The history of the British ski holiday

24th February 2013, by Abi Butcher

Erna Low began taking British skiers on holiday in 1932

Erna Low began taking British skiers on holiday in 1932

Last year, tour operator Erna Low celebrated its 80th birthday, which coincided with the launch of Aiming High, the biography of British ski holiday pioneer Erna Low who set up her travel business almost by accident in 1932.

Born in Vienna, but working in London at the time and wanting to get home to see her family for Christmas, Erna placed an advert in the Morning Post that read: “Austria, fortnight, GBP15 only, including rail and hotel, arranged by young Viennese Graduette for young people leaving Christmas”.

Her first group of clients, British skiers, went to Sölden in Austria for just £15 for a fortnight including full board accommodation in the one and only inn, rail travel to and from the resort, ski hire and tuition – and a lesson in German.

The popularity of the trip soon saw it develop into a lucrative business, and the company Erna Low today claims to be the largest UK self-drive tour operator to the French Alps – organising holidays for more than 14,000 people last season.

In an illustrated hardback, with a foreword by Roger Lloyd Pack, biographer Mark Frary recounts how Erna Low taught royalty, actors and politicians to ski. The book includes interviews with her friends and colleagues and shows how her strength of character and business sense helped her to succeed in a male-dominated world.

One reader, Celia Fielder, writes on Amazon: “Mark Frary’s biography of Erna is fascinating – it brings back so many happy memories, not just of Erna, but of others, and the places we used to go in those far flung early days of the package holiday – and the £50 limit! It is hard to believe now, but we all managed.”

For more information about Erna Low, and to buy your copy of Aiming High, visit

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