With winter approaching, now is the time to start looking for the best locations and package deals for a skiing holiday.
Alpine skiiing with discounts to boot
q I tried skiing in Lebanon last year and now I'd like to go farther afield, probably to Europe for the first time. Do you have any advice on how to plan a successful trip?
a Now is definitely the time to start thinking about booking your place on the chairlift. Excitement is building at well-known ski fields such as Val d'Isère in France, which is due to open at the end of November, and there are discounts around for early bookers. Two reputable companies offering good deals this month are Mark Warner (www.markwarner.co.uk) and VIP Ski (www.vip-chalets.com).
There is a plethora of websites offering advice on where to ski but one of the most useful is www.welove2ski.com, an independent resource. It features detailed resort reports so you can match your level of skill to the most suitable slopes, as well as offering advice on finding a chalet or ski school or, if you are feeling bold, an off-piste guide. As with any travel destination, each ski resort has its own character - St Anton in Austria is known for its lively après-ski scene, for example - and to get the most out of your trip it's just as important to check whether you will enjoy the atmosphere. Most resorts also have their own websites, and as well as being a great source of information, they often list local deals available throughout the season.
While resorts in Canada and the US are more or less guaranteed snow from the day that they open, snow conditions at European resorts are rather more fickle. Last year's cold winter meant the best snow for years but who knows what this year will bring. One way to shorten the odds is to book a break at one of the higher altitude resorts such as France's Val Thorens, a purpose-built resort. In spite of the fact that there are discounts for booking ski holidays early, it can pay to wait until the last minute, when you can look at local weather conditions. There are often greater discounts to be had on very late bookings, up to a few days before travel, as ski operators have in recent years struggled to fill their books.
And finally, don't discount returning to Lebanon for a weekend break to brush up on your skiing skills. You can check out the snow conditions and find out about hotel deals at www.skileb.com. Do you have travel questions or queries? E-mail them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org