The season is off to a slow start in the Alps. As followers of our Snow Report already know, there’s good skiing already at altitude, in the likes of Tignes, Val Thorens, Cervinia and Ischgl. But below 2000m there’s very little snow, and several big-name resorts have had to postpone their opening days as a result. Word Cup ski races in both Val d’Isere and Courchevel have been cancelled.
Not surprisingly, news of the grassy pistes has spread, demand for early-season trips has slumped, and tour operators have had to cut prices to stimulate demand. We’re not just talking about holidays departing on December 13 or 14. Now Christmas and even New Year ski holidays are being discounted, and a cursory glance over the deals pages this afternoon turned up a week over New Year – traditionally, one of the most popular of the season – for less than £500pp, half-board, including flights and transfers.
Of course, if the snow conditions remain unchanged for the next three weeks even £500 is going to seem like too much, if it’s for a holiday in a low-altitude resort. But the weather charts are suggesting that the long run of mild weather is coming to an end. We already know the temperature is going to drop sharply over the coming weekend, and stay fairly low till Wednesday. That will give the snow cannons in the lower resorts the chance to run. Our snow forecast for the Alps suggests there’ll be light-to-moderate snowfall across the northern Alps in that time too. But what’s really interesting is that the mid-range forecasting models are currently suggesting a second cold and snowy snap around December 13, which – if it comes – should be enough to bring the season back to life. I must stress that it’s not certain yet, and I don’t think we can talk about endless blizzards and deep powder. But skiable pistes? If the forecasts hold good, then yes.
Tuesday December 9 update: the forecast for the coming weekend remains uncertain. Since temperatures dropped on Friday night, there’s been widespread light snowfall and prodigious work done by the snow cannons (check out yesterday’s snow report for an update). Today, for example, Courchevel is planning to open the Saulire and Verdons pistes from the top of the ski area back down into the resort. However, the second cold snap predicted for this weekend now looks less rather than more likely, and there may be a mild foehn wind blowing instead, with the freezing point up to 2000m. The prognosis is changing daily: but for the time being bargain-hunters should play it safe for Christmas, and target a high-altitude resort with lots of skiing above the 2300m mark – such as Ischgl, which now has 76km of skiable pistes.
Here’s a video, shot there on December 3, showing how conditions were on the upper slopes.
Here are some of the most eye-catching deals available at the time of writing. For more ski deals, check out the websites of operators such as CrystalSki, Inghams, Mark Warner, Neilson, and Ski World. Consult specialist travel agencies, too – such as Sno, Snowfinders, Momentum Ski and Snow-Wise.
A pre-Christmas week in Tignes for £419 with Alpine Elements
Fancy taking a chance on a pre-Christmas week in the Alps? Then high-altitude Tignes is one of the safest bets, thanks to its ever-reliable glacier. Given the forecast, a combination of snow cannon-friendly temperatures and light-to-moderate snowfall should see further areas of the slopes opening up over the coming week, as well. With Alpine Elements, a week from December 14 in the chalet-hotel Le Pramecou, in Tignes-le-Lac costs £419pp, chalet board, including flights and transfers.
Christmas in St Anton for £745pp for a family of four with Mark Warner
Mark Warner is cutting the cost of Christmas ski holidays to several key chalet hotels, including the Schweizerhof in St Anton. It’s set in a quiet spot on the edge of Nasserein, and has a sunny nursery and quick access to the best beginner slopes in the resort. The price for a week from December 21 for family of four is down £1,520 to £2,980, chalet board, including flights and transfers. Childcare starts from £155 per child extra. Mark Warner is also discounting holidays in high-altitude Tignes, although not by as much.
Christmas in Passo Tonale for £499pp with Crystal
There’s already been snow in Passo Tonale: this bit of Italy has had a couple of localised storms in recent days and the cover on the pistes is already 30-60cm deep. Much of the snow due next week will fall north of here, but the accompanying chill will allow the snow cannons to run to supplement Mother Nature’s bounty. With Crystal, one week from December 20 at the Hotel Dolomiti costs £499pp, half-board, including flights and transfers.
Christmas in La Rosiere for £625pp for a family of four with Esprit
It might be worth waiting till the beginning of next week, just to be sure the anticipated snowfall comes to La Rosiere, and the snow cannons get to work, before snapping up this eye-catching offer. With child-friendly Esprit, a week in the Chalet Les Landelières from December 21 will cost a family of four £2,500, chalet board, including flights and transfers – a saving of £808. The chalet is next to one of the ski lifts and Esprit Classic Child Care is available from £215 per child for a week.
Christmas in La Plagne for €227pp with Pierre & Vacances
Self-catering specialist Pierre & Vacances is holding a snap sale of early-season ski weeks, including Christmas and New Year – and discounts of up to 30% are up for grabs. For example, a week from December 20 in a one-bedroom apartment (sleeps 4) in the Residence Le Quartz in Belle Plagne is down from €1,515 to €909, self-catering (but not including travel). Belle Plagne is one of the villages of La Plagne, and is set at 2050m – and there are excellent, easy-skiing pistes above this level. Providing the forecast holds good, these will be open at Christmas.
Christmas in Val Thorens for £499pp with Erna Low
Val Thorens already has 27 pistes open, and with most of the slopes set at 2300m or higher, you can expect plenty more to be on offer by Christmas; as well as links over to the neighbouring valley of Meribel-Mottaret. Self-catering specialist Erna Low is currently offering a 35% discount on Christmas holidays there, staying in the Machu Pichu residence. Arriving December 20, one week costs from £499, self-catering, including flights and private transfers, based on five sharing. Book by December 10.
Christmas in La Plagne for £624pp for a family of four with Ski Famille
Family-skiing specialist Ski Famille still has room for a family of four in its Chalet Nicole in La Plagne over Christmas. One week from December 20 costs £2,499 in total for a family of four, chalet board, including flights and transfers. That’s a saving of £1,564.
25% off all Premiere Neige holidays in Sainte Foy Tarentaise
To celebrate its 12th birthday, Sainte Foy specialist Premiere Neige is offering 25% off all remaining dates for 2014-15 ski season – in all its properties. These range from one-bedroom self-catering apartments to plush, eight bedroom chalets, and there are Christmas dates up for grabs too. The offer closes at 6pm on 12/12/2014.
The fifth skier goes free at VIP’s Refuge Darbay
VIP’s new, no-nonsense ski pad, the Refuge Darbay, has one of the best locations in Verbier. Just 100m from the key Medran lift, it’s also close enough to the pistes that you can ski to the back door whenever the snow’s good. It sleeps just 4-6 guests, and to stimulate demand, the company is offering a free place for the 5th member of every group, all season. Prices start from £799pp a week, chalet board, including flights and transfers.
20% off an Easter apartment in Les Arcs
Self-catering specialists Peak Retreats and Ski Collection are already looking ahead to the first week of the Easter holidays, starting on March 28, and have cut prices by 20%. Up at Arc 2000 in Les Arcs, one week in the 4* Chalets des Neiges currently starts from £218pp, self-catering, including a return Eurotunnel crossing for a car and its passengers, with Ski Collection. Book by January 1, 2015.