When you first set foot in this delightful Swiss resort you will be smitten by the sheer beauty of it, fearsome, steep mountains, how truly Swiss it is. Many regard this ski resort as the perfect one surrounded by a dozen or so peaks dominated of course by the most famous the Matterhorn, which is probably the most spectacular peak in the world.

The first time visitor to Zermatt is sure to be in for a treat as they step down from the train, Zermatt is a car free village, as you stand on the square outside the station you will be struck, no doubt open mouthed at the Matterhorn towering above the village, you know you’re in for a treat. Zermatt fully deserves its status as one of the world’s best winter resorts, which has ski slopes that fully cater for all abilities, a traditional village, some of the world’s best altitude dining and good nightlife.

One thing that the skier will not be short of in Zermatt and that is plenty of ski runs, the Matterhorn Ski Paradise is vast, with just over 300km of pistes, including Europe’s highest run. It incorporates a glacier and accesses Cervinia in Italy, offering skiers of every level acres of terrain.

As a high class international resort, Zermatt has many hotels, restaurants and shops but it is not cheap but the standards are incredibly high.  This includes the mountain restaurants too, which are some of the best in the Alps. Lower cost accommodation and eating is in shorter supply but there is some although it requires searching as well as a good knowledge of the resort.

Perhaps amongst its biggest pluses for a top ski holiday is the sheer charm of Zermatt. The town retains a special something in the way that it is laid out and the fact that it is traffic free, with only small electric vehicles and horse drawn carriages allowed.

Flights to the resort are to Geneva and the transfer is about three hours, tour operators and ski specialist fly from Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Isle of Man, Liverpool, London Gatwick, London Luton, London Southend, London Stansted, Manchester, Newcastle and Southampton.


Picture: David Martyn Hunt

It may only be August but now is the best time to start to think about that ski holiday that you have waited for since you came back from the slopes last winter. There are many advantages to be had by taking this fast train to the slopes of France as well as Switzerland, not least of which is the amount of luggage that you can take without any form of penalty.

The return flight to Chambery or Geneva is likely to cost you around £150/200, but on top of that with EasyJet for example, you would expect to pay for a bag in the hold of £25 booked online, or £40 if checked in at the desk. It does not end there of course as you would have to pay for your skis at the rate of £27 if booked online, or £35 if checked at the desk, that is each way of course! So you could potentially be paying up to £350 to get to the airport in France or Switzerland and you would still have a transfer to the resort.

With the Eurostar Ski service you will be taken to your resort in France by a local connection to popular resorts such as Les Arcs, Courchevel, Tignes, Val d’Isère, and Meribel, or Switzerland to Verbier, Zermatt and Saas Fee. The 2013/2014 seasonal ski services from St Pancras International, or Ashford International, will run weekly from December 20th, 2013 until April 12th, 2014 with fares starting at £149.


Picture: Mike Knell

It may seem an unlikely spot, but for a midweek ski trip fewer places can rival the Sierra Nevada in Spain. The reasons for this are that the area is geared up for short stays and unlike many Alpine regions they cater for and anticipate two or three day stay. Mid week is the best time as it is usually quieter, except for Spanish fiesta days when it can become pretty hectic.

The Sierra Nevada ski village Pradollano has developed significantly over recent years and has one of the longest ski seasons in Europe which can be from the end of November to the beginning of May. Just a couple of hours from Malaga airport on good roads it makes a trip from the UK very accessible. Mid week flights to Malaga with budget airlines are normally cheap and car hire in the winter period is low. The drawback can be the charge made for ski equipment, but ski hire in the resort is competitive and the quality is high.

Unlike many Alpine resorts, hotels offer a price for the room and not per person, so two or three people sharing can make for a reasonably priced holiday. The skiing is great for beginners and intermediates but less so if you are expert, although there are some good red runs to the village from the peak. All in all the Sierra Nevada offers skiers another choice and many have some midweek skiing and a few days in the sun on the coast on the Costa del Sol.

Skiing holidays can be tricky when it comes to booking the right one but below we have put together some hints and tips that you should follow when booking your holiday to ensure that you are really making the most out of the experience that you really can.

