Despite travel uncertainty bookings are on track as concerns grow that demand will outstrip supply this winter
Whether Britons will be able to go on ski holidays, without travel restrictions or quarantines, this winter remains to be seen, but this hasn’t deterred families from securing their place on the slopes.
With three of the four major Alpine destinations, France, Austria and Switzerland, sitting on the UK Government’s ‘red list’, and Italy and Sweden currently the only viable options for a ‘safe’ ski holiday, the future of ski holidays in an unpredictable one.
This uncertainty and inability to travel has inevitably put some skiers and snowboarders off committing to a trip to the slopes. Many believe booking last minute will be the only option this winter. However they’d be wrong, especially if they are a family wanting to travel during the popular school holiday weeks.
Some smaller operators are already fully booked, with others reportedly close to capacity, during the February half term, as concerns grow that “demand will outstrip supply.”
Specialist operator Ski Safari is one such company to have hit full capacity during half term at its popular family base in, Copperhill Mountain Lodge, in Åre, Sweden.
The story is similar for chalet operators: “There seems to be a confidence amongst skiers that things will resolve themselves by February half term and Easter, and these are the dates we are seeing the most bookings coming in for at the moment,” said Rob Dixon, marketing manager at Skiworld.
A recent survey by the Ski Club of Great Britain found that 96 per cent of skiers want to return to the mountains this season if restrictions allow – this pent up demand is driving bookings.
“With everything that has been happening this year, families, and skiers in general, are keen to have something to look forward to. Skiers will always want to get to the mountains each year, especially those who missed out last winter,” said said Andy Hemingway, Ski Safari’s Scandinavia product manager.
“We are anticipating that once there is any movement in the FCDO advice the floodgates will open and there won’t be enough beds or flights for everyone who wants to go skiing on these school-holiday dates… There is a good chance demand will outstrip supply on the peak weeks at half-term and Easter 2021,” warns Dixon.
Owing to the fact that thousands of skiers and snowboarders had their holidays cancelled last season, as resorts were forced to close due to the pandemic, and chose to rearrange their booking for 2021, capacity in March and April, particularly during the Easter holidays, is also booking up.
What’s more, families who enjoy the set up of a catered chalet, where a host will cook, clean and entertain, may also struggle to find the usual amount of availability. Major operators such Inghams and Skiworld have significantly reduced the amount of chalets on offer this winter, due to both Covid-19 and Brexit – while Crystal Ski has pulled its programme entirely.
There are many specialist chalet operators still running holidays this season and they’ve adapted remarkably well to the new normal – however they have limited space left too.
Le Ski, which operates 33 chalets in the French resorts of Courchevel, La Tania and Val d’Isere, is currently almost half full for next winter. “Occupancy levels for February half term are currently at a normal pre-pandemic level, with our smaller two- four- six- and eight-person chalets particularly busy,” said Nick Morgan, managing director.
“Almost half of Le Ski guests affected by resort closures last winter deferred their holiday to next season and we are immensely grateful for the faith they have placed in us,” said Morgan.
Trust in these specialist, reputable operators is paramount in the current climate. “Over the past few days have been really busy in our small office with people booking, we think it’s because there is a large pent up demand for holidays and because we offer a 100 per cent Covid-19 money back guarantee, so there is no risk for them and they can secure what they want,” said Nick Williams, director of chalet specialists Mountain Heaven, who reports “bookings are going as per normal and we are booking up well for half term at the moment.”
Families run the risk of being left disappointed and without a trip to the slopes if they don’t act soon. Fears over whether booking a ski holiday is safe are somewhat unfounded – as long as bookings are made with a bonded operator, many of whom are now also offering further Covid-19 guarantees, which promise to refund monies or find an alternative if a trip is cancelled because of the pandemic.
“Booking now gives customers the best price, and the most choice when it comes to accommodation and flights, and our flexible booking conditions and ABTA/ATOL protection give customers the confidence to book with the knowledge that their money is protected,” said Hemingway.
While there will undoubtedly be last-minute availability with some operators and in many destinations this approach to booking requires flexibility – something families lack when organising a ski holiday when children are of school age. Last-minute package prices are unlikely to be as budget-friendly as previous years however, as operators try to cover increased costs and demand for flights forces prices to skyrocket.