Every year, we receive lots of enquires from people thinking about organising their first ever ski or snowboard holiday. Whether it’s a family group with small kids or grownups planning a trip with friends, the one thing these enquiries have in common is that they have LOTS of questions!
If the mountains are calling you, but you’ve never skied before, the prospect of planning a first ski holiday can be quite daunting. Where to go, where to stay, what to organise and what to take with you – these things are second nature to seasoned winter holiday goers, but if you’ve never been before, then how do you know what you need to do?
Well, worry no more – with 8 years of hosting skiers new and old in our chalet (and having been on lots of ski holidays ourselves), we’ve put together this handy step by step guide to help you plan a hassle free first winter adventure
- Choose your dates and resort
Your first task is to decide where to go – do some research online and make sure you choose somewhere that’s good for beginners and/or families. You’ll need a resort where the beginner ‘green’ slopes are easily accessible on foot but where there are also plenty of gentle ‘blue’ runs to progress to once you’ve grasped the basics. If you’re a family, do consider average temperatures and avoid very high exposed resorts as you don’t want the kids to be too cold! Although we never booked with them, we always found the big tour operators brochures handy for resort comparisons and they’re good to leaf through over a glass of wine! For both family and group beginner skiing, we of course recommend Les Gets!
When picking dates, if you’re tied to school holidays, then Easter skiing is increasingly popular and prices are cheaper than February half term. If not, then January is a brilliant choice – with quiet slopes and no queues for lifts you can really make the most of your time on the hill. If you have friends who ski a lot, they’ll invariably have lots of advice, which can be helpful, but they are also likely to talk at length about snow conditions and how you must consider this, which may be confusing! As a rule, if this is going to be your first ski holiday, you really don’t need to worry too much about the snow – whatever the time of year, there will be enough for you, as a beginner, to learn to ski on and to ski all week to your level.
- Book your accommodation
There are a lot of options to consider here – hotels, B&B’s, self-catered apartments, but by far the most convenient choice for your first holiday is a catered chalet. Catered chalets offer half board accommodation, so your breakfast, afternoon tea and dinners with wine are taken care of. This means you don’t need to worry about supermarket shopping, cooking or eating out in the evening when you are tired! If you choose an independent chalet rather than a big company, you’ll also benefit from direct contact with the owners before and during your stay, who will be very happy to help you arrange all aspects of your holiday and answer any questions you might have. Remember that, as a complete beginner, you DON’T want ‘ski in ski out’ accommodation (you can’t ski yet!) but do choose somewhere that’s walking distance to the slopes or easily accessible by bus/car. Chalet Virolet makes a great choice!
- And flights
Do try and book as early as possible to secure the cheapest flight prices – we like to use www.skyscanner.net to compare details. We’ve found that the smaller regional UK airports tend to offer some cracking prices, even last minute, so, for example, think about flying from Leeds/Bradford rather than Manchester or London City rather than Heathrow. Also think about your arrival time in resort – those later flights might be a bit cheaper, but do you really want to start your holiday by arriving in resort at midnight? And for the early flights, do make sure that your accommodation can store luggage for you if you arrive before check in time – you don’t want to be trailing big suitcases around the resort until 4pm!
- Book your airport transfers or car hire
Consider how you’ll get from the airport to resort. If you’re staying with an independent chalet company, they will be able to organise shared or private transfers for you. If you’re with a big company, your coach transfers might be included with your holiday. If you’re going self-catered, car hire could also be an option. If you’re travelling to Les Gets, we highly recommend Skiidy Gonzales for transfers to/from Geneva airport.
- Book your lessons
Perhaps the most important thing to organise – how well your lessons go will have a direct impact on how much you enjoy your holiday and whether you’ll come again! You MUST book your lessons as soon as possible so that you get the slots you want. There is a lot to consider, but generally: If you’re staying for a week – book into ski school every morning. Depending on your budget, you can go for a large school or a smaller independent company, where your class will be smaller. If there are a few of you, then you could go for a small private group lesson, rather than joining an existing ski school course (where you’ll be with other learners). Whichever option you choose, you’ll have your afternoons free to spend together and practice what you’ve learnt so far. If you’re on a short break – book some private lessons for at least your first 2 days – either one to one or as a group if there’s a few of you. Having a dedicated instructor will give you the best chance of getting up and skiing in as short a time as possible. Again, depending on budget, you can choose a large school or an independent company. If you’re coming to Les Gets, check out our lessons page for some recommendations.
- Select and purchase your ski pass
You’ll need to buy a ski pass and can usually do this online in advance (sometimes at a discounted rate) or in resort when you arrive. If you’re staying with an independent chalet company, they can purchase your passes for you so you don’t need to worry about it. Also, pay attention when you book your ski lessons as sometimes a free or discounted lift pass is included in the lesson price. How do you know which pass to buy? Well, most ski resorts in Europe are part of a larger ‘linked’ ski area (for example Les Gets/Morzine is part of the larger Portes du Soleil area). If you’re a beginner, you will not need to buy a large area pass – in this example, just the Les Gets/Morzine pass will give you enough range for your first trip.
- Sort out your equipment hire
If skiing, you’ll need to hire skis, ski boots, poles and a helmet. For snowboarding, you need a snowboard, boots and a helmet. In every resort, there are lots of shops to choose from and they’ll vary hugely in terms of the service you receive and quality of kit. As a beginner, you need somewhere that will look after you and ensure your kit is well fitting and comfortable. This is where, again, it really is best to choose independent accommodation who will help you with this and can also usually get you a good discount! It’s also advisable to use a hire shop where you can leave your kit overnight, so you don’t have to carry anything back to your accommodation each night!
- Get the clothes you need for the slopes
It’s always worth asking friends if they have anything you can borrow – there’s no point buying your own kit until you know you’ll ski again! And rather than buying new, Ebay is great for picking up barely used kit. Getting the right gear for your first ski trip needn’t be complicated or expensive.
As a minimum (assuming you are hiring a helmet) you’ll need:
– Ski trousers (salopettes)
– A ski jacket
– Ski gloves
– A warm hat
– Waterproof boots or snow boots
– Ski Goggles and sunglasses
– Not clothing, but you’ll also need Suncream for your face and lips!
Depending on the weather forecast, you’ll also potentially need a fleece and thermals, but you can buy these cheaply online or from regular shops & supermarkets. If you do want to buy some new kit, then the SportsPursuit website has a good choice at good prices.
So there you have it – an easy 8 step guide to planning your first brilliant ski holiday – why not get started today?