Before you book that holiday or jump in your car, ask yourself what is it you want from a resort. Do you need instruction? Are you there for the boarding or the night life? Freeride or Freestyle? Do you need a hotel to pamper you or do you want the freedom of your own apartment? And the big one, how much cash do you have?
In the Northern Hemisphere most resorts open fully in mid December but some open late November. If you get early snow you could find yourself alone on the slopes. Resorts generally close in late April with some high altitude resorts having summer boarding on glaciers. Christmas, New Year, February half term and Easter are steer clear times, the resorts are always packed and accommodations at a premium. If you have to go at these times pick a resort with an extensive lift system or you’ll find you’re queuing more than boarding. The choice of holiday options has never been better. If you want to spend big you can with some European resorts offering 5 star hotels on the piste. If cash is short you can often find a bunk house. You can also get great last minute deals with tour operators offering hassle free half board chalet based weeks.
Altitude is vital. Some of the lower resort’s struggle for snow and often rely on artificial snowmaking. Higher normally means better snow fall and coverage although some high resorts suffer from strong winds which damages the off piste conditions as well as the piste. Altitude of the resorts town as well as it slopes is important, the higher the better or you may find yourself picking your way through rocks and grass if you want to board back to your accommodation. The higher resorts mostly come with a higher price. If money is no problem head high, it could mean the difference between a great trip and a good one.
Small may be better
Often small resorts which may be cheaper will join up with huge interlinked areas, such as Le Trois Vallees in France or the Port du Soleil which links 14 resorts in France and Switzerland. Before rushing to a huge area and paying that hard earned cash for a expensive lift pass think about your standard. Beginners will only use a few pistes and most riders tend to find favourite spots and stick to those, some just hit the fun parks and don’t even need a lift pass. In most resorts you can buy a daily upgrade on your pass which allows you to board other valleys. This could save you money if the weather turns bad and the top lifts are shut all week, and gives you the freedom to decide on the day.