Ski operators remain positive for the season ahead

10th September 2020, by Abi Butcher

Smaller ski companies are expecting last-minute booking from devoted skiers

Smaller ski companies are expecting last-minute booking from devoted skiers

Small, independent ski companies are remaining positive about the winter season ahead, which starts in just over two months from now.

Since Crystal Ski Holidays dropped the bombshell on Tuesday that it was cutting its entire chalet programme for winter 2020/21 due to the “impact of Covid-19”, Where to Ski and Snowboard has been talking to smaller ski operators to find out how they are faring.

Ski Amis, which operates 20 chalets in mainstream resorts across the French Alps, says they are adapting by offering more self-catering accommodation, are in talks with catering firms like Huski to provide meals for guests and have learned a lot from watching the summer holiday firms adapt as travel rules have changed rapidly.

Ski Amis managing director Danielle Fenton said: “We have lease commitments so will have the same number of chalets, but seven will be self-catered and 13 catered. There’s been a higher demand for self-catered properties as it’s deemed less risk — we offer a mix but mainly our smaller chalets.

“We are asking guests to adhere to strict check in and check out times (5pm and 9am) to give our staff the entire day for deep cleaning. We are also not offering a transfer service so we have more staff available on weekends and guests can make the private travel arrangements that they are most comfortable with.”

While Danielle says bookings are down for the time of year, she’s not panicking — “I’m expecting everything to be booked last minute” — and Ski Amis is a member of ABTOT, which offers skiers peace of mind on refunds and holiday protection. 

Nick Morgan of Le Ski told us that he believes the decision made by Crystal will ultimately be “good news for the more specialist chalet operators”, acknowledging that there has been a continued downward trend among chalet providers over recent years due to Brexit and local employment laws in different countries.

“There is also a trend away from larger chalets which the big companies preferred to run,” said Nick, who has 33 chalets in Courchevel, Val d’Isère and La Tania. “So it’s smaller chalets being run by smaller, specialist companies which can be nothing but good for quality and satisfaction levels.”

Le Ski is almost half full for the season, which is a little below normal levels at this time of year but Nick says it’s not surprising given the “broad brush of quarantine being applied to whole countries rather than areas within countries.”

But ski resorts are well known to have been a major cause of the spread of coronavirus last winter, and ski companies are doing everything they can to offer last-minute changes and postponements to holidays free of charge, as well as 100% refunds in case the worst happens.

This will only be good news for the number of skiers keen to get back on the slopes this winter. The travel restrictions could even boost skiing and snowsports in the long run. Last month, The Ski Club of Great Britain released the results of a survey to which more than 19,000 skiers and snowboarders responded. It found that 95% of people want to go skiing next season. Of the remaining 5%, 4% said they would book for winter 2021/22 instead.

Only 70% of those respondents said they went skiing last season — so more people are planning to ski this winter, perhaps because they either had their holidays cancelled last season due to Covid (24%) or because they hadn’t managed to get away this summer.

Most encouraging is that 69% of those who responded to the survey said they haven’t been affected financially by coronavirus.

While ski resorts are slowly releasing details on their plans for socially-distanced skiing this winter — some have already had a head-start with a few summer weeks of glacier skiing — operators in quieter resorts are hopeful that fewer crowds will offer greater confidence.

Ski 2 mainly operates in Champoluc in northern Italy, known for its quiet, crowd-free slopes and restaurants, lack of queues at lifts and wide-open pistes. The company is offering its usual programme of hotels and apartments in Champoluc and chalets, apartments and a hotel in the Portes du Soleil area of France. It is also offering guaranteed private airport transfers of a small supplement (each way) of only £25 per person. Ski 2 also has a “coronavirus guarantee” that if the hotel, property, resort or country that you are due to stay at or travel to is required to close due to Covid-19,  they will offer an alternative holiday or 100% refund.

Owner Roger Walker said: “Understandably, enquiries and bookings are very slow for this winter at the current time. We would love to guarantee that winter will be as normal, but none of us know what December will bring. We are trying to reassure clients who are prepared to book at this stage and we feel optimistic that skiers will feel able to return to the Alps to enjoy, what will be for many, their first European holiday for a long while.”

In the coming days and weeks, Where to Ski & Snowboard will be offering updated news and guides to driving to the Alps as well a run-down of insurance options available to skiers, from “Covid cover” to redundancy insurance.




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