Ski news: You should have booked by now

 

February half term is crunch time for ski holiday bookings, particularly in the French Alps, which is the UK's most popular destination for ski holidays. With good snow conditions, next month looks like it will be very busy indeed.

"The main UK half term is 16 February, but many private schools and schools in Scotland have the week from 9 February," says Xavier Schouller, of the French ski specialists Peak Retreats (0844 576 0170; peakretreats.co.uk). "Holidays for French schools also start on 16 February and we are close to full capacity; many clients booked as soon as they came back last February."

However, 9 February will also be busy as other countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Spain, and Poland are also on holiday.

The lesson is: if you haven't already booked your Alpine skiing holiday for February half term, it may already be too late. However, according to Schouller, "It's always worth calling tour operators, as we do get cancellations, which we sometimes even discount."

Easier access to Avoriaz

Most big infrastructure projects in ski resorts are ready for the start of the ski season, but some are just so big they're ready when they're ready. One such development is the new giant funitel lift, which connects the neighbouring resorts of Morzine and Avoriaz, and is part of a €200m spend on upgrades.

The lift, scheduled to open on 15 February, will be capable of carrying 2,400 people per hour via 12 cabins, each holding 35 passengers. The new departure and arrival stations are partially underground to minimise their environmental impact.

See before you ski

A decade ago, webcams were all the rage with the innovation of seeing the slopes live, but now Google Street View is doing for ski slopes what it has for the world's roads, by mounting its special 360-degree cameras on snowmobiles and recording the pistes of ski areas of the world.

You can now "ski" the slopes of 90 resorts around the world on your computer screen by going in to Maps from Google and switching to Street View at the resort.

Prices down in Andorra and Italy

The annual study of 27 top resorts compiled by tour operator Crystal has found that average holiday costs to Soldeu in Andorra are 18 per cent lower this winter than they were last. However, the top value choice, according to the authors of the report, is Italy, with an average holiday price of £429.

Italy is the cheapest of the "big four" ski nations (the other three of which are France, Austria and Switzerland), and is about one-third cheaper for British skiers than Swiss holidays. The study found that Eastern Europe offers the cheapest ski holidays.

No helmet, no skiing in Canada

Nova Scotia has become the first region in the world where wearing a ski helmet has become compulsory. The Eastern Canadian province, which is home to three small ski areas, introduced the new law at the start of this season, which sees anyone not wearing a helmet risking a fine of C$250 (£160). Officials say that brain injuries are the leading cause of death among skiers and snowboarders of all ages, and that helmet use reduces the severity of injury byup to 60 per cent. Find out more at helmetmatch.com.

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