Ski resort facilities 'disgraceful': Fed-up holiday-makers may abandon overcrowded Alpine slopes, consumers' guide warns

MANY FASHIONABLE European ski resorts could go the way of the Costa del Sol unless they take steps to reduce overcrowding and improve their facilities, according to a guide published today.

Resorts such as Verbier, Kitzbuhel, Mayrhofen and L'Alpe d'Huez are accused by the The Good Skiing Guide 1994, published by the Consumers' Association, of imposing 'outrageous' queues and 'disgracefully antiquated' facilities on visitors.

Skiers are faced with pistes so crowded at high-season weekends that they resemble the M25 on a bank holiday, resulting in a serious increase in the number of collision accidents, the guide says.

'The skiing public is a discerning one and . . . is fed up with overcrowding, artificially high resort prices and the reticence of lift companies. . . to put back into the mountain some of the millions they have reaped from it.

'Unless they set their houses in order, even their most devoted followers are going to realise there is other comparable and better-value skiing to be found elsewhere.' Resorts in Utah and Colorado in the United States are singled out for their customer friendliness.

The guide cites a 7 per cent drop in the British skiing market and draws a parallel with the 'fundamental reappraisal' forced on Spain by the decline in the mass summer holiday market.

Spain, it says, is now back as a premier holiday destination, but the same wind of change is blowing through the skiing industry, which world-wide is in a state of 'fundamental disarray'. 'Unless immediate steps are taken by the big-named European resorts in particular, it is hard to see how some can survive into the 21st century,' it adds.

Some European resorts defend themselves by citing the environmental impact of upgrading cable cars or lift systems. However, they do not put this green awareness into practice by, for example, limiting the number of ski passes to their lift-system capacity.

Ski theft has also reached 'epidemic proportions' in France and Italy, the guide says. Austria and Switzerland are no longer safe havens and the risk is only marginally less in the United States.

Most thefts are professional and highly organised: some of the stolen goods appear to find their way to Eastern European ski centres.

The Good Skiing Guide 1994; pounds 14.99; Which? Books.

(Table omitted)

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