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)

Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
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: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn