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The festive fun is over and the grey British winter lies ahead - unless you choose to spend a week or two of it in the winter sun.
But what's the best ski resort for you? Read on for our suggestions of where and when to make the most of winter…
Image courtesy of
Families can't go far wrong with La Plagne (general season: mid-December to end of April) in the French Alps. The various villages that make up La Plagne have great facilities for all ages including excellent nursery slopes, kindergartens and child care facilities and great opportunities to go on little ski adventures - the resort is linked to Les Arcs by the mighty Vanoise Express cable car which carries you over a 1,000-foot chasm (an adventure in itself) and there are endless easy runs on which to explore the whole area.
And if you're looking for real thrills, La Plagne's Olympic bobsleigh run is open to the public every evening - older kids and adults will never forget the 1.5km high speed descent.
This ski area is also a good option for half-term as there are plenty of special events for families over this period. Wherever you look, remember that fully contained resorts are going to be a bonus; things like jumping on and off ski buses won't be fun for the whole family.Families
Ischgl (late November to early May) in Austria is the place to party. The resort starts and ends the ski season with a massive free party - headline acts in recent years have included The Killers, Elton John and Kylie.
If you can't be in town for either of these events don't worry - Ischgl's après-ski action is legendary, in fact it starts before the skiing has ended at mountain restaurants such as the Paznauner Thaya and continues almost until daybreak back down in the town, with dancing on the tables at the Hotel Elizabeth, crazy sing-alongs at the mad Niki's Stadl and all-night clubbing at the likes of Pacha and Livingroom.
So, beginning or end of the season - or in between - you won't go far wrong with a visit to Ischgl if you want to party as hard as you ski.
Image courtesy of www.ischgl.com
If you're hitting the slopes with skiers and/or boarders of differing abilities and maybe even one or two non-skiers, Cortina d'Ampezzo (late November to late April) in the Italian Dolomites is a good bet.
From the super-steep Staunies couloir for the experts to cruiser slopes through some of the most beautiful mountains on Earth to long, inviting nursery slopes, a week here will keep everyone happy. Evenings can be spent wining and dining in the chic town centre among Italy's beautiful people or hitting a nightclub or casino, and non-skiers can't fail to enjoy wandering around Cortina's attractive streets, shops and coffee houses, or they can even take a day trip to nearby Venice.
This is the kind of ski town you can visit any time as it will always look beautiful and there will always be a buzz on and off the slopes.
Cortina D'Ampezzo ▶Evenings can
dining in the
The resort that's gaining all the accolades from those in the know at the moment is the relatively little-known Red Mountain (early December to early April) in British Columbia. In recent years this once tiny ski hill has surreptitiously grown to become one of the largest in North America, with some of the most challenging skiing you'll find.
Steeps, trees, even cat- and heli-skiing are all par for the course around here; and when the action on the slopes is over, the resort's satellite town of Rossland is one of the funkiest ski towns in Canada.
'Red' is a good half-term option as it never gets anything like as crowded as European resorts, and it's also noticeably cheaper on the whole than the Alps.
Red Mountain ▶
Image courtesy of Dave HeathSteeps, trees, even cat-
and heli-skiing are all
par for the course
For beginners, Courchevel (mid-December to end of April) is a top choice since it has a very good selection of runs to suit everyone from complete beginner to enthusiastic novice; and even better, eight of the ski lifts are free.
Add to that a great selection of slopeside accommodation, restaurants, bars and nightlife and easy access from the UK, and Courchevel makes a pretty failsafe option for anyone making their first turns on skis - though remember, it can be pricey in the more upmarket areas.
Visit in late winter and you'll avoid crowds on the slopes as well as enjoying warmer weather.
first turns on
Resorts such as Bansko (early December to early May) in Bulgaria and Poiana Brasov (early December to early April) in Romania always feature high on any list of budget options, although the skiing experience doesn't tend to be as slick as resorts in western Europe. If you'd rather stay closer to home, check out the French or Spanish Pyrenees which in recent years have enjoyed some epic snowfalls, or Italy's Sella Ronda region (early December to mid-April), which is part of the biggest ski area in the world and also has the added attraction of mind blowing mountain scenery along with delicious Italian food and wine.
