Every skier should have one: a good guidebook

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The Independent Travel

Any tour operator will tell you - with a mixture of resignation and awe - that most skiers are very clued up: there's no point in trying to fool them because they usually know more than the sales staff. Once, a contractor at a major tour operator did her sums wrong, and seriously underpriced holidays at a Swiss resort. Nobody noticed - until sales at the resort shot up.

Any tour operator will tell you - with a mixture of resignation and awe - that most skiers are very clued up: there's no point in trying to fool them because they usually know more than the sales staff. Once, a contractor at a major tour operator did her sums wrong, and seriously underpriced holidays at a Swiss resort. Nobody noticed - until sales at the resort shot up.

But skiers should be knowledgeable, because for years they have had the benefit of one good guidebook, more recently of two. The estimable Good Skiing & Snowboarding Guide (Which? Books, £15.99) has been badly served by its publisher in recent editions, the authoritative text dressed up with lousy photographs so that the volume can "compete" with the brighter, more readable and twice-as-thick Where To Ski And Snowboard (NortonWood, £15.99). And this year the GSSG has flagged its cover with "The world's top 100 ski resorts", surely something of a handicap when WSS ambitiously trumpets that it has "The 1,000 Best".

I still prefer GSSG, which is a book: WSS is something else, being packed with the advertisements which the editors claim is what enables them to keep improving the volume. Personally, I don't think a full-page ad for Wildschönau set into the text about the Austrian resort is an improvement. But WSS is undeniably attractive, and much wider-ranging: among its 1,000 best is my new favourite US ski area, Mad River Glen, honoured with a 43-word description. The GSSG doesn't mention it.

This season has seen the publication of two guides on North American skiing. Ski North America (Ultimate Sports, £24.95) is really more of a coffee-table book, with beautiful maps and an idiosyncratic choice of 41 resorts... ignoring Mad River Glen but including the members-only Yellowstone Club. In contrast, The Rough Guide to Skiing and Snowboarding in North America (£14.99) is a valuable reference work dense with information, including more words on Mad River Glen than I could be bothered to count.

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