Welcome to the third and last of three part with our very best advice on how to get the most out of your family skiing holiday. Last time we focused on choosing the right accommodation. This time we look at “when to go”.
When to go
The first decision is inside or outside the school holidays. If your children are not yet at school there is an obvious advantage in missing the busier and more expensive school holiday weeks. Check too that you are outside the local French school holidays.
If your children are older and at school and you don’t want to take them out of school then the price you will pay will depend on the holiday you choose. February half term weeks are the most popular and most expensive because the snow conditions then are usually the best of the year. However the first week of the season often lies within school holiday time and is the bargain week of the season.
Similarly a late Easter will provide a bargain week at the end of the skiing season and skiing conditions are still highly likely to be very good. Late season skiing has become much more reliable with increased snow-making facilities and in many recent years the snow conditions have been so good that it has been a frustration when the lifts close in late April when skiing conditions are excellent running into May.
The other two school holiday periods are Christmas and New Year, both magical times to be in the snowy Alps with your family, especially now that a white Christmas seems to be a rare event in the UK.
All parts of the season have their own special character and fans among skiers. Here’s our view:
The traditional first skiing week of the season is eagerly awaited by keen skiers. We like to enjoy the wind up to Christmas at home but then escape to the Alps before it gets too much before returning ready for Christmas at home. There is a buzz at the beginning of the season. There is no doubt that Christmas in the Alps is special with a young family and New Year is popular with those who like to spend Christmas at home with a treat to look forward to when the festivities at home are over. This is a great time to ski with a family especially if keeping within school holidays is a priority. It is wise to check how Christmas and New Year will be celebrated so as not to miss out. We like to make a big festive effort!
A concern in people’s minds is early season snow cover and it has been thinner than usual in some recent years. Our advice is to pick snow-sure resorts and this has certainly been a prime factor in our choice of resorts in Family Ski. This is our assessment of the snow-sureness of our resorts.
January is the quietest time to ski, ideal if you are looking for less busy slopes and because of that it is a good time for beginners and less experienced skiers. Cold powdery January snow is also easier to ski in for beginners. Restaurants are less crowded at lunchtime, service more attentive perhaps. Queues barely exist and January has the feel of an earlier age on the slopes. It is also good value and certainly the cheapest time of the year for accommodation, flights and tunnel charges if driving. There are some other tips here on making skiing affordable.
It’s the coldest time of the year on average so time to wrap up well. However unless the weather is bad and the wind is blowing you don’t feel cold with the right clothes. The real difference is that you will be enjoying a cosy lunch and hot chocolate stops indoors rather than outside.
February is peak skiing time with generally the best skiing conditions of the year as the snow depth has had time to build up, the snow is still cold and powdery and yet the sun has started to make lunch on the terrace feel more realistic on some days. It is also the busiest time on the slopes, half term in the UK and French school holidays are taken in successive weeks with different regions taking different weeks.
The quiet peaceful slopes have gone and the atmosphere is hustle and bustle with everyone having fun together. There will be some lift queues but these clear quickly nowadays with super-fast new lift systems. Of more concern the slopes will be busier and this is perhaps not the best time for beginners for that reason.
March is quieter, particularly after the first week and the slopes and restaurants become less busy. It is a bit like January except that you are exchanging those cosy log fire lunches for sunny terraces. The days are longer, the sun is stronger yet the snow is usually plentiful with good falls of snow. The snow can be cold, powdery and easy to ski but the sun will make it more variable. March is good for those who enjoy long days as more daylight lengthens lift opening times. It still feels like winter in the high Alps even if the birds are starting to sing.
April is the sun-lovers time to ski. You will need your high factor sun cream and dark lenses as you enjoy not only sunny lunches but sunny après ski as well. In April you have a wonderful experience of skiing from one season to another, from Winter to Spring as you descend from the top of the mountain to the bottom. There are often significant snow falls and some excellent off-piste skiing conditions but any powder will soon become heavy. The skiing day takes on a new rhythm as you look for sun-softened slopes in the morning and then move on to higher slopes later in the day looking for goldilocks spring snow – just melted in the sun enough to be soft not too slushy.
April used to be thought of late to ski but late season conditions in recent years have been very good and snow making facilities have meant that resorts have been able to build up strategic piles of snow to repair any thin patches lower down. This makes a big difference because in times gone by skiing conditions higher up on a run were often excellent and all that was needed was a bit of extra snow at the bottom to keep runs open and very enjoyable and the new snow cannons have now seen to that. Just as early in the season choosing a snow-sure resort is important. Have a look at ours here.
We hope you’ve found our advice helpful
That’s the last of our three articles.
We have been working hard for over 20 years to perfect family skiing holidays. If you have any questions please get in touch!