Skiing: If France needs a boost, it's getting one this season

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The Independent Online

Operators to organise a whip-round, the proceeds of which are to be spent on further research by SPIKE.

Meanwhile, Erna Low (0845 863 0525; ernalow.co.uk) is already cultivating lapsed skiers, albeit in a small way. For any former client who didn't ski with the company in the last two seasons there is a range of inducements – among them a massage, helmet loan for the family, a copy of the 2011/12 Where to Ski & Snowboard guide, all free – available for those who book a holiday this winter in Arc 1950 in Les Arcs.

According to the annual Crystal Ski Industry Report, the last few years have seen a steady decline in France's popularity among British skiers. However, if France needs a boost, it's getting one this season. A remarkable number of new beds are becoming available in the resorts which most appeal to Brits: those which are high enough to be snow-sure, have ski-in/ski-out accommodation, and are set on large ski areas with plenty of intermediate terrain.

There have been major developments in Peisey Vallandry (in the Paradiski area), Tignes, Alpe d'Huez and Les Gets. Also in Paradiski, the first, 63-apartment phase of Edenarc Residence is opening at Arc 1950.

Over in the Trois Vallées at Val Thorens – not previously noted for its up-market accommodation – there will be new five-star apartments and a four-star hotel operated by the celebrated Sibuet family.

The most dramatic changes are taking place at Avoriaz, in the Portes du Soleil area. Its 369 new apartments will open for the ski season; unfortunately the new indoor "tropical" pool – designed by Center Parcs and, if the artist has got the right impression, quite stunning – is to be completed only next summer.

Elsewhere, the cumulative effect of the downward slide is raising new concerns. One tour operator shared with me his anxiety about budget destinations such as Bulgaria and Romania – which rely heavily on beginners – because in a recession people are disinclined to spend money on a new activity they might not enjoy.

And Switzerland's prospects are much discussed: with other European currencies falling away from the sturdy Swiss franc, the country has been left with a punishing exchange rate.

The Swiss have, of course, seen this coming, and counter-measures are in place, in a patchwork of offers. You can ski free in Davos until 23 December; Verbier is declaring its own exchange rate, with ski-lodging packages detailed on its website (www.verbier-st-bernard.ch; see "change busters") which effectively increase the spending power of the pound by 20 per cent; Switzerland Tourism is giving two lift passes for the price of one with Crystal and Inghams holiday packages, albeit with a peculiar "as long as stock lasts" caveat.

Will these offers be effective? Maybe. But one tour operator suggested to me that it is next season that will be really tough: "Wait until British skiers experience the effect of the exchange rate on the ground," he cautioned.

This season, a range of discounts is being used to induce clients to book early. The Inghams brochure is plastered with a dazzling variety of special, "buy now" offers. In fact, its "early-booking deals" have already expired. Crystal's approach is more measured, focusing on its budget "Crystal +" and "Crystal + extra" packages, which must be booked by the end of November. But be aware that Crystal's "two for the price of one" lift passes deal in Switzerland ends on 16 November



Inghams: 020 8780 4444; inghams.co.uk

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