Your guide to better skiing

Marry Christmases

The ski business is enjoying a happy Christmas. Although traditionally skiers like to spend Christmas at home and
then go skiing, the sheer efficiency of holidaying next week - at worst it involves taking three days off work, at best none at all - has made it irresistible. Yet tour operators priced it below the usually more popular New Year week, for which skiers were expected to pay a premium averaging about £90 and take four days off work. The result? Christmas sold out quickly, the New Year didn't.

The ski business is enjoying a happy Christmas. Although traditionally skiers like to spend Christmas at home and then go skiing, the sheer efficiency of holidaying next week - at worst it involves taking three days off work, at best none at all - has made it irresistible. Yet tour operators priced it below the usually more popular New Year week, for which skiers were expected to pay a premium averaging about £90 and take four days off work. The result? Christmas sold out quickly, the New Year didn't.

Apart from Inghams ("We've a few seats from Manchester to Bulgaria," said a spokesman without enthusiasm) most tour operators still have some bargain holidays for departures next weekend. Airtours has knocked £50-£280 off two- and three-star holidays in Italy (from Manchester, at £389 and £479) and Andorra (from Birmingham/Manchester, £229 and £369). Neilson's deals are from Manchester: Macugnaga in Italy (£449), Borovets in Bulgaria (£359), and Andorra (£369, all prices half-board).

Thomson's availability is in the Milky Way resorts of Sauze d'Oulx (from Gatwick, four-star B&B, £429) and Montgenÿvre (from Gatwick, two-star half-board, £329). Transfers from Turin are excluded, to lessen dissatisfaction among full-fare bookers sharing the same holidays.

If next weekend is too imminent, Crystal has deals for departures on 6/7 and 13/14 January. Holidays in Austria (at £249) and Italy (£229) look particularly good value.

Airtours, 0800 028 8844; Neilson, 0870 909 9099; Thomson, 0870 606 1470; Crystal, 0870 848 7000

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