Pick your resort
From Aspen to Zermatt, and the thousands of others in between, choosing a ski resort for your vacation can be a daunting and confusing task. The first question should be: How far are you willing to travel? This should narrow down your search considerably. Once you have your ski area picked – say, the Swiss Alps or Canadian Rockies – the next task is to choose a resort in that area that best suits the ski levels of the people in your group. Beginners in tow? You’ll want a resort with plenty of easy “nursery” slopes. Meanwhile, experienced skiers may be hungry for black-rated trails and off-piste terrain.
You’ll find that many resorts cater to all levels. However, some are more geared towards a particular type of skier. For example, Chamonix in the French Alps is considered by many to be the extreme ski capital of the world – beginners, and even intermediates, should steer clear – while Aspen, Colorado, is where everyone comes to learn, thanks to its lack of crowds, and long, easy trails. You may also want to consider a resort’s nightlife options and childcare facilities.
Got your eye on the Prada all-in-one Kate Moss rocked a few years back? If this is your first ski trip, our advice would be: Put the credit card away and – if you can – borrow.
After a few days on the slopes, you may decide skiing is not for you and you’ll be stuck with an outfit you’ll never wear again. So borrow as much as you can – outerwear, gloves, fleece, goggles and helmet. Buy your own thermals (look for base layers made of Merino wool for warmth and wicking away moisture) and ski socks though.
As for boots, poles and skis or a snowboard, rent these at a ski shop upon arriving at a resort. This means you won’t need to schlep them around on your travels and you can easily swop equipment during the week if you need to.
B is for beginners
Two words for you: Book lessons. If you’re travelling with friends or family members who can ski, don’t let them be your instructors. They’ll soon get bored of teaching you on the nursery slopes and, before you know it, you’ll be teetering at the top of a far-too-steep trail with the dreaded words “you’ll be fine” ringing in your ears. Instead, sign up for ski school. There are two options: private and group lessons. While most people thrive on the attention offered by the former (and more expensive) option, you may enjoy the camaraderie of skiing with other like-minded people. Most schools offer a five- or six-day course of group lessons, with classes in the morning and free time in the afternoon to practise what you’ve learnt.
Most resorts have a choice of ski schools, so do some research to see which one suits you best and sign up when you book your trip.
What about kids?
“At what age can my child start skiing?” It’s the question on the minds of many parents. The answer? Children can start skiing, or snowboarding, as soon as they can walk. They may take a while to master turning, but kids around the ages of two or three can start to get the feeling of sliding on snow very early on. In fact, because little children don’t fear falling, they are more open, and it makes developing proper techniques natural. The key is to let the pros do the teaching – enrol your little ’un in a children’s ski programme (private sessions are best for very young tots) staffed by certified instructors who are experts at combining teaching with play.
1. Travel early or late. Costs for skiing at the beginning and end of the season are considerably lower due to the risk of snow conditions at these times. However, you can lower the risk of patchy pistes by choosing an area further north or at higher altitudes, or a glacier resort where snow is guaranteed 365 days a year.
2. Rather than paying for a full-area lift pass, consider buying a cheaper local-area pass instead. For example, a full 4 Vallees day pass (covering five Swiss ski resorts and 400km of pistes) for next season will set you back €71 (US$74). But if you buy a pass for just 220km in the area, the cost is €56.
3. Check the weekday pricing, as many resorts offer lower ticket prices during the week. You’ll not only save money, but also escape weekend warriors. Keep an eye out for “kids ski free” deals. Many resorts offer promotions in which children ski free upon purchase of an adult lift ticket.
4. Before you fork out money for a ski guide to show you around the mountain, check whether the resort offers free mountain tours (as many do).
5. Shop at out-of-resort supermarkets and stock up on food for a mountain picnic, instead of paying exorbitant restaurant prices. Take a water bottle with you. Dehydration is a common issue at altitude, and a bottle of water at a mountain restaurant can cost up to US$4.
6. Avoid hefty mobile phone fees when communicating with friends on the slopes by opting for walkie-talkies instead.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.