Make your trip later in the season for lower prices and a better chance of good snow conditions.
There's a wide world of ski destinations out there, with something for everyone. Try Skiresort.info for information on local ski seasons, or Ski Club Great Britain. Remember that you will likely find much better deals if you are flexible and are able to avoid local school holidays. In France, for example, half-term is staggered across the various regions, so it could pay to check before you fix on an area.
Staying safe on the
slopes: Top tips1)
Always warm up properly; do a few stretches to get your muscles ready for the pounding they're about to take!2)
Have the right gear; mountain weather is unpredictable.3)
Ski in control and keep an eye out for those skiers who aren't.4)
Always ski with a partner, especially if going off-piste (when you should ideally be skiing with a guide).5)
Avoid too much alcohol, especially at lunchtime - you'll feel its effects more at altitude. Some insurance policies also have a zero-alcohol tolerance.6)
Also bear in mind that the sun is more intense at altitude so you'll need a high factor sun cream.7)
If you're a novice, consider taking some lessons; you'll improve more quickly and have more fun.8)
If you start to feel tired, call it a day; accidents are far more likely to happen when you're flagging.
As for skis and snowboards, unless you ski several weeks each winter it's probably better to rent. There are four main reasons for this:1.
You'll save the hassle and charges of taking your skis on the plane (see 'Travelling with skis' for more details).2.
You can ski on the latest models of skis or snowboards every winter.3.
If you don't like what you're riding, you can take it back and change it.4.
Your skis or board will be professionally maintained by qualified ski technicians.Ski resorts tend to
be pretty relaxed
so you don't need
to be slicked up
like James Bond
Ski resorts tend to be pretty relaxed so you don't need to be slicked up like James Bond for a night out, even if you're visiting a casino.
You can pretty much wear what you would for a night out back home, although bear in mind that you'll need a warm coat, gloves, hat and boots or grippy-soled shoes for walking around in the snow.
If you're planning on other outdoor activities such as winter walking, snowshoeing or dog-sledding, your ski gear will be fine for keeping you warm, dry and comfortable.
And don't forget to take some loose fitting clothing such as PJs or tracksuit bottoms for lounging around in your chalet - and bathing costumes for those essential spa visits!
On the slopes
It's always best to take specialist ski clothing if possible, with proper ski pants to ensure your legs remain warm, dry and comfortable.
If you can't afford it, regular hillwalking clothes - hat, fleece, jacket and gloves - will do the job.
'Layering' is essential as it allows you to add or remove layers depending on how warm or cold you feel. Wear wickable, breathable fabrics - not cotton which will absorb sweat and leave you cold and clammy!
Other essential items include sunglasses and/or ski goggles, a ski helmet (especially for kids), a small backpack for carrying your essentials while on the slopes, and - of course - skis and boots, which is where recreational skiers face the dilemma of whether to rent or buy.
If you ski every year it's well worth buying your own boots as that way you know your feet will be comfortable (assuming you've taken time to get them fitted properly).If you ski every year
it's well worth buying
your own boots
If you're not renting at the resort, taking your own skis can add a hefty amount to your travel costs; in fact it averages out at around £330 for a family of four depending on the travel provider. That same family could expect to spend only around £200 if they were to rent skis for a week instead - with the £130 saving effectively buying a week's lift pass in many resorts.
You can calculate your own potential savings at Intersport's very useful Ski
and Snowboard Hire Calculator.
If you do choose to take your own skis or board, it's worth checking them in with the airline before you head to the airport. Most airlines charge for skis and boards, irrespective of the weight, and there's
quite a bit of variation - Monarch are one of the cheapest at £50 return, while Ryanair are the most expensive at £120 return.
Also bear in mind though that ski gear is pretty weighty - even though you are paying extra for transporting your gear, if you go over the airline's stated weight allowance for skis or snowboards you'll incur an additional charge. This varies between airlines and can be found on their websites, and you can also check out all the national carriers' weight restrictions at Netflights.
Finally, don't forget about insurance. If you have an annual travel insurance policy check to see whether it covers for winter sports, and if you plan on skiing off-piste you may require additional cover.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author,
and do not necessarily reflect the views of M&S Bank.