Ski carriage supplements, terrorist attacks, added airport security, strike threats, a weak pound, snow upsetting Eurostar trains – it has not been the ideal start to the ski season.
Yet skiers and boarders are such a hardy bunch, and so desperate for their annual fix that the vast majority will consider these inconveniences par for the course and take their annual ski break regardless. Indeed, the joy of escaping the daily battle with travel chaos in Blighty gives us strength to run that final gauntlet of greedy airlines and blocked roads and railway lines to reach snowy peace in the mountains.
The good news is that once we get there, ski resorts have never functioned better. There's the ongoing upgrading of ski lifts, some with heated seats and weather-protection hoods. And the replacement of cramped mountain apartments with comfy four- and five-star facilities, including the French MGM chain (pv-holidays.com/residences-mgm .php) in 10 top resorts, which has 15 to 25 per cent discounts all season.
There has also been a rise in niche choices with more packages tailored to women skiers, older skiers, single skiers, gay skiers, and Christian skiers. The Ski Club of Great Britain caters for several of these groups through its Freshtracks programme (020-8410 2022; skifreshtracks.co.uk), while Christian skiers should opt for Oak Hall Holidays (01732 763131; oakhall.co.uk). A dedicated Gay Ski Week kicked off yesterday in the Swiss resort of Arosa (arosa-gayski week.com) with more to follow in North American resorts.
Green skiers used to have a hard time finding chalets but there are now dozens of choices. Karibuni (01202 661 865; karibuni.co.uk) operates a green chalet, near La Clusaz in the French Alps, that recycles everything and has solar panels for heat and hot water. There's also the new "eco ski lodge" La Source (0033 633 346803; sourcealps.com), in the Alpine resort of Samoens. It's a great retreat for the eco-conscious skier, complete with wood-fired hot tub, organic bed linen, ski-yoga classes and wholesome organic breakfasts and dinners.