More snow in the Alps means fewer last-minute bargains

Snow Report

It's difficult to believe that only a little over two months ago we were worried that the Alps were heading for another winter of lacklustre snow.

With World Cup events cancelled, resort openings delayed, and even Scandinavia enduring its warmest autumn in a century, hopes were fading that 2011-12 would be the winter when, after three years of market decline, the British winter sports travel industry would return to the year-on-year growth of the previous decade.

Then, just as things began to look desperate for the crucial Christmas/New Year period, the snow came. It hasn't really stopped since. Resort base depths in the Alps are up to five metres, with many resorts in the northern French Alps reaching their season average snowfall total by the end of January.

"The season is shaping up into a record-breaker for us. We're 40 per cent up on where we were this time last year, and are absolutely delighted. I'd expect overall skier numbers this year to be flat at worst, or marginally up on last year," says Craig Burton of specialist travel agents Ski Solutions (020-7471 7700; skisolutions.com).

But all the snow hasn't been entirely good news for anyone wanting to book a last-minute ski holiday.

"The great snow means that there's been a lot less discounting than last year. Many people who had waited to the last-minute for deals were disappointed to find that what was left was not what they were looking for," says Xavier Schouller of French ski specialists Peak Retreats (0844 576 0170; peakretreats.co.uk).

So those last-minute bargains may be a little harder to find now that demand is back on the up. The first week of Easter (31 March departures) is reported to be selling out already; 7 April looks a better bet for bargains.

"Easter and late season has sold particularly well, with only small pockets of availability remaining," confirms Lydia Crisostomo of Inghams (020-8780 4447; inghams.co.uk).

The snow also caused practical problems with some resorts cut off from the outside world for several days earlier this winter. In most cases this occurred midweek rather than on change-over day, but some skiers hit problems.

"Austria has had really challenging change-over days. We saw over 1,000 customers displaced around the country and unable to get out of the resorts, or delayed due to avalanche danger and missing their flights once they got to the airports. We organised two 'rescue' flights to bring those customers back to the UK," says Marion Telsnig of Crystal (0871 231 2256; crystalski.co.uk).

Having to deal with too much snow was an unlikely prospect at the start of the season.

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