Travel: A bit of piste and quiet: Ski resorts once notorious for rowdy Brits are calming down, says Chris Gill

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The Independent Travel
Ten years ago, one of the hazards of picking a ski resort was that you might find otherwise appealing bars made inhospitable by offensively drunken young Brits, and that your sleep might be ruined by the aforementioned young Brits wending their riotous way home in the early hours.

It wasn't a serious hazard, though, because everyone in the know knew which resorts were worst affected: Soll, in Austria, and Sauze d'Oulx, in Italy. It's no accident that Soll - referred to by some as Benidorm am Alp - was the resort chosen a few years ago to epitomise the plebeian way of skiing in a jokey television 'documentary', in contrast to the upper-crust way of skiing represented by Wengen.

In 1985, the first edition of the Good Skiing Guide (edited by your correspondent) said disapprovingly that Soll attracted 'the young singles fraternity for whom skiing is secondary to night-life, and whose night-life usually ends up with a lot of noise in the village streets at an hour when skiers ought to be allowed some sleep'. Of 'Sowzy', we said that 'the cheap and extremely cheerful night-life is the main attraction for those who like that sort of thing; it is also the main drawback for those who don't. We have bitter reports of holidays spoilt by rowdiness.'

But during the Eighties, the rowdiness abated. Sauze suffered acute snow shortages in the early part of the decade, before the general shortages that haunt most of us still. The resort became difficult to 'sell' internationally, and drifted back to being what it was originally - a pleasant mountain retreat for the second-home-owning Torinesi. When I was there a couple of seasons ago, the notorious Andy Capp's bar was the very picture of civilised apres-ski - animated, but yob-free.

Soll, too, has changed for the quieter, though it is less clear why. Thanks, perhaps, to the television exposure, the resort's image has lagged behind, refreshed by occasional forays by tabloid journalists in search of a sensational story. But the reality is that Soll is quieter than many other resorts in Austria and elsewhere.

So, for the skier keen to avoid confrontation with the unacceptable face of British youth, the question that has to be asked is: where are the louts now? The mayor of Val d'Isere would have you believe that he has inherited them. I think he's got his local problems out of proportion. There is no denying that the big-name, keen-skier resorts such as Val and St Anton attract a lot of young people intent on a good time, but at least those young people have chosen the resorts for the skiing they offer - and if there is fresh snow falling, the bars will empty earlier than usual.

In recent years, my most vivid experience of British rowdies has been in Kitzbuhel, where yobs of around school-leaving age seemed to be roaming the streets drunk, as early as mid-evening. Presumably they were safely comatose by midnight, and therefore posed little threat to their neighbours' sleep.

Britain does not, of course, have a monopoly on skiing rowdiness, any more than on football hooliganism. Scandinavian youth has a bad reputation, and is an irritant in resorts such as Ischgl and Solden. If there is any resort you would warn fellow readers to avoid on these grounds, drop me a line.

WAY BACK at the beginning of the autumn I invited reports on the quality of catered chalet holidays sold by Crystal, which has in a very few years developed the biggest chalet programme on the market. My thanks to the five readers who responded.

One reader, Marcia Nash, had gone with Crystal once in 1992 and twice in 1993. She rated the first two holidays as excellent, the third very disappointing in every respect, but took the view (based on her experience) that this variation is typical of all big chalet operators.

Adrian Muscutt rated Crystal as inferior to many rivals, but has repeatedly bought its holidays because it offers lower prices and a wide choice of resorts served by train. The other three readers - Alix Pentecost (an ex-chalet girl), Katherine Harberd and Peter Campbell - all registered disappointment with holidays taken in 1992, especially with the food. All identified the root problem as poor staff selection and training.

I don't pretend that this self-selected sample is a basis for a definitive verdict. More letters - particularly from skiers with experience of other chalet companies - would be welcome.

SKIERS who have volunteered to gather price information in their holiday resorts over Christmas and the New Year should by now have received their instructions from mission control. There is still time (just) to contribute to this price survey if you are going skiing at New Year or in the second week of January. We plan to present the results at the end of January.

We are particularly keen for information on the following: Borovets, Bormio, Breckenridge, Champery, La Clusaz, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Crans Montana, Davos, Flims, Grindelwald, Ischgl, Isola 2000, Lech-Zurs, Livigno, Megeve, Morzine, Park City, La Plagne, St Johann in Tirol, St Moritz, Schladming, Selva, Solden, Soll, Valmorel, Villars, Wengen, Whistler.

Please address offers of help and letters about Crystal to: Chris Gill, Fox and Partners, Freepost, Norton St Philip, Bath BA3 6UB. No stamp needed.

(Photograph omitted)

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