Peak Performance: News from the slopes

The 2006-07 season kicked off on the glacier at French resort Tignes on 30 September, while heavy September snowfall on Colorado's peaks allowed Silverton Mountain to open with several feet of natural snow. But most of us are still deciding where to head this winter, and tour operators have plenty of ideas to try to sustain the growth in British winter sports travellers, which reached 1.15 million last season.

The new country choice this year is Japan. The domestic market there peaked at more than 20 million skiers in the early Nineties, but an economic downturn has seen the Japanese skiing population drop by half. The upside for Australians, Americans and now Europeans is high-value ski holidays.

The resorts of Rusutsu and Niseko are famed for their deep powder skiing on extinct volcanoes. Holidays begin at £995 with Inghams, which gives the option to add a few days in Tokyo or Kyoto. Crystal has the same resorts, without the city stopover.

For a taste of Japan before booking, visit the World Resort Village at the new format Metro Ski and Snowboard Show at London's Olympia, 18-22 October. Here you can try sushi with a Geisha and be tempted by other exotic ski destinations, such as Chile, as well as the more familiar.

Lebanon, alas, will not be represented. It can trace its ski heritage back for the best part of a century and had made it into a British brochure (for Crystal) for the first time this winter. But the aftermath of the recent conflict with Israel has led to the postponement of British ski tours there.

"As soon as the Foreign Office lifts the ban, we will evaluate the situation and decide. We are very positive that skiing in Lebanon will be back on sale in the future," said Crystal spokeswoman Marion Telsnig.

Specialist travel operator Ski Lebanon is still organising independent travel and says resorts are already getting booked up for New Year.

The biggest single ski area upgrade anywhere this winter is at Europe's highest, the Swiss-Italian ski area Zermatt. Six new lifts will be added along with more snow making.

In Europe, France looks set to hold its position as the most popular British destination, with about 40 per cent of the market. However, Bulgaria and Finland appear likely to further increase their market share. New Finnish destinations for the market leaders mean there is now a total of 10 resorts in the frozen north to choose from. Most are small and marketed for high-value adventure activities, such as snowmobiling and sledding, but Saariselkä, pioneered by Headwater Holidays and now offered by Inghams, boasts the biggest terrain park in the country, covering most of the ski area.

Crystal has relaunched its schools brochure with an emphasis on experience as much as destination. Trips are organised worldwide, but the Finland Arctic Adventure week is typical. It provides Arctic survival skills, ice fishing, igloo building, a reindeer farm visit, husky rides and much more.

Balkan Holidays reported a 35 per cent increase of Brits visiting Bulgarian resorts last winter, citing new infrastructure and hotels as the attraction. "We are ecstatic that the world is recognising the amazing snow, fantastic accommodation and warm people of Bulgaria," said Tseko Minev of the Bulgarian Ski Federation.

Also in Eastern Europe, Slovenian resorts saw a nine per cent jump in visits last season, and when it enters the euro currency zone on 1 January, it will be even easier to see how much cheaper lift tickets are than in the Western Alps. No wonder some Italian resorts have announced a price freeze, Livigno among them. Market growth will be aided by online operator Directski.com's decision to add Slovenia to its list.

In North America, the good news is the conversion of a dozen or so leading resorts to wind-power, the majority of them in Colorado. After Aspen decided to go "all-renewable", Vail Resorts announced that all their lifts and other facilities would be windpowered. A number of other resorts have followed suit.

Balkan Holidays (0845 130 1114, www.balkanholidays.co.uk)

Colorado (001 30 38 37 07 93, www.coloradoski.com)

Crystal (0870 160 6040, www.crystalholidays.co.uk)

Directski (0800 587 0945, www.directski.com)

Finland (00 35 89 22 87 83 10, www.finland.com/skicentres.do)

Japan (00 81 25 78 06 336, www.snowjapan.com)

Ski Lebanon (00 96 17 01 03 222, www.skileb.com)

Metro Ski Show (0870 5900 090; www.metroskishow.co.uk)

Slovenia (00 38 61 58 91 840, www.slovenia.info)

PROMOTED VIDEO
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
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

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee