Open for business
September snowfalls in the Alps, a weaker euro and (apparently) healthy advance sales for 2012/13 has everyone in the British ski industry upbeat for the coming winter. But they always are in autumn. More than a dozen glacier ski areas in the Alps are already open and once again, hundreds of millions of euros and dollars have been spent by the world's leading ski areas on new lifts, ever more snowmaking machines and "alternative attractions" as they seek to diversify.
A new jewel
Most of the new lifts announced for the coming winter are upgrades of old facilities bringing faster comfier, uplift (heated chairlift seats are all the rage). However, a €13.5m spend on two new gondolas by the quintessentially Tyrolean villages of Alpbach and Wildschönau, which have operated ski areas separately for more than 50 years, has created the "new" Ski Jewel (skijuwel.com) area offering 145km of connected piste: the seventh-biggest of Tyrol's 78 ski areas.
"For the Wildschönau and the Alpbachtal to have a future they both need to offer a modern and sustainable ski area," said Ludwig Schäffer, managing director of the Wildschönau Lift Company.
Calling all novices
The past few seasons have seen ever more rewarding contests launched as a means of promotion by top resorts. The world's largest ski region, Les Trois Vallées (below), has now got in on the act and is offering a generous prize to a family of four Brits who have never skied before but would like to try. The full prize includes several weekends and full weeks through the 2012/13 season for the winning family on the slopes, including travel, accommodation, equipment, skiwear, lift passes and tuition – worth over £30,000 in total. To win, the family should upload a 100-second video through les3vallees.com before 29 October – click on Easy Rider for details.
There are not many new destinations in the brochures this season, but Ski Club Freshtracks (skiclub.co.uk/freshtracks) is offering a trip called Craters and Crampons to Mt Etna in Sicily, Europe's largest active volcano (above). "Ever skied down an active volcano? It's one way to give your winter holiday that extra kick," says Vicky Norman of the Ski Club of Great Britain.
Lift pass bargains
With more and more lift tickets available to buy in advance online, now may be the time to get your pass, rather than waiting to queue up in resort. There are often incentives, for example 20 per cent off a six-day pass for Morzine and Les Gets between 5 January and 16 February when you purchase before 31 October at skipass-morzine.com, saving €34.60.
Closer to home Ski- Scotland (ski-scotland.com) has an All-Area Season Pass, valid at all five of Scotland's ski areas for all winter. It costs £465 for adults and £270 for children. "This is the only ticket that keen skiers and snowboarders need to follow the best snow conditions, with any queues for tickets bypassed," said Heather Negus, Chair of Ski-Scotland.