So you’ve decided to head to the snow for the first time, and sure you have loads of questions, some of them have been asked and answered in our skiing forum. Here we pose the top seven tips that you should be aware of when deciding where to go to on your first skiing holiday.
- How Long : 1 week will be more than enough. Remember that you will be probably using muscles that you have never used before, and skiing as a beginner is tiring. Also there is a cost consideration, skiing is not cheap and a typical week can cost over €1,200.
- Skiing Lessons : This is something you should definitely do. It will insure that you get the most out of your holiday. Having friends show you how to ski, may save you money, but you will also be keeping them from enjoying the slopes. We would recommend that you enrol in a ski school. Most of these operate in the mornings, from 9am until 12.30pm, and are probably better that taking a full day. Having the afternoon free allows you to practise at your own pace, what you have learned already. And also insures that you don’t get too tired.
- Where : Choose a location with an English Ski School, most of the resorts do offer these, but it is something that you should check. Typically higher altitude locations have better conditions. But do remember that different ski resorts have different prices. As a rule of thumb Switzerland is more expensive than any of the other central Europe countries to ski in. Some Swiss even travel to Austria, where it is cheaper ! Most tour operators only offer a limited choice for location.
- When : Most resorts open in the first weeks of December and close after Easter. For best conditions, to insure that there is snow , we would recommend that you aim to ski between the middle of January to the middle of March. This should guarantee that you will have nice powder when you are going skiing. Christmas skiing can be hit or miss, and tends to be more on the expensive side.
- Insurance: Don’t forget about skiing insurance ! Remember that snowboarding and skiing are often considered extreme sports by insurance companies. So first check with your health insurance company (if you have one) to see if you are covered. While in Europe (& Switzerland) you are covered by the E111 card, so do remember to bring that with you. This only covers you in emergency cases, i.e. you are in pain and need some medical attention. But if on returning to Ireland you need follow ups, this is where your health insurance will come into play, to cover the costs of out patient care, etc.
- Equipment: If you are just starting off skiing, it isn’t really worth buying all the skiing gear at the beginning. What will happen if you decide you actually don’t enjoy skiing and the cold/wet activity ? We would recommend that you buy at least some good gloves, socks, a hat and maybe goggles/sun glasses for the snow. Many sports shops offer the option to rent all the other parts of the gear you could need. Helmets are recommend for both children, but these can also be rented.
- Self Catering or Boarding : Here is one option that can save you some money. But renting a chalet for the week and preparing your own meals you can sometimes save up to 15-20% of the costs. If you are going to stay in a hotel, you should take the half board option, which just includes breakfast. At most of these resorts there are plenty of choice of places to eat, and you should use the opportunity to taste all the local specialities. You will normally be able to buy a hearty lunch on the slopes.
- Children: Most resorts cater more than adequately (ski schools/accomodation/entertainment) for the younger auidence so don’t be afraid to travel with a young family. Some ski resorts even have baby sitting services for the kids who are too young to ski. Children from the age of 4 or 5 are normally old enough and capable enough to start to learn how to ski. Normally children won’t start snowboarding until they are older, 12 or 13, due to the fact that heavy board can be a limiting factor.
We hope that our guide will help you as you zoom down the slopes in 2008. Remember “Skiing is for everyone” !