1.    Make sure that you look around. Don’t just click on the first website/ resort that you find. You should check out lots of different resorts in lots of different areas. Why not ask your friends, or read online reviews? You could even walk into your nearest travel agent and pick up a brochure or two.
2.    Make sure the resort you chose has the facilities that you require. If it is your first time skiing, or you are taking your younger children, you need to ensure that they have first-time slopes and/or learner session; otherwise the holiday may end in disaster! It may well also be worth checking whether the resort does equipment hire as it may prove to be a lot easier and cheaper to just hire your equipment there.
3.    Other facilities. As well as the slopes, the other facilities of the resort are also important to consider too, its not just all about the slopes, comfort and leisure are also highly important too. Before booking a resort you should also consider the accommodation, other activities that you are able to do in your free time there and accessibility.

Andorra is located between Spain and France and is an increasingly popular country for ski holidays.  It’s not as busy as France’s ski slopes, for example, but it has some of the best views and the best skiing in Europe. There is the added bonus of duty free shopping, so it is a great destination for those seeking out cheap ski holidays. The other bonus is the lively après-ski!

The Ski Resorts

Andorra boasts a variety of ski resorts, many of which are especially appropriate for beginners and also for mid-level skiers. This makes Andorra a great place for the novice skier and it has excellent ski school facilities. Young skiers and snowboarders love to ski in Andorra, and the busy and active après-ski is an added attraction. Luckily, however, those seeking a peaceful secluded place can also enjoy the quieter resorts in Andorra.

Andorran Accommodation

As ski holidays go, Andorra offers a wide variety of choices of quality accommodation, representing great value for money and affordable prices. There are many welcoming hotels and self-catering apartments, although it is harder to locate catered chalets. If chalet living is the preferred choice for the holiday, however, there are excellent ski deals that include free places for children.


If nightlife is of particular interest, Andorra offers an atmosphere that is vibrant, busy, active, spirited and enthusiastic and there are lots of bars and clubs offering drinks at duty free prices well into the small hours of the morning.

France is a nation famed for its ski resorts.  Some of the most well-known of these are Val D’Isère, Tignes, Chamonix, and Méribel as well as Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys), which as its name suggests, is one of the world’s biggest ski areas.  Many lesser-known resorts are also popular with visitors; France boasts literally hundreds of different skiing areas.

Les Deux Alpes

This resort is located in the Grande Galaxie Ski Area, which means that tourists here have access to more than 250 separate ski runs; more than 200 km of these runs are located inside Les Deux Alpes itself.  Tourists can purchase a combination lift ticket that grants them access to other resorts in the area including La Grave, Serre Chevalier, Brançon, and Puy Saint Vincent.

Because the resort area at Les Deux Alpes is above the snow line, tourists will find themselves surrounded by a winter wonderland.  This is ideal for those who like to immerse themselves in the sport; at this resort, visitors can usually snowboard or ski back to their lodgings when they have finished their runs for the day. 

Les Deux Alpes has 55 ski lifts that can carry more than 60,000 skiers every hour, which means that lines are usually short and tourists can devote most of their skiing hours to the sport rather than logistics. 

Most ski areas in France also welcome Nordic skiers who have travelled cross-country on skis to reach lakes, forests, and other natural wonders.

The town of Chamonix sits in a breathtaking location at the foot of Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc. Though the mountain remains capped in snow throughout the year, winter is undoubtedly the best time to visit and soak in the atmosphere of one of the world’s favourite skiing destinations.

Ski schools offering lessons in English for beginners and intermediates of all ages are to be found all around Chamonix. The ski season usually begins in mid-December and with most of the slopes above the 2,000ft mark it is what is known as a ‘guaranteed snow’ resort. The slopes and ski areas are connected by a fast and reliable shuttle bus service and a sightseeing train, which provides passengers with panoramic views of the inspirational mountains.

If skiing is not your thing, there are plenty of other wonderful activities to make winter in Chamonix a great holiday destination. Snowshoeing can bring you from the town centre to the Mer de Glace; a coiling glacier accessible by picturesque railway train.17kms of snowy footpaths will take you into the depths of the winter landscape. If a little sightseeing further afield is on your agenda, Chamonix is close to several beautiful cities, including the nearby French town of Annecy, Switzerland’s Geneva and Aosta in Italy.

