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Newbie Ski Trip

#1
Hi all,

I am trying to alleviate some lockdown boredom by planning my first ski trip and I'm looking for some tips. It's quite bewildering when you don't really know what you are looking at. I'll be going on my own as I don't know anyone that skis, so I'd really like to go to a friendly place where I might be able to have a chat in the evening if and when I fancy (although this is far from a priority. I was reading another thread about companies and they all seemed to suggest that people were there for Après, and I am really going for the skiing.

I am looking for a weeklong trip somewhere affordable (in Europe) - I am a teacher so have to go during the Christmas holidays or February break. There is also an October break is that a good skiing time?

How much roughly do you think I should be looking to spend in pre-covid times - just so I can get an idea of what the cost should be like. I live in Scotland and I'm aware that post Brexit prices are likely to be different.

What kind of things should I be looking for in packages? - some places seem to put ski hire lift passes etc. in packages and some don't.

I did a learn to ski in a day course at an indoor ski centre and took to skiing pretty well, I would say I need a few post beginners lessons - Is it better to do these at the indoor place and hit the slopes ready to go, or take the lessons at the ski centre I go on holiday to.

Finally, I don't have the cash to buy everything, but I will invest in my own helmet and ski socks, I was wondering though if I would have a better trip if I got my own boots. I wore kids boots and skis at the indoor place (I'm 22cm and 48kg) and I have seen some pretty good-looking sub £100 boots that I would be happy to invest in if they fit. I didn't have any problems at the indoor place, but I was only there for one day. I also always wear superfeet insoles in my shoes and have them in size 22.5 and 23.5 cm options so I could just put them in the boots to make them more comfortable.

Thanks

Tilly
 
#2
With the information you provided I would go about your research/planning in one of two different ways (depending on how much actual planning you want take on yourself).

1) Less planning for you: Research groups/companies/clubs that will do most of the planning for you. This could be something like a Club Med resort (or other all-inclusive destination), or joining a group like The Ski Gathering.

2) You do all the planning: I would start by narrowing down where you want to go first (choose based on location, ambiance, availability of ski school, etc). Research countries and resorts and pick a couple that interest you. Since it sounds like you'd like some social aspect included in a solo trip, I would also use Google and find some advice on "best resorts for solo travel"...or other variations. Once you have your location, lodging would be your next priority to nail down. Then start down the rabbit hole of ski rentals and ski lessons.

Europe has a lot of chalets or inns that have either half (breakfast and dinner included) or full board. I would look for lodging that will give you a chance to socialize during meals or over a glass of wine at the end of the day. Of course, your other options for socialization is during lessons or going out for après.

As for what you should be looking for in packages...this will greatly depend on which method of planning you decide to go with. The main things you'll need to have:
- Choose destination
- Plan travel to the destination
- Lodging
- Plan travel when you're there (if you're not walking distance to everything)
- Ski Lessons
- Ski Tickets/Passes
- Skis (rental or purchase)
- Meals (this can be planned ahead of time, or on the fly)

Christmas or February break would be when you want to travel, February will most likely be better snow. October is out, unless you go to one of the few glaciers that are open year round.

As for your boots discussion...if you plan to start skiing regularly, I would invest in your own boots, but if it's going to be an occasional thing, I'd just rent.

Couple tips from what I've learned planning previous trips...
- Search for and read blogs...they often have more honest feedback than news articles or information from paid advertisement. Search Google for things like "Beginner skiing in Europe blog" or "solo skiing Europe blog". Read different people's experiences on trips.
- Keep notes! When you're researching a destination, you'll come across small tips like "xyz restaurant has the best schnitzel" or "torchlight parades are every weekend night at 8:00pm, must see!". You don't have to necessarily seek out these things, but when you're looking for a restaurant for lunch, or something to do on Saturday night, these little notes come in handy.
- Packing lists are very useful to not forget anything. Either make your own, or search online.
- If you're travelling by train, pack light.
- Keep a spreadsheet of costs, both estimated cost and then update for actual cost spent. I find this very helpful for future trips.

Good luck, I know it may be overwhelming to start the process, but once you gain momentum it's a lot of fun.
 
#3
Great ideas from @elemmac . I would also look for resorts that are not super crowded because traveling/skiing during the "half term" break in the UK can get quite crowded.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#4
I am looking for a weeklong trip somewhere affordable (in Europe) - I am a teacher so have to go during the Christmas holidays or February break. There is also an October break is that a good skiing time?

