Signs of Life For Next Winter’s Skiing and Snowboarding Season?
6th July 2020 | James Cove, PlanetSKI editor
Last modified on May 14th, 2021
Tour operators report a rise in bookings, summer travel restrictions are being eased and resorts are planning ahead for next winter. It will be a somewhat different affair but there are, at last, growing signs of some optimism.
A swallow doesn’t make a summer and a rise in enquiries plus some bookings doesn’t make a winter – but it is a very welcome start.
As the winter season of 2019/20 came to an abrupt end in the middle of March, so did bookings for next winter.
In the midst of a pandemic with uncertainty in abundance it was hardly the time to book a ski or snowboard holiday in the distant future.
“This is without any doubt the biggest catastrophe to hit the snowsports industry in the many decades I have been working in it,” said one industry veteran to me back at the end of March.
“Like others I am just trying to save my business as I have lost 25% of my turnover at a stroke. Some will go under, there will be lots of pain. I don’t want to be rude, but this is an utter sh**show and I have no idea how we will get over it.”
And his view now, more than 3 months on?
“Well, I wasn’t wrong when we last spoke!
“Capacity has been sharply cut for next winter by many operators, it has been a very hard time, job losses have happened and there will be more, but finally things are beginning to take some sort of shape. The government’s economic response with furlough and credit/loans have helped, but we are by no means over it.
“Our bookings are running at 30% of what they were at this time last year, but I will take that.
“It could have been so much worse and the phone lines are ringing again and we are taking some, albeit limited, bookings.’
He is not alone.
Tour operators actions
“As more and more people begin to plan their winter holidays, despite the many uncertainties regarding COVID-19, we would like our customers to take comfort in the fact that we’re doing all we can to ensure they can safely pursue their passions again,” said the Inghams CEO, Paul Carter.
“Throughout the COVID-19 crises we have strived to do the right thing, and be open about our efforts. We have already seen a great number of guests transferring to next year, and many new bookings for 2021.”
“As we look to the future, I have no doubt we will get through this. We are already seeing a good number of guests transferring to next year, as well as new bookings for 2021.
“Our ongoing partnership with our travel agency colleagues remains a key part of this recovery and we will all rebuild our businesses and our industry together.”
Inghams has just released full details of its preparations for next winter and what one of its holidays will look like, Inghams looks forward to next winter
“We are using this time to get ready for next season and making sure our clients that were happy to defer are all booked and we are open and taking bookings too,” said the MD of Erna Low Ski Holidays, Jane Bolton.
“We are so pleased that clients are already finding our brand new website easy to book through and we will be adding more functionality over the summer too.
“Social media is another area we are concentrating on, to inspire those looking to book for next season. All clients can be safe in the knowledge that they can cancel with no fees up to 6 weeks before departure.”
The early booker
Holiday skier, Malcolm Stirling, and his friends usually wait until August or September to book their first ski and snowboard trip.
They’ve moved early this year because the deals are so good.
They’re off to Les Menuires in the French Alps in late January.
“Because we like to go more than once we try to keep the cost down,” he told PlanetSKI.
“This year we’ve noticed significant discounts on previous years – between 30 and 50% on last year and the deposit to secure the holiday is in the region of £100.
“If we have another outbreak and we can’t go, all we lose is £100 and we’ve probably saved £300 or £400 each on the booking.”
Malcolm’s group always book a package trip to include travel from the UK, transfers and self-catering accommodation so their money is protected if the trip is cancelled.
And what about the prospect of restrictions in resort?
“We don’t après ski much and we don’t go in the school holidays so the bars tend to be quiet anyway,” Malcolm said.
“My view is that it will either be fully relaxed by then or there’ll be another outbreak and we’ll lose just £100.”
Influence of this summer on next winter
The opening up of borders and ski resorts for the summer is contributing to this feeling of growing optimism.
We have reported on their openings, More ski resorts in the Alps open for summer.
Les Arcs in France fired up its lifts for summer at the weekend.
One of our readers, Betony Garner, was in resort.
“The resort is surprisingly busy and people are very much ‘following the rules’,” said Betony.
“My biggest take away is that it seems that because all staff everywhere are wearing masks and observing the rules, visitors seem to be following. Very interesting and very organised.
“It was different for sure but on the whole very positive.
“Mask usage was prolific (and obligatory in certain areas, including lifts) and the resort had gel distribution stations throughout the resort.
“But everything that is normally open in the summer is on offer (lifts, restaurants, hotels, shops) and people didn’t seem to be avoiding things.”
Betony spoke to some resort officials about this summer and what things may look like next winter.
“All the lifts that are normally open in the summer are open in Les Arcs,” said Jacqueline Renard from the lift company.
“We are leading by example, with all our lift operators wearing masks and they have all been trained in hygiene measures.
“Masks are also mandatory for all lift users (walkers/mountain bikers) and there is alcohol gel on offer at the entrances to all lifts.
“We are not mixing groups in lifts, which is helped by a lower of volume of people in the summer compared to the winter. Lifts are also disinfected regularly.”
“We are very used to following protocols in the hotel industry, so essentially this is just a new protocol to follow. Staff wear masks at all times and all staff have been trained within their department,” said the deputy Manager of the Villages Clubs du Soleil, David Mas.
“We had a good surprise already this summer with the number of guests coming to Les Arcs. For winter we feel as though we are already ‘ready’ and have confidence for next winter with people already starting to book. We have been adapting protocols every week since lockdown, so we are ready to keep doing this.”
Ski companies restart marketing
Resorts and some operators and agents have begun marketing as they believe the time is now right.
“8 reasons to ski in #Les3Vallees next winter #WeWillSkiAgain,” said the largest linked ski area in the world as it launched a social media marketing campaign last month.
The UK agent Ski Solutions has launched a clever campaign.
Here was its message last month.
And this month it has changed the message.
“Are you ready to get a date in the diary to look forward to this winter? The mountains are calling, with enough fresh air and fresh powder to tempt us all,” said Ski Solutions.
“As always, we are on hand with expert advice and insight on what you can expect this winter – from how to get to the mountains safely, to which kind of accommodation would work best for you.
“If you are after a tailor-made ski holiday, then you can enjoy savings of £50pp when you book.”
The key word for Ski Solutions is “flexibility”.
It is offering flexible booking options with reduced deposits where available and no amendment fees up to 12 weeks before departure.
And the UK’s largest operator, Crystal Ski, is out of the blocks too.
“It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for… this winter’s short ski breaks are now on sale,” said Crystal Ski.
The resorts, too, are looking ahead.
The areas of The Tirol, Norway-Home of Skiing and Les3Vallees are just some of the areas that have confirmed partnerships and coverage with us here at PlanetSKI for next winter.
So have some resorts including Morzine in the Portes du Soleil.
“No one really quite knows what next winter will be like, but there will be a season and we have to start working and planning for it now,” said Sara Burdon from Morzine.
“We have a full summer programme underway and we will learn much for the winter,” she added.
See here for the resort’s summer season amid coronavirus, Summer in Morzine.
And there has been a sharp increase in interest on self-driving, with self catering at the end of it, How to drive to the Alps
Two months ago at the beginning on May we looked into our crystal ball to see what next winter might look like…