)

What is so good about the big, famous resorts anyway? So they might have massive ski areas, and loads and loads of bars and restaurants, but chances are they are run by enormous corporations who want to make as much money as possible. Not only that, but purpose built mega resorts are often dead outside the ski season so local businesses have to charge exorbitant prices to make enough money for the whole year (or they have to move house every 6 months).

If you choose a ski resort you have never heard of then it is likely that the price of everything will be lower. All you need for a great ski trip is snow and a few friends or family!

You might have a smaller ski domain to explore but the lift pass will be a lot cheaper. The hotels might not be 4 or 5 star but they won’t be very far from the lifts. The ski shop might not have a choice of 100 different ski brands but it will be 1/10th the price of a platinum luxury package in Courchevel 1850.

There are just a couple of things to look out for before you go ahead with this plan:

1) Locate the ski resort you like the look of on a map and check you can get there from an airport. Some resorts are not very accessible and you could end up saving lots of money on everything else but then an epic journey turns out to cost loads.

2) Check that the resort you are considering fits your definition of a ski resort. In France, I have seen a drag lift in a field referred to as a “station de ski”, which might be technically correct, but it would make for a pretty rubbish week long holiday.

The chances of you choosing a resort you don’t know are zero, so I better give you a couple of ideas. How about Valloire or Montgenevre in France?

Get a last minute package deal

Love them or loathe them, tour operators are big players in the ski industry. They commit to huge numbers of beds and charter flights every season and they want them to be as full as possible. For this reason, you often see some great last minute deals that include flights, transfers and catered accommodation for around £300 per person, as the tour operator would rather take peanuts for the places than have them empty.

Another word of warning here: check up on the resort you are heading to on a late deal. If it is to a mega resort, you could get a shock when your lift pass and ski hire costs more than your flights, transfers and accommodation combined!

Do not eat on the mountain

Mountain restaurants always look so tempting but they were not built to keep the budget conscious skier going until afternoon tea. Resist the temptation to get out of the cold as it could cost you a fortune. I remember about 6 years ago, I heard a chef in a mountain restaurant in Méribel curse because he had slightly burnt a massive tray of lasagne. That is not to say it didn’t go out on the self service with a price tag of €17 per portion. I thought at the time, its a good job he didn’t drop it because it was worth about 300€ !

If you don’t have the option of making yourself a packed lunch, then ski back down to resort when you are hungry and grab something from a supermarket. This can be a nice way of exploring nearby resorts, but be careful, in certain places (France) the shop selling food could be shut at lunch…

Get insurance

I’m sure everyone reading this always has good insurance, but one way to stop a ski trip costing 10 times more than you budgeted is to get the correct winter sports insurance policy. If you have a yearly travel policy, make sure it covers you for skiing.

If your idea of fun is skiing through trees, or in to trees, or hitting the park, then you might want to get extra insurance for any equipment you hire. I have seen people take recked skis and boards back to a ski shop and it is not pretty. The ski shop are never going to let you just pay the cost price that they pick them up for at a wholesaler, they will take you for all they can!

Do a ski season and make friends with people who live there permanently

This quite often works for us! Staying in a friends spare room or on their sofa can considerably reduce the price of your ski trip.

 

These are just a few ideas to save you a few quid. If you have any other good ideas please do let us know and we will add them to the article.

 

How long in advance should you book ski transfers?

If you think that you can relax after booking your flights and accommodation for your upcoming ski trip, think again. How are you going to get from the airport to your hotel, chalet or apartment?

As we have discussed in another article, ski transfers are not very straight forward because you can’t build airports near ski resorts!

So to answer your question of how far in advance you should book ski transfers, our advice is to do it as soon as possible. This is especially true if you are travelling on a Saturday, and is even more important if you are travelling on a Saturday in school holidays. It is more important still if you want to book your ski transfers with a reliable and reputable local company!

I am writing this article in the middle of October and we have already had some disappointed FindTransfers users who left it too late to book their ski transfers with their preferred company. For the Christmas and New Year holidays it is not unheard of for companies to be fully booked in September. The February half term Saturdays are also very popular and some companies will be booked up well before Christmas.

Organising a ski holiday can be stressful enough so you don’t want to be panicking about your transfers at the last minute. As soon as you have booked your flights and accommodation then put a request through FindTransfers and you can take your pick of companies.

Having said all of that, if you are leaving it late to book your ski transfers we will definitely be able to find you something. There is even a chance that at the last minute we could find you a bargain with a company who would otherwise have an empty vehicle.

The best place to start looking for your ski transfers, whether you are booking a year in advance or at the last minute, is at FindTransfers.com

Have a great ski trip!