News from the slopes: How skiing is weathering an economic storm

The 2008-9 ski season has been properly under way for a month, and it appears that projections of economic doom are thankfully not coming true. The world's largest ski-resort operator, the French Compagnie des Alps, has reported that sales were actually up 2.4 per cent over the crucial Christmas/New Year period.

Massive pre-season snowfall – perfectly timed in late November and early December for the Pyrenees and Alps, and more recently in the Rockies – has brought excellent conditions to almost all of the world's leading ski areas. The best now boast 17ft-deep accumulations at the top. Many of the ski industry's pundits had already predicted that it was snow cover, rather than the economy, that would be the biggest factor in this season's success or failure.

Although the huge falls have set up most of the world's ski areas for a good, long season, British winter-sports enthusiasts face a hard time. The next half-term is, for most schools, the week beginning 14 February, rather than spread through the month; at least one operator describes this week as "booked solid". The fact that there is plenty of availability on either side is of little comfort to families.

The weakness of sterling, as well as general economic uncertainty, seem to be dissuading some – although anyone concerned by such issues can book almost all of their holiday direct through a tour operator at prices that were fixed before the pound slipped. As a result, according to Lynsey Devon of Inghams, there are currently some spectacular bargains to be had and late bookings (see page VIII) are booming:

"Last weekend, for departures on 3 and 4 January, we sold a high percentage of holidays in the week right before departure. This indicates that the business is out there but that people wanted to get Christmas out the way before they committed, and are booking very last minute and being driven by price."

The specialist travel agency Ski Solutions carried out a survey comparing prices for a range of catered chalets in major Swiss and French resorts and found that rates are cheaper this year than last by up to £110. The company recommends that clients looking for a bargain and wanting to cushion themselves from euro price increases should consider booking a late-deal package to a chalet on full board. You should also book your ski hire online before you go, and save up to 40 per cent on the resort price.

The huge snowfalls have been seized on by those on both sides of the global-warming debate.

The weekly world snow news digest from snow reporting service skiinfo.com has been claimed by some to offer proof that global warming is a myth, while the huge deluges that have cut off villages, stopped Swiss trains and closed airports are taken by others as examples of the increasing weather extremes caused by climate change induced by man's activities.

Whatever the causes, the heavy snow has led to dozens of avalanche deaths already on each side of the Atlantic. The majority of victims are people who had sadly failed to heed advice and headed off piste. However, in the North American resorts of Jackson Hole and Whistler, incidents occurred within the patrolled terrain. Jackson Hole decided to close its ski slopes briefly in late December due to the excess of snow, after an avalanche damaged a mountain restaurant there.

The next big event in the ski season calendar is the bi-annual Alpine Ski World Championships, staged this year in Val d'Isère and run for two weeks from 2 February. Anticipation is high, as this is the first staging of the Championships in France since 1962. There is also a new course layout, with the men's and women's courses set facing each other. There's three to six feet of snow on the ground already – it looks set to be a great event.

Inghams: 020-8780 4444; inghams.co.uk

Ski Solutions: 020-7471 7700; skisolutions.com

Val d'Isere: 00 33 4 79 06 06 60; valdisere.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before