I love skiing. It really is the piste de la resistance of winter sports. Here are 5 things to know before booking a ski trip that I wish I’d read before booking ours, plus the lowdown on Andorra…
To set the scene beforehand, a little snow dump, if you will.
Having never booked our own ski trip and only being passengers on family and friends’ group trips, we had absolutely no clue what we were doing. You’d think sourcing a mountain, seeing if the apres looked suitably lively, watching some skiTok and checking if the hotel had a spa would be enough planning, right? Actually, well, no.
We booked to go somewhere else in Europe initially, where it quickly became apparent that there was approximately 5cm of snow – not even enough to make a decent snowball. Cue panic and watching the drama unfold on social media as people arrived in droves to mountains that looked more like the hills from the sound of music than anything remotely skiable.
1. Weigh up the pros and cons of a package ski trip
We booked a package trip through Crystal Ski and had a lot of back of forth on where we would be going. We were told we could move the trip due to the lack of snow; then, they changed their mind. It went on like this for weeks before they moved our trip 2 days before departure. NGL, I was stressed. And had the communication been better, it would have stopped me from calling their helpline every day like a scorned ex.
To be fair, Crystal Ski were actually great on the trip and organised everything perfectly. Our flights/ transfers/ ski passes/ boots/skis/ hotel, you name it, they sorted it. We just had to turn up and shoop shoop.
Things to note:
- You’ll probably pay more doing a package deal like this as the tour operator will take a cut, and then because of their T&Cs, it can be tricky to amend your trip in the case of adverse weather conditions etc
- The ease of everything being arranged for you, particularly if you’re new to skiing, is a major plus
- Make sure to research the altitude of resorts, snow reports and length of runs before booking to cover your back. Which I’ll get to shortly…
On our return, we got stuck on the mountain for an extra hour and a half due to a mini snow avalanche where they had to clear the snow off the road (I slept through the whole thing because I am the sleepiest, most unaware person that ever lived). If we had booked separate flights, we would have missed them, but as it was a Crystal flight, they held it for us… just another thing to consider.
2. Make like an onion, and layer up
The thing with booking a ski trip is that it’s not your typical holiday where you can throw in whatever and hope for the best. You need to be layered to the nines, and your ass needs to be covered in something waterproof. You absolutely do not want to be shivering and soggy stuck up a mountain…
I laughed when Dem handed me a balaclava to tuck into my cute base layers. In the voice of Cher from Clueless, “ugh, as if”. But after being sat on a chair lift in -27 temperatures, I would have prized a pair of socks off your granny’s feet if it meant staying a little warmer.
I took so many evening outfits that didn’t make it out of my suitcase. Most of the time, you go straight from the slopes to après, so I was wandering around in my thermals like a toasty legend. Anyway, here’s a checklist of essentials that you’ll need for your snowcation:
- Salopettes/ ski trousers
- Ski jacket
- Base layers (thermals)
- A few extra long sleeve layers
- Hat & ski gloves
- Backpack for water, snacks & extra layers
- SPF (goggle marks are not a vibe)
- & Lip balm with SPF – I forgot on day one, and my lips were drier than lift convos
- Helmet (you can rent if you don’t have your own)
- Snow boots or hiking boots
- Balaclava or snood
- Ski socks
- Comfy jumpers
3. Location Location Location: It’s all downhill from here
Previously we’ve stayed in a chalet which is excellent for the alpine vibes but not always the best in terms of the practicality of getting to the slopes. Trust me; you don’t want to have to get up at derp in the morning to get a bus to the slopes when you’re already tired from throwing yourself up and down a mountain the previous day.
We booked into Hotel Font d’Argent Pas de la Casa, 5 mins from the ski lifts and a 2 min walk from the ski hire shop, and with its own ski storage locker, it was ideal. Reviews stated 4*, and it definitely wasn’t my idea of 4*, but for the location and the price, we couldn’t fault it, p.s. if you stay here, bring your own hairdryer if I’d invited the whole town to come and wave at my hair it would have dried quicker.