Husky sledding may be one of the most memorable activities Chamonix has to offer. An adventure lasting around one and a half hours, this is a magical experience. After a long day in the cold snow, unwind with a relaxing pampering session in one of Chamonix’s spas. The local fitness centre offers saunas, Turkish baths and a solarium, while the hotels scattered within the town boast newly refurbished spa facilities.

Experience the true meaning of winter in Chamonix with a skiing holiday. Whether you have been hitting the slopes or not, the après ski atmosphere is well-worth experiencing. Relax with a glass of ‘vin chaud’ or a mug of ‘chocolat chaud’ in one of the town’s many cafes or restaurants. With world-class casinos and a cinema that often features films in their original languages, there is no end to the entertainment offered in this international French town.

When deciding where to book your skiing holiday, do as much research as you can. The internet, library, and travel agents are a good place to start but the country’s embassy can also provide very useful information. After choosing the destination, pick the most appropriate resort for you and your family. It should be easy to find out which resorts have ski schools, nursery slopes or advanced slopes and whatever else you need.

Most importantly, check when the best time is to go skiing as some European destinations are suffering from less snow and shorter seasons. If you haven’t skied before, have a few lessons before you go, there are quite a few dry ski slopes around. Make sure you are fairly fit before you go, if you spend your days sitting at a desk, your muscles and joints need to get some exercise first or you are likely to at best be very stiff after your first day skiing or at worst injure yourself.

Unless you are going to spend the whole holiday on the piste, make sure you pack clothes for warmer days, evening and days when you aren’t skiing. You will need plenty of spending money as well as ski resorts tend to be expensive. You can save money by buying your season tickets and passes for the slopes before you go. Your tickets should include ski and boot hire. A family pass can save you even more money.

Choose your holiday insurance carefully. Make sure it covers you for skiing and that it covers transfer home should the worst happen.

The town of Aspen which is nestled atop of the Roaring Fork river valley in Western Colorado makes most people think of the ski resort as a playground of only the rich and famous may be true if you were planning to buy a house there, (average price has now reached the ÂŁ4 million mark) but you should not be put of taking a skiing holiday there, as you don’t need a megastar wallet to go. There are more than 5,300 skiable acres over four mountains in the Aspen area all with varying terrain, ideal for everyone from beginners to experts. There are other perks to skiing in the US compared to European countries especially for beginners with many ski instructors English speaking. There is also Buttermilk which is a ski school where beginners can learn in safety from the faster slopes that are further up the mountains. There is also plenty to enjoy off piste with lots of forests to explore and other activities to enjoy like trekking and the usual sleigh rides. Although you may think a holiday to Aspen may be expensive, if you shop around you can normally find some great ski deals that won’t break the bank and once your there you can keep the cost down as there are many bars and restaurants that won’t break the bank.

Vaujany is a French ski resort that is not very far from the Italian border; the region is a quiet little hamlet – a wonderful place for ski holidays. The resort is designed primarily to cater for beginners – just about 60 percent of all of the runs are for them – a third of them are for intermediate skiers, and only ten percent of the slopes are the kind that advanced (single black diamond) skiers would be able to attempt. The resort has eight-four ski lifts, but it does not have any trams or gondolas. The top of the mountain is located at just over 9000 feet above sea level, the bottom is at around 3,600 feet, and the longest ski run is just slightly less than ten miles in length. There is a hydroelectric plant nearby that provides ample power to the entire region, and the area also has the largest cable car in the world; it connects the resort to the Grandes Rousses region. There are five hotels in the immediate area for people to choose from for their ski holidays, and the ski resort provides care for children from as young as six months; plus there are various other activities for youngsters and skiing lessons are available for the older children. You can access the area by plane or by driving yourself if you have the stamina. The restaurants provide good French and Italian food; there is a variety of cuisine to select from. If you are on a tight budget when looking for your ski holidays check with the Vaujany hotels about special offers that they give for certain times of the year.