EASTER - THE NEW XMAS?
- Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
After three abysmal starts to the season in a row in the Alps and huge dumps of snow in early March, we got to wondering: should Easter be the new Christmas for skiing and snowboarding?
Wednesday March 8, 2017 - Email this article to a friend
Easter falls late this year - mid-April.
Too late to risk a ski trip?
Certainly not, and there are some signs that more of us are choosing a late season break.
Here at PlanetSKI we are great fans of skiing in April and even May.
It has so many advantages: the long, light days, the warm sunshine, the soft spring snow, the sitting outside with a cool beverage
Enjoying the spring
Enjoying the spring
Then there's the fact that the slopes are generally quiet. See our report on skiing in April last year.
And the previous year our editor, James Cove, was in Paradiski and other resorts - see here for how much fun you can have:
Palm trees in Paradiski
James and random Spring friends
This year, the biggest snowfalls of the season across most of the Alps have come in early March.
We've spoken to tour operators, the alpine weather expert, Fraser Wilkin of Weather To Ski and to one family who ski at Easter every year.
We asked if our weather and holiday patterns are changing.
"We have certainly seen increased interest in spring skiing over December skiing lately, though many guests are very committed to their annual Christmas or New Year ski trip," says Louise Newton, Head of Marketing for Esprit, Ski Total and Inghams.
She says many people are looking to book second trips this year right at the end of the season, thanks to the recent big snowstorms in the Alps.
As a result Inghams has just introduced new short breaks over the Easter weekend to the high-altitude French resorts of Tignes and Val d'Isère.
And one of our partner resorts, Les Menuires, might be worth checking out for Easter - see why here.
Tignes, late April 2014 - photo Christine Bird
Richard Sinclair, founder of the travel agent, Sno, says there has been a shift among his customers.
"The biggest trend is the continued migration of Christmas and New Year families to booking the other end of the season at Easter," he says.
"We've contacted regular Easter bookers, as it's risky waiting for a last-minute deal this year, with flights already selling out for that key fortnight.
"If you can bear to drive down, the self-drive packages which include ferry ticket will be the biggest bargains for that last peak date of the winter, as the flights might sell out but there's always some rooms left."
Another ski travel agency, Iglu, reports that bookings for December trips struggled again this season thanks to concerns about the snow combined with difficult Christmas and New Year departure dates.
In contrast, bookings for this April are up 37 per cent on the same period last year.
"We've noticed a general shift in recent seasons with people more likely to take a second break at the end of the season whereas in years gone by they may have headed out for a start of season fix," says Product Manager, Nick Jackson.
Crystal Ski says its evidence is mixed and any trends won't become clear until the end of the season.
The company did, however, book more skiers at Easter than at Christmas in the 2015-16 season and says high-altitude resorts are in great demand at Easter this year.
Kelly Russell regularly spends Easter in Courchevel in France with her partner, Mark Thompson, and their sons Nathan and Reuben.
Nathan, Reuben and Kelly in Courchevel
"We have skied at Easter every year for the last 15 years and in all that time we have only ever had one duff season," Kelly says, "and even then we still skied every day.
"It's warmer so the kids are not moaning about being cold plus, because it's the end of the season, we always bag real kit bargains.
"The resort workers are super happy as they are coming to the end of their season which means a nice rest and appreciating every day.
"We ski and board as a family so will ski in the morning when conditions may be icy and then board in the afternoon when soft."
Nathan, Reuben & friends
Kelly says the key is to aim high and go to a resort with a vast skiing area so you don't get bored and the odd closed run won't spoil the holiday.
Mark can see some disadvantages to late skiing. Any precipitation might fall as rain rather than snow and - just as important - you can't bank on your beer staying cold just because you leave it on the balcony.
The boys & their sledges
The alpine weather expert, Fraser Wilkin, who supplies PlanetSKI's weekly snow reports, also has a niche travel company, Snow-Wise.
"Early season conditions, ie December, have been shockingly bad for three years in a row now and below par generally for four," he says.
"You would think that this would increase demand for Easter, and it might have to an extent, but in my experience not that much.
"Having worked in sales for nearly 20 years I can tell you that your average punter is still deeply suspicious about skiing at Easter on the basis that there might not be much snow.
"This is, of course, completely unfounded as, if you choose your resort with a modicum of care, there is nearly always plenty of snow still at Easter.
"The only year in recent memory when Easter was a major problem, even in many high resorts, was 2011, but that was truly exceptional."
Laax, Switzerland, April 2016
Livigno, Italy, April 2016
Fraser says his experience is that families who would otherwise have travelled at Christmas are moving to the February half-term rather than Easter.
"As for this perception that the season is getting later, I don't think there is much truth in that," he says. "It just feels that way because early season conditions are becoming more volatile."
Fraser's advice if you want to hit the slopes mid-April is, not surprisingly, to head high for the best snow.
That means resorts such as Val d'Isère, Tignes, and Val Thorens in France, Saas-Fee and Zermatt in Switzerland, Cervinia in Italy, & Obergurgl and Ischgl in Austria.
Off-piste in Val d'Isère, spring 2013
We have little doubt at PlanetSKI that we will be as frustrated as ever when the lifts stop rolling at the end of the season while there's still plenty of snow, asking why we can't ski for longer.
"This year the season goes on to 23rd April," says Louise Newton of Esprit, Ski Total and Inghams.
"We'd love to operate longer in more resorts but can by stymied by lifts closing before we want them to."
She says she's discussed with the former GB ski racer Martin Bell, who lives in Colorado, the possibility of encouraging British skiers to consider the USA for trips in April and May.
"It's something we're looking at."
If you're debating whether to "risk" skiing this Easter or later, then have a look at the photos below sent to us by friends of PlanetSKI.
They were all taken in April, or even May.
Then click on the links below to see what deals are still available.
Thanks to everyone who supplied the photos.
Find last minute deals here:
See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.
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