For many years, charter operators ruled the weekend skies over Geneva and the traditional French ski holiday meant a standard seven night package based on Saturday arrival and departure days.
Tour operators and French ski accommodation suppliers stuck rigidly to this inflexible but relatively successful formula and clients learnt to live with what could be incredibly busy airports, packed transfer buses and chaotic check-in at their chosen hotel or apartment. The words ‘changeover day’ will forever strike fear into the heart of anyone who’s been lucky enough to work a season in the Alps.
A few years back everything started to change. The first cracks in the armour appeared when some chalet operators, keen to break the mould, started to offer Sunday to Sunday holiday options. This was followed by low cost airlines introducing more daily capacity from the UK to the main French ski airports competing not only directly with scheduled airlines like BA and Swiss but also indirectly with the ski charter operators and their weekend rotations.
And as the choice of more flexible travel options available to UK skiers grew, so the bed base in the Alps increased as smart new hotels, residences and apartment buildings sprung up to meet the expected demand. In recent years, there’s been a huge growth in both the number and quality of lodging options in the French Alps. Examples include the superb new Le Village in Les Arc 1950, Flaine Montsoleil and the soon to be completed Residence L’Amara in Avoriaz.
Le Village at Arc 1950 - Ski-in/ski-out residences in the Paradiski area.
Flaine Montsoleil - a quality lodging option. The only self-catered accommodation in France to be awarded 5 stars under the French system.
But all this extra availability and increase in quality meant more competition between properties that could no longer be guaranteed 100% occupancy and high levels of repeat business. Price and flexibility have now become very important factors in the success of a French ski hotel or apartment – those who have paid attention to getting the price point right and allowing flexible stays have, in the main, prospered.
The properties that have been resistant to change have found things to be rather more challenging. With very few exceptions, French ski accommodation can no longer dictate a rigid weekly arrival and departure pattern and instead have started to offer flexibility, short ski stays and ski weekends.
Of course this isn’t the case all season long as anyone trying to book a short stay over Christmas, New Year, Half-Term and Easter will know. When demand is high there are occasions when some suppliers revert back to the old Saturday pattern. However even the high season landscape is changing and it’s certainly worth checking whether short breaks are available for peak dates.
A quick French search on www.powderbeds.com for UK Half Term week but for 4 nights, arriving on Monday the 13th of February has just returned 35 different options – so as I’ve said, definitely worth checking! A few years ago, a request for 4 nights over half term arriving on a Monday would have been met with a polite but firm ‘non’.
So the short ski stay or ski weekend is becoming a massively popular way for British skiers to get their alpine fix and an increasing number are more than happy to self-package their own ski holiday. All too often these days, work commitments mean less opportunity for holiday time and a cleverly thought through itinerary could mean the maximum amount of time on the slopes with minimal time off work.
Here’s some Powderbeds Top Tips for getting the most from your short ski break or ski weekend:
An early flight from the UK and a late flight back could mean the chance to ski on the day of arrival and departure. Don’t always assume that Geneva will be the closest airport to a French ski resort. Chambery is closest to the 3 Valleys resorts of Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens and Grenoble is closest to Vaujany, Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux Alpes.
A shared transfer may be the cheapest option but check the schedule. Does it match when your flight arrives or will there be a four hour wait? If there are over five of you in your party have you thought about a private transfer? They can offer great value and the driver will be waiting to take you to resort immediately rather than waiting for other passengers from other flights.
Another option but be prepared for possible queues at the car hire desk in the airport and then the time taken to get from the terminal to the car hire depot. Remember the fastest roads in France are toll roads and most importantly always find out where you can park when you get to resort. Is it close to where you are staying and how much will it cost to park there?
A relatively simple one and forgive me for stating the obvious! The closer your resort is to the airport the less time it will take to get there. The Portes de Soleil resorts, Avoriaz, Les Gets and Morzine are only around an hour from Geneva as are Les Houches and Chamonix. By contrast, the Espace Killy resorts of Val d’Isere and Tignes are around two and a half hours from the Geneva. If you’re on a tight schedule the extra time may make all the difference
Where to Stay?
www.powderbeds.com offers a huge choice of French ski apartments and ski hotels that offer short ski breaks and ski weekends. Most offer any day of arrival and the only stipulation is a minimum stay of either two or three nights. An apartment will allow you extra space and the opportunity to self cater and a hotel will offer the convenience of an on-site restaurant and hotel facilities.
How do I search for a Short Ski Break?
To search for a short ski break or ski weekend simply use the yellow search box in the top left hand corner of the www.powderbeds.com site. You can either search an entire country or search by resort. You’ll also find our handy ‘Search Alternative Dates’ tool which will show you which properties have availability for a short ski break close to the dates you’ve chosen. Our site shows live availability and it’s all bookable securely online.
If you’re having any difficulty then please drop us an email [email protected] or call us on 0845 180 5000 during normal office hours and we’d be delighted to help
Posted on Sunday 26 Oct 2014