How much roughly do you think I should be looking to spend in pre-covid times - just so I can get an idea of what the cost should be like. I live in Scotland and I'm aware that post Brexit prices are likely to be different.
Welcome! Have you come across Snowheads? Might be able to glean some info from that ski forum, which is based in the UK. Although you'll get better answers to questions from Ski Divas when it comes to how to plan and how to go about fitting lessons into a ski trip.

October would be too early. February is better for snow than December. Perhaps less crowded as well. In N. America the last two weeks of Dec are when every ski resorts is normally packed both on and off the slopes.

Did you see the posts by a new member who lives in London? Look around for the Getting To Know You section.
 
#6
Which country would you suggest as the first choice? Second choice?
I would suggest Austria as a first choice. Charming villages and many budget friendly options, lively atmosphere. Good skiing but lower elevations TBH.
Second choice would be France. Although have skied many times in France, snow is extremely reliable and many "chalets" available to stay at good prices.
Many UK skiers stay in chalets and are quite fun. Usually good prices and accommodate 10-12 people with chalet hosts and many amenities. However,
other than Chamonix, many French resorts are purpose built and not the quintessential charming ski village you might hope for.
I love Switzerland (Portes du Soleil, Verbier, Zermatt, St Moritz, Davos/Klosters, Wengen, Grindelwald) but let's face it, it's expensive .......
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
#9
There is a program in February at Mount Ste Anne in Quebec Canada. Not sure who puts that trip together. I only know about it as they are always looking for instructors for that week and I get an email. I'll see if I can get any info on it from one of the instructors I know there.

And that's only if we lift the Covid restrictions next season....
 
#10
It’s been almost 16 years, but when I lived in Belgium we did ski holidays in Austria with Siegi Tours. Everything was covered except lunches - lodging, rentals, tickets, lessons, dinners, evening entertainment, even night time tobogganing for the little ones.
 

Cajunchai

Diva in Training
#11
Thanks to Jenny and Marz for signalling me over :smile:

Hi Tilly - I'm looking for a similar situation to you. I'm happy to share what I've found that fit your criteria.

I've heard good thinks about: https://www.action-outdoors.co.uk/ - they look like they do good deals and I've heard people say that people are friendly and you can do your own thing socially if you like

The yoga ski retreats I found maybe are not suited to what you are looking for but let me know and I'll detail a list.

There's this women only trip that looks like they really focus on improving skills and everything is included except for flights: https://skigoddess.co.uk/

I have been with Hofnar before on their beginner and improver trips. Everything included. More apres focused but less so than their non beginner trips. Never felt pressured to drink or go out if I didn't want: https://hofnar.com/

Of course you can organise things on your own and book into lessons when you're there - I prefer to have a chunk of the holiday set up so I can focus on the skiing.

In terms of your other points about lessons - for me nothing beats learning on the slopes. It's a great way to meet skiiers of the same level and it's a chill way to learn your way around the piste and find what runs you like. I've lent friends ski gear before and there's usually cheap deals second hand or at sports direct. I don't have a helmet because when I rent skis it comes in a package. With boots - I'd love my own so if you find a good deal I'd say go for it!

Hope this was helpful - sorry it's super long!
 

Après Skier

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#13
Hi Tilly, Your first ski trip, how exciting! I’m providing a few links for resources you might find useful.

Choosing a Resort:
In Europe you have wealth of ski areas. To learn more about them I recommend Chris Gill’s witty and insightful guidebook Where to Ski and Snowboard. You can order an out-of-print version such as this copy on eBay for £3.29

Reserving your trip:
For young adults 18-25 the UCPA is unbeatable. This French non-profit offers all-inclusive 7-day ski packages for 429€ including lodging, meals, ski rental and daily lessons. No-longer-so-young adults 26-40 can join the trips for 665€. One of the biggest ski travel agencies in the UK is Crystal Ski Holidays. It has a good reputation and competitive rates. Club Med is great fun.... pricier but still a good value considering meals, drinks, entertainment, and all-day lessons are included in the price.

Equipment rental:
Contact the apartment, hotel, or chalet where you will be staying. They will know which rental shop is best and they sometimes offer a discount.

