Winter is what we live for. When everyone else is booking holidays in the sun, we’re working hard, saving our precious holiday days for winter shred. But then when it comes down to it, there’s plenty to think about – far more than which sun deck to lie on. So here’s our top considerations, a snowboard holiday check list, and some top tips for booking your snowboard holiday.
Package or independent? Package deals you’ve usually got everything included – from flights and transfers, through to accommodation and lift passes, and sometimes you even get a resort rep to help you when you’re there, insurance included, lessons and equipment hire. But snowboarders often find package holiday destinations are filled with British skiers who are bussed in and out on a Saturday, so to go independently not only offers you far more flexibility in your length of stay and destination, but also can get you to some Brit-free locations. Package holidays often come with cheaper lift passes and transfers as the holiday companies buy them on mass, but if you want to avoid the crowds, you’ll have to make a few more decisions on your own.
Country/Resort – obviously your country and resort is up to you, but there’s a few things you want to think about before deciding.
Transfer – some resorts are closer to airports than others, and also easier to get to. Some of the more well-known resorts have better transfer systems, but if you check on the website, most resorts have local buses which run from airports and stations into resort. These can be cheaper, and the transport systems abroad are far more reliable than they are in the UK – when a train or bus says it will be on time, it usually will.
Altitude/time of year – you’re often taking a risk in early or late season for lower resorts, so stick high if you want some snow. Many resorts now have snow canons but if it’s not cold enough and there is no base, then they cannot operate them. If you can go off-season it is often cheaper than during holidays – particularly February and Easter when schools are off across Europe.
Snow/cannons – Snow differs across the world. North America’s “champagne powder” is lighter than it often is in Europe, but then it can often be far colder. Japan is famous for its uber-deep, uber-light, uber-fluffy white stuff, but again it is further away than in Europe. But when powder falls across Europe, powder days have never been so much fun. Resorts often have snow canons, but the snow is very different to real snow, but it is useful to check if a resort has snow canons to top up sketchy snow bases.
Lifts/pistes – Beginner snowboarders hate drag lifts, and many older resorts which haven’t been updated, are filled with drag lifts. If you’re a beginner and want to stay away from them then check the lift map to see what you’re left with. Heated chairlifts and modern gondolas are installed in most resorts so it’s good to check you can get to the good terrain/easily get back to your chalet/hotel if you want to avoid drag lifts. It’s also useful to look at the piste map before setting off to check the resort has what you’re looking for. Large inter-linked areas have more accessible pistes, but if you want some off piste or tree runs, you’ll have to check for yourself on the map.
Resort layout – if you’ve family/friends who are different levels to you then you might want to check that the resort is all in one place, or you can easily meet up at lunch/dinner/apres. Sometimes things can be very spread out.
Lessons – firstly check they’ve a good English-speaking snowboard school, and secondly check what kind of lessons you’re after. Resorts often offer beginner lessons, but if you want some guiding/advanced lessons, you may have to check they offer these. Booking in advance is also recommended, particularly in peak time.
Apres – If you’re after some apres, check online before you go as some resorts don’t have bars or one main resort centre. Some people prefer no apres, but if you’re after some shots and dancing, the Austrians and Norwegians know what they’re doing!
Terrain Park – check on the maps or online to see what parks are on offer and what features they have. Some resorts have websites particularly designed for the park/pipe info. Early in the season, parks may not always be built as the snow is often limited, and it may not be til mid-late season til the pipe appears, but larger resorts often have dedicated park teams to groom every night. If you’re after some park action it’s worth checking out.
Other activities – resort websites are good at telling you what else there is to do in a resort in case you want a day off or to take someone who doesn’t ski or ride. Snow-mobiling, husky sledding, spas and markets are common in resorts for both apres-activities and non-riders.
Chalet – most popular across Europe, chalets often come fully catered so you know exactly what meals you’re getting, where you’re staying and, if you have hired the whole chalet, who you are staying with. You get to know the chalet owners and those who run it, and there’s often warm cake awaiting your return off the mountain. This can often be an expensive choice, but if you know how much you want to spend and/or can catch a good deal, chalets are an awesome choice. For B&B chalets, there are usually links on resort websites indicating rooms in chalets run by locals. This can be a very cheap option, but remember you will be paying your meals out each night, and some can be very basic.
Apartment – Usually the cheaper option for basic accommodation, but it’s worth checking out your apartments online before you go.
Hotels – particularly in North America, hotels can be a good option for reliable accommodation with other facilities, such as pools or spas. You can often get breakfast this way too.
Location – if booking independently (or even when you’re not!) it’s good to check your location. Ski in-ski out is often not possible, but if it’s walkable to a short bus ride or to the lifts then you’re doing good. If you want to go out in the evenings, you’ll need to be nearer to town, unless you know there’s a taxi service to take you home in the early hours.
Insurance – Make sure you’ve got winter sports insurance. You’re stupid if you don’t – and even if you think ‘I’m careful’, it may not be you who causes the accident, someone else might… plus accidents can happen from nothing, so £15 insurance for a week may save you hundreds of thousands of pounds in bills.
BoardStylist snowboarding holiday checklist:
BoardStylist’s Top 5 Tips
- For uber-cheap deals, when you know where you are going, wait til last minute when resorts are trying to get rid of accommodation cheaply.
- Package deals often work out cheaper for lift passes and transfers. Even if you want to stay somewhere else, you can always use a package deal to get your pass and transfer, then do the rest on your own.
- Don’t go mainstream if you want to save money – the more popular resorts are more expensive and not necessarily any better. If you want to spend your day on the mountain enjoying the riding, not avoiding people, then find a less popular resort, where everything will also be cheaper. Many large interlinked snow areas are made up of small resorts and big mainstream resorts, so if you stay in one of the smaller ones you may find it cheaper, but still get to ride the same terrain.
- It’s often good to check out online forums for resort reviews/good places to go in particular resorts before you set off. Remember not to believe everything and some people have bad experiences themselves, but if you want to find a good off-piste trail or bar, then check online. Just don’t go off-piste without someone who knows the area.
- Always check what’s included in the price before paying/leaving – you don’t want any expensive surprises.