Welcome to the new snow sports season with our inside track to Winter 2010/11. Your guide is the IoS resident expert Patrick Thorne – aka 'The Snow Hunter'. A skiing enthusiast for the past 30 years, Patrick has been reporting on winter sports for more than a quarter of a century.
He has written two books – 'The Essential Ski Holiday Guide' and 'Green Ski Resort Guide' – and has launched a website saveoursnow.com. In 1990, he began a quest to visit every ski area on Earth – so far he's notched up 6,004 places in 80 countries, from Iceland to Japan.
1. New all-inclusive
The UK's biggest ski tour operator, Crystal, is expanding its all-inclusive Crystal Ski+ packages. The company, which offers 131 resorts in 11 countries, wants to capitalise on the fact that it rapidly sold out of these packages last season. It will now run the all-inclusive holiday at 100 properties in 38 resorts, offering flights, transfers, local lift passes, equipment hire or carriage, accommodation, and in-resort service from £425 per person per week.
Details: 0871 231 5636; crystalski.co.uk
2. Club Med enters China
French holiday company Club Med is opening its first resort in China this winter, at Yabuli. Club Med plans to open five similar villages over the next five years, believing the Chinese market will continue to grow rapidly as personal wealth in the country increases.
Details: 0845 367 0670; clubmed.co.uk
3. Quad lift for Park City
Park City's Canyons, one of North America's 10 biggest resorts, is spending on a new quad (four-seat chair lift) with weather-protection hoods and heated seats, a first for the continent. "The new lift will enhance the ease of skiing off Lookout Peak and guests will be able to ski directly to the Red Pine area," said resort spokesperson Libby Dowd.
Details: 001 435 649 5400; thecanyons.com
4. Big White zones
Big White, in British Columbia, is introducing Family/Seniors Skiing and Snowboarding Zones this season. Three runs will be selected daily from the resort's expansive selection, and, on that day, they will only be accessible through a temporary gate. Extra ski patrols will monitor speed and safe skiing.
Details: 001 250 765 3101; bigwhite.com
5. Water world at Levi
Levi, one of Finland's top resorts, has opened a new Water World Spa with 17 indoor and outdoor pools, along with nine saunas and a gym. The pools have light and sound effects, and the complex will also house new cafés and restaurants, a children's playhouse, bowling alley, tennis, and badminton courts.
Details: 00 358 16 646 301; hotellilevitunturi.fi
6. Return of Big Snow
The Big Snow Festival, which debuted in Andorra last spring, is back for a second year in the principality from 13 to 20 March 2011. Headline acts at the week-long event include Judge Jules, Tim Westwood and Fearne Cotton (above); there'll even be a St Patrick's Street Festival and lots of skiing and snowboarding action. Last season more than 80 per cent of those attending experienced snow sports for the first time. Packages cost from £399 including flights, transfers, accommodation, and entrance.
Details: 0844 879 8119; thebigsnowfestival.com
7. Austria opens wooden hotel
A new hotel built entirely of wood has opened at the Austrian resort of Leogang, part of Saalbach-Hinterglemm's 200km (125 miles) of runs. The new slopeside, four-star, Forsthofalm has been built from locally sourced wood and has low energy requirements.
Details: 00 43 658 385 45; forsthofalm.com
8. Fourth bowl at Kicking Horse
Kicking Horse, in British Columbia, is celebrating its 10th season this winter with the opening of its fourth Alpine bowl. The Super Bowl, as it is known locally, will bring another 15 advanced and expert chutes to the resort's already impressive inventory.
Details: 0843 116 3344; kickinghorseresort.com
9. Chalet first in Ischgl
Ski Total is the first operator to acquire a chalet in the lively Austrian resort of Ischgl. The new four-star Chalet Hotel Abendrot is close to the Silvrettabahn and Fimbabahn lift stations and has spa, sauna, hot tub, Wi-Fi, lounge and bar. A week's stay costs from £644 per person.
Details: 01252 618333; skitotal.com
10. Private skiing at Arosa
Arosa, in Switzerland, will give over its slopes exclusively to guests of the five-star Tschuggen Grand on 27 November. Hotel guests can enjoy 10 red and black pistes all to themselves, and the hotel is organising a giant slalom race to celebrate.
Details: 00 418 1 378 9999; tschuggen.ch
11. Japan boosts ski holidays
Although industry studies suggest skiers are tightening their belts, the choice of ski holidays to Japan is increasing this winter with two new places to visit. The 1998 Olympic venue, Hakuba, and the country's original centre, Nozawa Onsen, will join four other resorts already available in British ski holiday brochures. Britons who make the trip will benefit from lower resort costs than in the Alps or Rockies and wonderful snow.
Details: Ski Safari 01273 224060; skisafari.com
12. Courchevel's boot room bar
A ski boot room with a champagne bar is due when Courchevel's new 25-room Le Strato hotel opens next month. The cutting-edge ski room gives direct access to the Cospillot slope. Guests can be kitted out while sipping champers.
Details: 00 33 4 79415160; hotelstrato.com
13. Fast toboggan in Les Arcs
Les Arcs is creating an exciting new toboggan run this winter. The 3km course at Arc 2000 will descend 400 vertical metres (1,300ft) en route. "We wanted a sensational sledge run that will be quite steep and fast, so it is more for adults and teenagers," explained spokeswoman Cécile Romualdo.
Details: 00 33 479 071257; lesarcs.com
14. More breaks for singles
More skiers travelling alone has led Ski Club Freshtracks to boost its number of solo holidays by 40 per cent. And, everyone who books gets their own room at no additional supplement. "Last winter, more than 70 per cent of our holidays were booked by individual travellers," said the company's Katy Ellis.
