Snow Report: Look north for next season's top ski destinations
Saturday 16 March 2013
The current ski season is in full swing, and still looking good for snow cover almost everywhere, but already news for 2013-14 is starting to appear.
The big announcement, so far, is that a new gondola link from the Arlberg region of Lech and St Anton will connect to the ski slopes of Warth, creating one of the world's five biggest ski areas with 340km of piste.
The large tour operators already have their 2013-14 programmes on sale, and are announcing their new destination choices. There's a common theme: Scandinavia.
Before charter air travel and fast French motorways arrived in the 1970s, Norway was the destination of choice for British skiers. The popularity of Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian resorts has fallen off in recent decades, but they were still offered by most of the big operators until the downturn, when almost all "expensive" Scandinavian destinations were dropped.
Only Neilson (0844 8798155; neilson.co.uk) continued to offer trips to the region's largest resort (Are in Sweden) as well as Norway's pretty Geilo. But 2013-14 looks like the season when the region is set to be fully rehabilitated in British brochures.
"Following the success of selling holidays to Finland this winter, we decided to offer a similar product in Norway again," said Crystal Ski's product director Ian Davis. "We're focusing on affordable ski holidays for larger families: the starting price for a family of six is from £1,669 rising to £2,947 during February half term 2014."
The "new" Norwegian options offered by Crystal (0871 231 2256; crystalski.co.uk) include the leading resorts of Hemsedal and Geilo. However, one of the most interesting choices is Beitostolen (beitstolen.com), located in the Jotunheimen National Park and only 45 minutes from Fagernes airport, to which Crystal will be running a charter flight from Gatwick each week. Best suited to beginners or early intermediates – or just anyone looking for a low-pressure ski trip – Beitostolen is also good for families with younger children. It also has one of the shortest transfers in the ski world.
Meanwhile, Inghams (01483 79 1111; inghams.co.uk) has announced that it is expanding its programme in Lapland by adding the unspoilt resort of Pyha (pronounced Poo-ha), which is just north of the Arctic Circle in Finland's oldest national park. It has a small ski area that includes some challenging slopes. There's also a terrain park served by a fast new six-seater chairlift, as well as many off-slope activities. Self-catering stays in Pyha Log Cabins are from £474 per person per week with flights from Gatwick, Birmingham or Manchester to Kittila.
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