Planning Your First Ski Holiday
Planning your first skiing trip can be daunting, but with a little preparation and some good advice, you’ll discover that it’s really quite simple.
Booking a week-long holiday with an established tour operator is a popular way for skiers and snowboarders to experience their first snowsports holiday. This takes a lot of the hassle out of planning a holiday, leaving you to enjoy being in the mountains. Of course, you can experience the mountains here in the UK by visiting the resorts in Scotland, which doesn’t require committing to a full week of skiing.
You can find plenty of information about planning your holiday, travelling to resort, safety in the mountains and snowsports insurance on this website, but here are a few important tips to think about as you embark on your first winter-sports holiday.
Choosing a Resort
Not every resort is suitable for beginners, so you’ll want to do your homework before you settle on a destination. Our resort guides are a good place to start, as you can also read reviews from others who’ve been there. Bulgaria and Andorra offer good value-for-money packages for beginners, while some of the large resorts in the Alps, Dolomites and Pyrenees have tons of confidence-boosting blue runs right on the doorsteps of chalets and hotels. At some resorts you won’t need a full lift pass either - some even have beginner lifts that can be used free of charge.
When to Go
Tour operators typically offer their best deals early or late in the season. This is because the snow conditions are often less predictable, so regular skiers tend to prefer the safer mid-season weeks. For beginners, snow cover isn’t such an important factor, plus skiing in the springtime means milder temperatures, longer days and some fantastic festivals and end of season parties. Holidays and flights will be significantly more during school holidays, and the more popular resorts may be busier, so it’s best to avoid Christmas/New Year, February half-term and Easter if you can. You can look at a resorts past snow reports to find out when the best conditions are here - Snow Reports.
Chalets (full-board and half-board), hotels and self-catering apartments are the main types of accommodation you’ll come across when planning your holiday but the availability of room and apartment rental on sites like AirBnB is becoming more popular. Tour operators tend to use chalets and hotels, and this is generally preferable for your first holiday, as it takes a lot of the stress out of your day-to-day activity. It’s also sociable and allows you to meet other skiers and snowboarders. However, if you’re on a budget, and a family or bigger group, then apartments generally offer the best value (though not for just two people) – but be sure to take food into account when planning your budget, especially as supermarkets in resorts can be quite expensive. If you’re driving to resort it’s worth stocking up on your week’s supplies at a larger supermarket before you get to your resort. Some resorts, especially in France, also have youth hostels. These tend to be aimed less at tourists so their websites may not be in English but they tend to offer great value and in some cases have good package deals including pass, rental and lessons.
Booking a trip with an established tour operator (many offer discounts to Ski Club members) gives beginner skiers and snowboarders an easy way to experience their first snowsports holiday. Late (or early) season deals in chalet accommodation can even work out as more cost-effective than independent travel. However, if you are booking flights yourself, make sure you check things like transfer times and prices from airport to the resort, and ski carriage (if taking your own equipment). No matter what, make sure that you’ve got an insurance policy that specifically covers you for snowsports activities, this is important as it covers everything from damage to rental equipment to injury and rescue on the mountains..
Preparing for the Mountains
It might be tempting to leave the jacket at home on a warm spring day, but the weather can change quickly in the mountains. Conditions at the top can be quite different to those down in the valley due to the altitude difference, so make sure you’ve got the right kit with you. It’s best to wear several layers – not only does this keep you warmer, it’s more flexible. Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated – because of the temperature this is something that many people neglect. Have a look at our ski packing list for other things that will make your experience more enjoyable or look at our what to wear guide.
Remember to take sensible footwear and warm clothes for the evenings. Although many resorts are renowned for their raucous après-ski and vibrant nightlife but stilettos and icy paths don’t mix!
On that note – learning anything new can be tiring, so while drinking and dancing the night away are often part and parcel of a ski holiday, you’ll improve a lot faster and enjoy it a lot more if you’re well-rested.
Whilst you don’t need to be a finely-tuned athlete to enjoy skiing, you’ll find it easier if you have a decent level of fitness, and there are some very simple exercises you can do that will help to prepare your body for skiing, even if it’s just for a few weeks before your trip. Visit our fitness pages for some tips from the experts.
You will need to have a lift pass to use the ski lifts and slopes in the resort, these can be ordered online or bought in resort, some resorts have limited area passes for beginners which are cheaper but if you are unsure what you need it is best to check with your ski school before you buy a pass.