Details: 0845 45 807 84; skiclubfreshtracks.co.uk
15. All new Holmenkollen
Oslo's spectacular new Holmenkollen ski jump defies gravity as it rises 60m (197ft) above the Norwegian capital, with spectacular views from the top – fairly terrifying if you consider jumping off it. It is the centrepiece of the Holmenkollen national arena, which will be completed in December ahead of the Nordic World Ski Championships from 23 February to 6 March.
Details: 00 47 91 671947; holmenkollen.com
16. Quick hire service at Nevis
When the snow is abundant at Scottish resorts, they're swamped with customers. (When it doesn't arrive, they're empty.) Nevis Range is tackling the peak-time queues for equipment rental by doubling the size of its snow-sports hire facility, allowing a more efficient service and providing more kit.
Details: 01397 705825; nevisrange.co.uk
17. No 14 to rival Branson
The most exciting new chalet to hit the Swiss Alps in four years opens this winter. Sleeping up to 28 guests in 13 stylish en-suite bedrooms, No 14 Verbier is aiming to take the crown from Richard Branson's The Lodge as the most desirable property in this world-class ski resort.
Details: (01608 674011; verbier exclusive.com).
18. Gourmet Vallées
Visitors to Les Trois Vallées can dine in a different Michelin-starred restaurant every day. The area has notched up more gourmet establishments than any other (including two with three stars). Ski tours that take in the dining circuit, hosted by an expert guide, are now available with Wake Up and Ski's private instructors, costing €360 per group per day, excluding lunch.
Details: 01484 680855; wakeupinfrance.co.uk
19. New lift at Val Gardena
Val Gardena, a Unesco World Natural Heritage site, is to replace the chair lift on Rasciesa Alp, above Ortisei, with a superb new cable car. The views will culminate in a panorama encompassing the stunning Dolomites peaks of almost the entire South Tyrol.
Details: 00 39 0471 777 777; valgardena.it
20. Kids lessons at Whistler
Children can learn to ski from age three but boarding tuition isn't usually offered until they hit seven. Now Whistler is to offer boarding lessons for those as young as four, using a mini terrain park at its Children's Learning Centre and new boards produced for little shredders.
Details: 001 604 938 2769; whistlerblackcomb.com
Your essential snow contacts
Alpine Elements 0844 770 4070; alpineelements.co.uk
Crystal 0871 231 5636; crystalski.co.uk
Erna Low 0845 863 0525; ernalow.co.uk
First choice 0871 231 2256; firstchoice-ski.co.uk
Flexiski 020-8939 0861; flexiski.com
Inghams 020-8780 6680; inghams.co.uk
Lagrange 020-7371 6111; lagrange-holidays.co.uk
Neilson 0845 070 3460; neilson.co.uk
The Oxford Ski Company 01865 398130; oxfordski.com
Ski Amis 020-3411 5439; skiamis.com
Ski Collection 0844 576 0175; skicollection.co.uk
Ski France 0845 862 1121; skifrance.co.uk
Ski Independence 0131-243 8097; ski-i.com
Ski McNeill 028-9066 6699; skimcneill.com
Ski Olympic 01302 328820; skiolympic.co.uk
Ski Safari 01273 224060; skisafari.com
Ski Total 01252 618333; skitotal.com
Ski World 0844 493 0430; skiworld.ltd.uk
Supertravel 020-7962 9933; ski.supertravel.co.uk
Thomson 0871 231 5612; thomsonski.co.uk
Virgin Snow 0844 557 5825; virginholidays.co.uk
Off the beaten track
Mountain Heaven 0151-625 1921; mountainheaven.co.uk
Peak Retreats 0844 576 0123; peakretreats.co.uk
Snowbizz 01778 341455; snowbizz.co.uk
Stanford Skiing 01603 477471; stanfordskiing.co.uk
W&O travel 0845 277 3333; WandOtravel.com
Zenith 01737 852242; zenithholidays.co.uk
Ski Esprit 01252 618300; espritski.com
Ski Famille 0845 644 3764; skifamille.co.uk
The Family Ski Company 01684 540333; familyski.co.uk
Karibuni 01202 661865; karibuni.co.uk.
Le Ski 01484 548996; leski.com
Mark Warner 0871 703 3888; markwarner.co.uk
Rude Chalets 0870 068 7030; rudechalets.com
Silver Ski 01622 745544; silverski.co.uk
Ski Total 01252 618333; skitotal.com
Ski-Val 01822 611200; skival.co.uk
Vip Ski 0844 557 3119; vip-chalets.com
Club Med 08453 670670; clubmed.co.uk
Interski 01623 456333; interski.co.uk
Carrier 0161-491 7670; carrier.co.uk
Crystal Finest 0871 971 0364; crystalski.co.uk
Kaluma 01730 260263; kalumatravel.co.uk
Powder Byrne 020-8246 5300; powderbyrne.com
Ted Bentley 01934 820854; tedbentley.co.uk
Verbier Exclusive 01608 674011; verbierexclusive.com
White Roc 020-7792 1188; whiteroc.co.uk
Yse 0845 122 1414; yseski.co.uk
Balkan Holidays 0845 520 1276; balkanholidays.co.uk
Canadian Affair 0141-223 7516; canadianaffair.com
Frontier Travel 020-8776 8709; frontier-travel.co.uk
Exodus 0845 863 9600; exodus.co.uk
Headwater 01606 720199; headwater.com
Rail or coach
Snowcoach 01727 866177; snowcoach.co.uk
Ski weekends 08444 060600; skiweekends.com
Friendship Travel 0871 200 2035, friendshiptravel.com
Ski Freshtracks 020-8410 2022; skifreshtracks.co.uk
Solo's 0844 815 0005; solosholidays.co.uk