Even for seasoned travellers and online experts, booking a first ski trip can be intimidating; where do you go, how do you book, what board basis should you choose, how do you get to the lifts, and where do you get equipment? It can be a minefield, but with some basic knowledge, you’ll find yourself hitting the slopes in no time at all.
Where to Go?
For most South Africans, the obvious choice for skiing is Europe due to more regular flights and a smaller time difference than North America or Japan. You’ll find that the traditional countries such as Switzerland, Austria, and France can be quite pricey but have great snow cover and plenty of skiing for beginners to advanced. Italy is another good option, especially if you want to combine skiing with some culture and good food. Budget options include countries such as Bulgaria, Slovenia, and even Poland and Russia.
If you want to go further afield, you can always check out Canada, America, Japan, or China for a skiing holiday with a twist.
When to Go?
December is peak time for skiing but, ironically, it’s also early season and a time when lots of ski resorts might not have snow. If you do choose to go over the festive period, you can expect to pay a premium for it, and you’ll need to hit a high altitude resort to get as close to guaranteed snow as you can. Great options are Cervinia in Italy, the French Alps, and the Swiss Alps.
Late January or February is the perfect time to go skiing as you’ll generally have better snow coverage, smaller crowds, lower prices and your choice of resorts. Of course, you will miss out on some of the festive fun like Christmas markets, but you’ll still have a lively après ski scene. This time of year means that you’ll also have more choice of destinations, so you can choose something that suits your needs without worrying so much about snowfall.
How To Choose Accommodation
Your choice of accommodation will depend on a whole host of things including price, location, and personal choice. What you will need to keep in mind is what kind of board basis you’d like – many people choose to go self catered, but bear in mind that cooking after (or before) a long day of snowboarding and skiing might not be your ideal holiday!
Most villages have plenty of restaurants to choose from, so another option is bed and breakfast. This will keep you fuelled up for all that activity in the cold before you head to a local spot for some dinner in the evenings.
Finally, some hotels and chalets offer catered or half board accommodation. In Europe for instance, a catered chalet will typically include breakfast, afternoon tea and/or lunch, and a full dinner often with local wine. These can be good choices for groups, as you normally have to book the entire chalet.
How To Actually Get Skiing
Try to pick somewhere to stay that’s close to ski lifts or a shuttle bus to avoid walking miles in the snow or having to fork out for taxis or other transport. You’ll also need to rent ski equipment, which can usually be done from the ski resort or one of many independent places in the towns. Remember to also buy your ski passes and factor this into your budget.
It’s also recommended that first-timers book into ski school and learn the basics as soon as possible. That way, you’ll be able to hit the slopes solo sooner.
Want to put your newfound knowledge to the test? Book a ski holiday here.