You make a fantastic plan to get all the family together from all corners of the globe for an extra special ski trip to celebrate your 60th birthday. Diaries are swopped. Emails are flying and before long, it’s patently clear that your options boil down to school holidays and half terms. Leave it too late and you’ll find the ‘extra special’ is more of a ‘what’s left’, so how far ahead do you have to book to secure the best chalets of the crop?
Spring Half Term – 1 year in advance
February half term is exceptionally popular as snow conditions are reliably good and the temperature starts to ease. We even received enquiries for 2015 before 2014 had even happened! In short – book at least a year ahead and if you’re keen to make it a regular fixture, book as soon as you get home. And do note that most chalet operators give first refusal to repeat guests.
New Year – 9 months to a year ahead
In our experience, bookings to see the New Year in on skis are getting earlier and earlier. Some guests will even visit their luxury chalet shortlist while in resort the year before. This is especially important for unusual numbers; a very small group or conversely, a large group. Our flagship luxury ski chalet, which sleeps 20, is normally booked out over 12 months ahead.
Half term / New Year ski instructors
Aside from your luxury accommodation, you also need to plan ahead for ski guides and instructors. Good instructors will be booked up to 12 months in advance for these weeks! Ski passes are worth considering too. You might want to check whether your chosen resort offers a non-consecutive 4 or 5 day pass in case you don’t wish to ski on New Years’ day.
Christmas – 4/5 months
Surprisingly Christmas week isn’t as popular as New Year despite the fact that it can be a truly magical family experience, without the usual stress of entertaining and hosting a multitude of guests – all that is done for you! It’s also cheaper than New Year. You don’t have to plan too far ahead either. Chalets can still be available after the summer holidays when the kids go back to school but obviously the earlier the better still applies.
Easter – 3/5 months
Easter is the fair weather skier’s choice with typically sunny climes and spring snows – a great time to ski with little ones. The good news is you have a little more time to play with here. But once Christmas is over, the big rush for Easter bookings starts. So don’t leave it beyond the first few weeks of January or you will be disappointed.
3rd – 12th January / 7th – 23rd February
For those looking beyond the school holidays, you can expect a lot more flexibility but there are a few key dates to watch out for. The first is the Russian holiday from the 3rd – 12th January, where luxury ski trips in the Alps are exceptionally popular with Russian holiday makers and booked well in advance. Lastly French school holidays in February. Luckily these are staggered throughout France but nearby Lyon and Grenoble run for two weeks between 7th – 23rd February in 2015.
Meanwhile it’s not all about peak weeks. If you’re lucky enough to have a little flexibility with your dates the last two weeks in January tend to be more reasonably priced and you’ll find the resort quieter. On that note, a Sunday change-over day also helps; there’s less congestion on the roads, in the ski fit shops and most importantly… on the pistes. Happy days.
Jamie Rennie is Director at Le Chardon Mountain Lodges, Val d’Isere.