But the biggest problem confronting most operators is pricing. Since 1993 prices were set a year ago, the pound has lost about 16 per cent against the currencies of Austria, France and Switzerland - and a similar amount against the dollar, the basis of aircraft fuel pricing. If the operators' cost increases were fed straight through to the brochure prices, you might expect increases of 8 to 10 per cent next season.
Paul Chase-Gardener, the managing director of Bladon Lines, admits to being 'a bit nervous' about likely increases: 'We have taken 11 per cent more people skiing this year, despite slow booking after an enthusiastic start. But the market has clearly been price-sensitive, and 1994 prices are going to need fine judgement.'
While he and his competitors focus on January 1994, keen skiers prepared to make their own arrangements will continue to ski in most high-altitude Alpine resorts until May. After that, you have two choices. For a quick fix of skiing excitement at modest cost, you can go to Europe's highest ski areas, where the skiing (on and around glaciers) goes on more or less year- round. Or, for something nearer the usual winter week's skiing, you can head for the southern hemisphere.
Summer skiing is a rather different thing from winter skiing. It takes place on relatively limited ski areas, and during a relatively limited part of the day, after the overnight ice has softened but before too much slush has developed.
Many British skiers have experience of skiing on Swiss and French glaciers during winter holidays, in resorts such as Val d'Isere, Tignes, La Plagne, Val Thorens and Les Deux Alpes in France, and Verbier, Zermatt and Saas Fee in Switzerland. If your winter trips to the top of these ski areas have left you with the impression that glacier skiing is rather tame, you're not wrong.
But there are more challenging areas. Ironically, the best are not in the countries we associate with high, snow-sure skiing, but in Austria. My favourite glacier is the Tuxer Gletscher above Hintertux, at the top of the Zillertal. It offers genuinely challenging skiing over an impressively wide area.
My second choice would be a few miles to the west - the Stubai Gletscher, the ski area at the head of the Stubaital, which leads down to Innsbruck. Not so challenging, not so scenic, but again quite extensive, and Neustift, a pretty village with a thriving summer tourist trade, is half an hour down the valley.
For a proper winter week during the European summer, you might consider the antipodes. Most of the Australian ski areas in New South Wales and Victoria are of mainly local interest: with top heights at or below 2,000m and vertical drops of less than 400m, they resemble Norwegian rather than Alpine resorts. But there are exceptions. Thredbo is a purpose- built European-style resort with Australia's longest pistes (700m vertical) and testing skiing. Falls Creek is in much the same league. Biggest and among the steepest is the isolated massif of Mt Buller. The linked resorts of Perisher Valley and Smiggin Holes lead in terms of lifts (30) and piste kilometres (120).
New Zealand's largest ski area is Whakapapa on Mt Ruapehue, in the North Island, with 24 lifts and just over 600m vertical on the sunny side of a volcanic cone. Mt Hutt in the South Island is better known, being only an hour from Christchurch and having an exceptionally long season (May to November). It has only 10 lifts but they serve a lot of skiing, including an impressive array of unpisted black runs.
The Andes in South America are serious mountains, and contain some serious ski resorts. The best-known internationally are those on the eastern side of the range, in Argentina - particularly Bariloche (or Gran Catedral, to name the ski area rather than the ski town) and Las Lenas.
Gran Catedral is extensive ( more than 30 lifts, with a great deal of intermediate skiing) but low, with a base station at around 1,000m and a top height of twice that. Las Lenas, several hundred miles to the north, is very different: it was purpose-built in the early Eighties in a bleak valley at 2,200m, with a top height of around 3,400m. It may have fewer lifts, but they open up large areas of skiable terrain, particularly for experts.
On the western side of the range in Chile, the best-known resorts are Portillo, centred on one hotel built at the end of the Forties, and Valle Nevado, a recently built resort that is already rated Chile's best and may one day be a serious international contender.
The season in the southern hemisphere runs from June to October, with high-season holidays in July and (in Australia) August. Return flights to appropriate gateways cost at least pounds 600 to pounds 1,000, depending on where, when and how you go. I know of no package holidays. Escaping the British summer in this way isn't going to be cheap.Reuse content