How to be “S-mitten” With Your Planning Prowess!
Whether you’re a seasoned pro, or a skiing novice, the devil is always in the detail when it comes to planning ahead for your trip. There are a few things you can do to maximise the fun and safety of your holiday before you even set foot on the slopes; many of which may seem obvious, but may also not occur to you amidst the whirlwind of digging out thermals and passports. Be this the first ski trip ever, or the latest of many, I present to you a handy checklist of 10 things to do before your ski holiday.
1) A ‘Piste’ of Cake – Getting To Grips With The Slopes
It is vital that before you go away (or indeed, before you book your holiday) that you research what kind of slopes are on offer, and how well this suits the group you are going away with. Most Ski resorts offer colour coded maps that show you what kind of ability their slopes cater for. Further to this – check out what’s on offer in the surrounding area: whether there are any slopes that offer ‘Night Skiing’ under floodlights, or even if there are famous circuits like the “Sella Ronda” of Northern Italy, that offer a day’s skiing unlike one you have ever experienced before.
2) All the Gear and No Idea – What To Pack
Temperatures on the mountains can vary greatly – from braving the weather at the highest peak, to sunning yourself at the bottom with an Aperol Spritz in hand – it’s important to be prepared for any environment. Layers are your greatest friend on the mountains: this way you can be toasty whilst skiing, and strip off some layers when you cosy down for lunch. Make sure to pack lots and lots of thermals and fleeces.
3) Don’t be a Drag – Pack a Day-Bag!
I’ve never been a great follower of the phrase “he who packs lightest travels furthest” – however, there are some things you should make sure you have on you at ALL times:
– Sun cream
– Spare gloves
– Spare fleece
– A Piste Map
And last but certainly not least:
– Some chocolate for the chairlift
4) These Boots Were(n’t) Made for Walking – Boot and Ski Hire
The age, the fit, the style and the condition of skis and boots all make a massive difference to how you are skiing, and how much you progress – (not to mention to your comfort and safety too). It’s important therefore that you have enough information about where you are hiring your skis from, and what they offer: it is less about what is ‘cheapest’, and more about what is the best value. If you have organised your holiday through a tour operator, they will often sort out your ski and boot hire, but give limited information or choice about what you are hiring. Instead, hop on TripAdvisor and search for a good, local shop. This will allow you to have more choice over what you are renting and who you are renting from, and you will probably also find a better deal too!
5) You Shall Not Pass! – Ski Passes and How To Avoid Queues
If you are a group who are restricted by school holidays as to when you can go skiing, you often fall victim to the dreaded lift queue. With February being both the time with the best conditions, and when the British half-term falls, it is often the busiest time of the year to go skiing – however, with a bit of research and planning, it can undoubtedly remain the best time to go away.
Firstly, it is worth looking beyond your “Meribel’s” and your “Morzine’s’”, to avoid the swarms of Britons. Why not check out the beautiful Dolomite mountains, or even look into skiing across the beautiful glaciers of Norway.
Secondly, look into whether the schools in the surrounding areas also have time off – if you’re sharing lifts with Brits and locals, you may be looking at lift queues far longer than you are willing to justify going away for.
And finally, it’s also worth looking into other activities that don’t require lifts if you have your heart set on the trendiest ski locations; things like dog sledding, igloo building, and even snow-shoeing (although technology has moved on a bit since the days of the trusty tennis racket), are also great family activities that make the most of the snow!
When booking Ski Passes, look into how many days you are planning on skiing, and what areas you can access with what pass – it may be the case that you can buy a pass that allows you to ski the surrounding mountain resorts as well,
And perhaps one final tip: quite often, you can stay on the fringes of the more popular resorts, but close to an outlying ski lift. These ski lifts often have no queue and make for quick access to the main lifts. Helps you to get higher and stay there for the day.
And one more: take a packed lunch if weather permits and have lunch early on the mountain. When the masses head for lunch the queues will be less.
6) Trip-advisor is your BEST FRIEND
Trip-advisor has undoubtedly revolutionized the way in which we travel. As the reviews are written by anyone and everyone, the site has a great sense of transparency, and a lack of bias, making it the perfect way to tailor your experience, and waste no time on sub-par experiences. From your hotel, to your mountain top restaurants, Trip-advisor will be your guru when planning all the bits in between the skiing, which are just as important.
7) You’re Never Too Cool For School – Booking Ski Lessons on the Mountain (and before you go!)
Following on from the point above, when choosing a Ski School, it is important to bear in mind reviews, but also what sort of things you need out of the learning experience – such as language skills, and what teaching style the school adopt. In addition, it’s also important to consider whether a private or group lesson would be a better match for you or your child. Ski school isn’t just a good way to keep the kids busy whilst you have a ski around (unrestricted by ability), but they are also a great idea for adults too! Be it a way to building confidence and brush the cobwebs off, or a way to get some insight into the best piestes and hidden gems of the mountain, Ski School is a worthwhile investment for the whole family.
However, why not make the best of your trip and learn before you even get there?! Whether a seasoned pro or a totally new beginner, it is always a good idea to get your ski legs sorted before you travel to the snow. At Sandown Sports, we can cater from absolute beginners all the way through to race training, so get down here and get practicing!
8) Get Vocal With the Locals
Whilst Trip-advisor gives you a great overview of what is worth exploring whilst on you holiday, it is the locals that with give you the hidden gems that you would never otherwise find. From secret runs, to the best dish on the mountains, don’t be afraid to ask the opinion of a local – they will definitely know what they are talking about, and it will ensure the most authentic and unique experiences of your trip. Night-skiing and Cazunzei: two things I would have never found on my own, but boy am I glad I was introduced to them!
9) Tire-some Travels
Though a boring point, it is a rather important one! To rent a car, or not to rent a car? That is the question. If your resort is ski-in, ski-out, there is probably little point in renting a car unless you plan on exploring other mountains whilst there: in which case – look into shuttle services for a smooth and stress free transit to your accommodation. If your holiday requires a car, here are some very important things to bring/check upon hire:
Make sure your car either has winter tires, or comes with snow chains (learn how to put on chains and take them off – practice and have gloves ready)
Make sure they have filled up the anti-freeze
And finally, invest in a trusty frost scraper – they are huge time savers in the morning.
10) Insurance – Safety First!
Finally, whilst you may be covered by your credit card company for Travel Insurance, or already have Travel Insurance from other trips, you must make sure that you have additional insurance for skiing, as you will not be covered for any ski injuries by most plans. There will be several online options to consider, but if you are skiing in France, look into Carre Neige – a low cost online claim service, that will ‘ensure’ you have the best holiday you can, that isn’t spoiled by medical bills in the unlucky circumstance of an accident on the slopes.
We hope you find these top tips useful – and don’t forget the most important rule: have fun!