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Skiing is one of the best holidays you can do with a family. Sharing the exhilarating feeling of skiing down a piste with your loved ones is a privileged pleasure. For non-skiers or families with both skiers and non-skiers family activity holidays are also perfect for a winter break. But going on holiday in the winter poses the same problem for all if you are going to be using any ski lifts!
The dream ski holiday can quickly become a nightmare with long and pushy, sometimes even aggressive, lift queues and overcrowded pistes. The problem is of course that the short time window of UK school holidays dictates that anyone who wants to ski with their kids has to go at the same time.
It is difficult to justify traveling outside of school holidays and schools are cracking down on unauthorized absences so there isn’t really much you can do…. or is there?
The first decision for a British family is which holiday to choose, Xmas, February or Easter? As snow coverage is becoming more unreliable over Xmas and New Year, anyone skiing at this time heads to the same high altitude resorts. This means more people spread over fewer resorts. Depending on when Easter falls, snow can also be melting its way up the mountain creating the same phenomenon. The best bet is probably February BUT, if everyone chooses February, don’t we end up in the same situation?
Well yes, but the first thing to note is that the Brits are not the only nationality to go skiing in the Alps and the highest proportion of tourists are probably the French themselves.
The French have a very cool system of spreading out their February half term holidays. France is split into 3 zones, A, B and C and from the beginning of February to the beginning of March, each zone has a different 2 week holiday rotating on an annual basis.
The French are also very traditional about where they ski and certain regions tend to go to the same resort areas.
So with a bit of research and a little insight into the French school holidays and resort preferences you can eliminate the worst offending resorts for potential holidays!
So what’s the tip for the 2020-2021 season – who is on holiday when and what resorts do they go to?
Let’s start with the UK school holiday dates which are for the majority the 13-20 February 2021. This coincides with the French school holiday dates for zone C, which is mainly Paris and Toulouse. It doesn’t take much intelligence to work out that for the UK school holiday dates, the French who are also on holiday happen to be the ones closest to the Northern Alps and Pyrenees resorts!
This leaves the Southern Alps ski resorts, which are generally frequented by the southern members of zone B: Marseille, Aix-en-Provence through to Gap. Here’s the good news - their French school holidays don’t start until the 20th February!
If you go one step further and choose a resort like Orcieres 1850, which is hardly known to the Brits, then you are eliminating even more potential holidaymakers to share your lift queue with!
Of course there are the Eastern Europeans, the Belgians, the Germans, the Dutch and other nationalities, and you could spend hours dissecting each country’s holiday patterns and resort choices before getting lost in a complicated calculation requiring a mathematician to solve, but working out the quietest French weeks is definitely a good start!
Wherever you go February will always be busy because it is the best season for skiing but by using a bit of local insight you can choose the least busy of the busy ski resorts!
If that doesn't inspire you then another great alternative is to swap your traditional ski holiday and for a winter activity holiday completely outside of the ski resorts You can still include skiing but can also make the most of other winter activities like ice climbing, husky sledding and igloo building that don't need ski lifts!
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