The complete guide to planning a skiing holiday


There’s nothing like looking out over stunning snow-capped mountains and breathing in pure Alpine air while gliding down pristine powdery slopes.

So, if you’re tempted to dip your toe in the water – or, in this case, your snow boot in the white stuff – where do you start, and what travel insurance will you need?

When is the ski season?

Most European ski resorts open at the end of November and close mid to late April.

A few of the highest, such as Tignes in France, are open until mid-May, which means you can combine a winter sports holiday with long hours of sunshine – and even ditch the ski jacket for a t-shirt.

If picturesque wintery scenes tempt you, you might fancy a festive December ski getaway. Unfortunately, so do many other people; this is peak season, which means high prices and very busy slopes.

The low season starts in January. There should be plenty of fresh snow, but the temperatures can be much cooler. Plus, it’s the month to find good-value ski holidays and quieter slopes.

February, with its warmer temperatures and frequent snow, is high season and a popular time for families. If you don't have kids, avoid February half-term week – it’s the most expensive time of the year for skiing. However, if you must go during the half-term break, look at our guide to family skiing holidays, which covers family-friendly resorts, booking tips and lessons. 

Low season returns in March, when the slopes are quiet again, the days warmer and the snow usually good. Fewer crowds mean shorter queues for ski lifts (so more time for skiing) and great offers on accommodation, flights and lift passes.

In any season, piste closure is a possibility and can occur for several reasons, including a lack of snow, risk of avalanches and high winds. Skiing insurance will help cover the costs of reaching slopes further afield or pay for alternative activities on piste-closure days.

Where are the best resorts for beginners?

Prices vary hugely depending on the resort and country, so doing your research is good. Start by finding a resort that offers good English-speaking tuition and lots of confidence-boosting green and blue runs.

Look for places with accommodation near the ski lifts, good après ski, a resort crèche if you have young children and facilities for when you’re not on the slopes, such as a pool.

With wide, gentle runs, Arinsal in Andorra is a great place to start. Geared up for families and new skiers, its green pistes are designed exclusively for beginners.

For adults and older children, Obergurgl in Austria is ideal. As one of the highest ski villages in Europe, it’s the most reliable resort for snow. And, with excellent English-speaking instructors and quiet slopes, it’s perfect for beginners and improving intermediates.

Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps is excellent in a mixed-ability group. Its fantastic snow bowl of easy nursery runs and wide-open pistes makes it a perfect place to learn.

What type of skiing travel insurance do I need?

You need travel insurance for any holiday, especially for a skiing break. Our winter sports insurance covers you for:

  • piste closure
  • lost, stolen or damaged ski equipment
  • replacement equipment hire
  • illness and injury

If you take out our single trip or annual cover, we provide skiing cover as a winter sports add-on to the standard protection included in your policy.


What types of skiing are there?

Whether you’re a skier or snowboarder, there’s plenty of scope to mix things up. If you love walking, you might enjoy cross-country or Nordic skiing. It’s a great way to explore winter trails, and you can hire cross-country skis from most resorts.

Mogul skiing – skiing over a series of bumps – is great fun once you’ve got the basics covered. If sheer exhilaration is what you’re after, standing atop a mogul run, looking for a line and weaving through the bumps is just the thing.

Some resorts also offer night skiing, where gliding down beautifully illuminated slopes under a starry sky can be a magical highlight of a beautiful trip.

You can't talk about skiing without the après, and there's no better vibe than at a festival on the slopes or in the ski resort. 

What do I need to pack for my skiing holiday?

You’ll need a few essentials for your skiing holiday, but can hire boots, helmets, skis and poles at your resort.

A ski jacket and salopettes are essential, but, as first-timers, tborrow from friends and family or rent them. Gloves or mittens are a must (as a beginner, your hands will be in the snow a lot!) and don’t forget your thermals – ski socks, long-sleeved layers and long johns.

The reflective snow means eye protection is also vital. A good rule is ‘sunglasses for sun, goggles for cloud’. High altitudes also mean more robust UV, so eyes, lips and faces all need sunscreen protection.

Are there any extra costs on a skiing holiday?

You’ll need a pass to go up even the most basic of lifts, which can be bought in advance or at the resort. Pre-booking your ski and snowboard hire can save you a considerable amount.

If you're travelling as a family, a family pass is usually available and can save you money compared to buying individual passes. 

As a beginner, you’ll need tuition. Private lessons can be expensive – although you’ll progress more quickly while group lessons, available as half or full-day sessions, are cheaper. Check with the ski school before buying lift passes and hire kits, as many packages are available.

Grab some air and a great deal for your winter break