We went half-board, which isn’t usually my vibe as I like to explore as much as possible and sample all the local eats, but it was absolutely perfect on this occasion. This allowed us to grab an early breakfast before the first ski lift, have lunch and apres on the mountains, then fall back to the hotel for dinner in the evening for made-to-order steak (defo order one of these).
The only problem with a buffet-style dinner is that I immediately revert to a 5-year-old child that can’t put a cohesive meal on a plate. Encouraged by a few Aperols one evening, I had steak, lasagne, dauphinoise potatoes, croquettes, some fun-looking salad, paella, and tiramisu all on one plate. Oh, and I woke up beside a bread roll. Make it make sense. Anyway, I trust you to make better decisions than me.
Things to check before you book accommodation:
- Distance from the hotel to the ski lifts or if it’s ski in, ski out even better
- Distance to the ski rental shop
- If the hotel/accommodation has a locker to store skis/boots/ helmets etc
4. Check the weather reports – I don’t like your altitude
Now we’re really getting down to the things I did not check before booking our trip. I thought all ski trips were created equally and, more importantly, snowy.
We used to ski in Morzine when I was little (Avoriaz/Lez Gets) over the Christmas/New Year period, and it was always super snowy. I’ve learnt from the scenes over Europe this year that snow is not guaranteed, and climate change has affected the snowfall and length of the ski season.
To have the best chance of snow, you need to be high up in the mountains. The higher, the better. Not rocket science, I’m aware, but to save yourself the stress of having to check the snow reports daily like some sort of abominable snowhan, I’ve listed some altitude guidance:
Things to check before booking your resort:
- If you’re looking for panoramic snowy views in-resort, you should aim for an altitude of 1,800m, 1,900m minimum
- For skiing again, the higher, the better – aim for an altitude of 2.500m minimum (the closer to 3,000m, the better)
- Check the snow forecast (on the snow/ we powder/ snow forecast)
5. Running from your problems
Before booking a ski trip, I recommend checking out how many runs there are at your resort, whether they’re more suited to skiers/snowboarders and what level. For example, if you’re a snowboarder and you book somewhere full of flat blue slopes, you’re gonna spend more time on your ass than usual. Similarly, if you’re an intermediate skier and book somewhere with predominantly icy reds and black diamonds, you will feel hugely out of your depth.
Flashback to Dem taking me down a black run (that he assured me was a blue) on my ass at 4 pm trying to catch the last ski lift back to our resort. For the record, we ended up in a taxi, and I don’t regret the ski pole I launched at his head – he chose violence first.
The lowdown on Andorra
I ski like my report card read at school: shy and considerate and could assert myself more. Dem snowboards like he is being chased out of a burning building by an axe-wielding murderer. He doesn’t care how many times he stacks it, whereas the only thing I want to stack is brunch dishes. He has no fear, whereas I have many fears. What I’m saying here is we’re very different skill and confidence levels, and we both loved Andorra.
I would 100% recommend Grandvalira, Andorra, if you’re looking at booking a ski trip in the near future. The largest ski resort in the south of Europe with 210km of runs which is suited to all levels. Perfect if you’re in a group of mixed abilities and the après is excellent. We were there for 6 days, and we found new runs and parts of the mountain to explore every day.
More info on Grandvalira: https://www.grandvalira.com/en/
Travel tip: If you’re heading to Andorra, put your phone on aeroplane mode before you cross the border because Andorra isn’t in the EU. They will charge you about £6 per day to use your data. There’s wifi everywhere, so there’s really no need to pay extra.
Hopefully, you’ve found my “5 things to know before booking a ski trip” helpful, and I’ve inspired a ski trip or two. As always, feel free to ping me a line with any specific questions or hilarious ski faux pas. My inbox is always open for both of these, especially the latter xox
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