Lift tickets and lessons:
Lift ticket and lessons are best reserved online in advance. A Google search should land you in the right spot.

Ski Airports:
Popular ski airports in the Alps include Geneva, Munich, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Grenoble, & Lyon. For the Pyrenees I prefer flying into Toulouse (I avoid the Barcelona airport).

Airport Transfer:
This is something you should research before making a reservation. Some resorts are much quicker/cheaper/easier to reach than others.

Boots:
You might want to wait until after your first trip to buy ski boots. Rental boots are notoriously uncomfortable, however, the staff at the rental counter will work with you to find a pair that you can live with for a week.

I wish you great fun! We love trip reports so please feel free to share your experience.
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
#14
I spoke to my friend that instructs at Mont Ste. Anne in Quebec. The February trip is for high school students. So I'm sure you're not going to qualify for that.

If you are interested in Canada....I know there are groups trips that come over. So keep an eye on SnowBrains for one. Also check out SkiCan. They will work with you and add whatever extra's you need. Big 3 is the travel arm of the Banff area ski resorts. They have lots of info on their site as well.

Planning can be a PITA or a lot of fun. Hope it's fun!!
 
#15
To learn more about them I recommend Chris Gill’s witty and insightful guidebook Where to Ski and Snowboard. You can order an out-of-print version such as this copy on eBay for £3.29
Think I have the most recent one from 2016 that I purchased on Amazon for approximately $20 several years ago. A very good resource written by Brits.
I still refer to my guide as I check out resorts in Europe.
 

scandium

Certified Ski Diva
#16
I think with it being a first ski trip, it's easier to go for an all-inclusive package and if you don't mind hostels, I would definitely recommend going to France with Action Outdoors (as suggested by @Cajunchai). They are the UK agent for UCPA and booking through them was a breeze (admittedly I went >6 years ago). It looks like it's about 900 pounds for a full week which includes all your accommodation, lessons, rental, lift passes but not transfers to/from the airport and flights. I think the hostel rooms are 4-6 people from memory and they will try to put you with English speakers. Their website also suggests which resorts might be better for progression and have more beginner terrain.

I would always recommend getting lessons as this sets up better skiing habits, and it is not that much more expensive for full or half-day lesson (like a difference of 50-100 pounds for the whole week, which is pretty cheap). It's also harder to get lost and you essentially get shown around the mountain a little and looked after more because the instructors aren't supposed to lose you. If you end up with other English-speakers you can also hang out with them after.
The instructors normally take you out the first morning to look at your skiing and will adjust groups accordingly. Terrain outdoors is significantly bigger and more variable than indoors and the snow will feel a lot different, but it might be worth doing another indoor ski lesson closer to your holiday to refresh the basics. I like exploring mountains so I always did half-day lessons then practiced in-between, but if it's your first time you might want to stick with the group.

Don't get your own boots yet - but be aware that you may need to chuck an insole in and go for thicker socks in a 23 size boot. If your boots are uncomfortable, go back to the staff at UCPA as they will try and troubleshoot for you. I seem to feel the cold more and wear phenomenal amounts of layers even in spring, so my bias is towards having clothing that keeps you comfortable and warm before getting ski boots. Helmet, goggles, proper gloves (or mittens + inner glove liners if you are like me and HATE having cold fingers) and good socks and potentially a balaclava or ski mask if you are prone to getting a cold face when the wind is cold. Also good sunscreen and SPF lip balm - you don't want a bright red peeling nose/lips on day 2 of your trip. I assume you're sorted clothing wise because you live in Scotland - basically waterproof/water resistant outer layers with warm layers underneath.
UCPA hostels are often ski in-out, so you can warm up at lunchtime or take layers off as needed. If you don't have a Sports Direct near you, Sport Pursuit has flash deals and big discounts, often on reputable/higher end brands.
 
#17
I lived in UK for 2 years and skied at Chamonix/Argentieres and Les Arcs in France and at Andorra(!) don't recall name of resort in the Pyrenees. Chamonix wins for charm and terrain. Feb, Mar will have better snow than December. I have an friend, American, who married a French guy who trained in their military ski unit. They ski everywhere. She says the French Pyrenees are charming, less crowded and less expensive than the Alps. Since you are a newbie, I highly recommend going with a group or package as they will sort out the details.
 

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