The February half-term holidays are nearly upon us. It's an ideal time to hit the slopes with the family; we're all ready for a break after grim old January and the snow has had a chance to build a healthy depth.
Bad news. Every other skiing family in Europe has had the same idea. February 2010 is proving the worst for securing a break for several years because the school holidays across Europe are concentrated into an even narrower time band than usual.
Almost all schools in England and Wales break up on 13 February, and the following week is now "pretty much booked up", according to the operators in my straw poll. All agreed that finding availability in France, the most popular ski destination for Brits, is nigh impossible.
It seems that that week is also one of the two main half-term weeks for French schools, and it's the same story in many other European countries. Operators report that the following week is "nearly as bad".
So what's the solution? Lisa Tyrrell at Inghams (020-8780 4447; inghams.co.uk) recommends skiers think outside the Alps. "Destinations such as Lapland and Andorra should be quieter and North American schools don't have half-term holidays." Inghams still has departures on 13 February for resorts in Andorra, Canada, Finland and Norway.
But the US does complicate matters by staging its Presidents Day weekend to coincide with Europe's half term, explains Phillipa Swindale at Ski Independence (0131 -243 8097; ski-i.com). She also recommends Canada as a better option, especially resorts that may have a slightly longer transfer.
Probably best not even mention Whistler, which will be hosting the Winter Olympics from 12 to 28 February. While the resort is expecting its slopes to be quieter during the Games, it will be just a tad pricey to get there at that time.
One final thought, from Nigel Oldham of specialist French operator Ski Beat (01243 780405; Skibeat .co.uk), which has only a few beds left for February. "Go at Easter: fewer crowds, less expensive and often better conditions."Reuse content