Ski season 2018: The essential winter sports guide

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It may seem early to be thinking about hitting the slopes, but now’s the time to bag the best deals for the coming winter. There are offers galore and booking now could mean you snag free child places, group booking deals or money off lift pass/lesson/equipment hire packages. Different resorts and holiday options will suit different people depending on experience, preferences and party-type. Are you first timers? Are you looking for fine dining as well as immaculate slopes? Are you partiers, piste bashers or pit-stop lovers? Read on to dicover the holidays and resorts you should be checking out this season.

When to book a ski holiday

Last minute bookings do not necessarily secure the best value ski holidays – the early ski bird catches the worm, particularly if you’re limited to travelling during school holidays. Check out ski tour operator websites over the next week or so and you’ll find 45 per cent discounts on trips to Whistler (bookable by 15 November through Ski Independence; ski-i.com) and up to 45 per cent off select Easter breaks to Scandinavia (bookable by 8 November through Ski Safari; skisafari.com).

Lift passes are also cheaper: an Epic Pass (epicpass.com) bought by 19 November for $899 (£675) grants unlimited, season-long access to 15 North American resorts, including Vail, Breckenridge and Whistler Blackcomb, and up to 21 free days in 30 Alpine resorts, including St Anton, Val d’Isère, the Three Valleys and Verbier. That’s cheaper than a seven-day lift pass to just one of those resorts.

What’s new with ski resorts?

In Val d’Isère, France, work has started on the £170m Coin de Val project, set to redevelop the resort centre over the next five years. A new piste and underground moving walkway will connect the slopes directly with the heart of town while a new shopping area, restaurants, apartments, a hotel, bus station and welcome area will also be created.

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Val d’Isère has plenty of improvements in the works (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There are new beginnings in the cult French off-piste destination La Grave too, which ushers in its first season under the ownership of SATA (operator of the neighbouring Alpe d’Huez resort), improving mountain infrastructure without changing its fundamentally “wild” nature.

In Switzerland, Andermatt opens in November with three new chairlifts, creating a lift link with neighbouring Sedrun.

Best new ski hotels

This winter brings with it a plethora of hotel openings across the Alps. There’s something for every taste and budget, from the quirky HO36 Hostel (ho36hostels.com) in Les Menuires, with rooms that sleep two to 10 people from €35 per night, to the new Four Seasons Hotel Megève (fourseasons.com/megeve), complete with a two Michelin-starred restaurant and swanky spa.

In Chamonix, the centuries-old Refuge Montenvers (montenvers.terminal-neige.com), with its dramatic perch at the foot of the Mer de Glace glacier, has been sensitively restored into a stylish, romantic bolthole with a fabulous restaurant and mesmerising views.

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Ho36 hostel is a cool new option in Les Menuires (Ho36)

Global brands are gaining a footing in the Alps this winter too, with Hard Rock Café launching in the Swiss resort of Davos (hardrockhotels.com/davos), a Radisson Blu opening in Andermatt (radissonblu.com) and the Hyatt Group launching its first Alpine destination in La Rosière (hotellarosiere.com).

Best ski holidays for beginners

Organising a ski or snowboard holiday for the first time can be daunting. Simply choosing a resort suitable for beginners is tricky enough, without booking up resort transfers, equipment hire and lift passes. By far the best, and least expensive, option is to let an operator package everything up for you.

Book a “Learn to Ski” pack to Austria’s charming Oberperfuss resort with Inghams (inghams.co.uk) and £699 per adult will get you flights, transfers, half board hotel accommodation and a six-day lift pass, tuition and equipment hire.

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Colorado resorts can be a good option for beginners (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Crystal Ski Holidays (crystalski.co.uk) offers week-long all-inclusive packages with lift pass, equipment hire and tuition at the four-star Hotel Perelik in Pamporovo, Bulgaria, from just £477 per person, including a free child place.

If you’ve got 10 days – and more money – to spare, don’t rule out Colorado, whose resorts offer manifold benefits for beginner skiers. The slopes are quieter and better prepared than European resorts, with nursery slopes, dedicated “Go Slow” zones and free mountain tours; there are no language barriers; and the smiley service culture puts nervous skiers at ease. Furthermore, Norwegian Air (norwegian.com) has just launched direct London to Denver flights from £179 one-way.

Best ski holidays for families

All snow-topped trees and fire-warmed mountain huts, family ski holidays are hard to beat for winter magic. You can blow the budget with glamorous catered chalets but there are plenty of affordable options too.

Ski France (skifrance.co.uk) is offering a winter-long “Kids Go Free” deal for children up to 18 years staying with their parents at Hotel Le Mottaret in Méribel and Hotel Ibiza in Les Deux Alpes.

Adventurous families can embrace the outdoors in the Swiss resort of Flims-LAAX, camping in heated timber pods equipped with double beds, with access to shared amenities and a restaurant, from just £422 for five nights (camping-flims.ch).

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Look out for kids go free deals (Getty Images)

Celebrating 35 years of organising British family ski holidays, Esprit (espritski.com) is launching a pop-up destination this Easter: the high-altitude Austrian resort of Kühtai is ideal for families with older children who don’t require Esprit’s full childcare services.

Finally, the plush new Club Med Grand Massif Samoëns Morillon resort (clubmed.co.uk) combines ski-in/ski-out, all-inclusive convenience (including all-day childcare, ski/snowboard tuition and other activities like snowshoeing) with three restaurants, a swimming pool and spa.

Best ski resorts for foodies

Skiers burn up to 3,000 calories per day so it’s essential to replenish that energy with delicious food. This winter, Scott Dunn (scottdunn.com) launches the £14,000-a night Flying Chefs programme, where chalet guests can book a celebrity chef like Sat Bains, Monica Galetti or Pierre Koffman to cook for them for a night.

Staying Michelin, Phil Howard is launching a small restaurant in La Plagne and a taste of Trinity, Clapham will come to Méribel as Adam Byatt’s sous-chef and assistant restaurant manager take up residence at the Fish & Pips (fishandpips.co.uk) chalet Cerf Rouge for three weeks.

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Alta Badia is offering ski and wine safaris (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

In the Dolomites, Alta Badia (altabadia.org) hosts one-day gourmet ski and wine ski safaris and offers visitors the chance to spend a day exploring the slopes and local wines with a ski guide-cum-sommelier.

Best off-the-radar ski resorts

Craving peaceful slopes, a spot of culture and great value skiing? Head to lesser-known destinations like Slovenia’s Kranjska Gora, just deemed Europe’s cheapest resort by the Post Office in its annual ski costs survey. Crystal Ski (crystalski.co.uk) offers a week’s skiing here from £395 per adult, including flights, transfers and half board.

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Slovenia offers quiet ski resorts and winter wonderland charm (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

For peace and quiet, check into the new Refuge de Lac du Lou (lesmenuires.com), a cosy mountain hut in a pristine valley between Val Thorens and Les Menuires only accessible by off-piste skis or snowshoes.

For lunches of kimchi and Korean dumplings and après-ski in the pumping city of Seoul, follow the Winter Olympics to South Korea’s YongPyong resort (yongpyong.co.kr) in PyeongChang county.

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Source URL: The Independent

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