Should I Book My Ski Holiday Now or Later?

Back to Will I Be Able to Ski Next Winter 2020/21?

There remains a great deal of uncertainty about skiing next winter and the result of that is that on the one hand, if you book a ski holiday now you’re probably taking a greater risk due to that uncertainty … but equally, some people have been booking their skiing trips already to take advantage of some great deals.

Who Has Already Booked?

A lot of people accepted the offer of a 2020-21 ski holiday to replace their cancelled 2019-20 ski holiday from tour operators, particularly clients who have booked with the same company year after year.

InTheSnow reader Abi Fry said: “We were due to go skiing at Easter this year and have rolled our deposit over to January next year, we hope this will support our superb local travel agent at this tough time. We also hope we will be able to ski next season – we need something to look forward to!” 

Some have taken advantage of very cheap flight offers from airline desperate to sell seats through winter 2021 (they’ve gone on sale a lot earlier than normal) so have booked their travel if perhaps not yet their accommodation and lift passes.

Many tour operators had been selling winter 2020-21 holidays for a few months before the pandemic exploded into our lives and they say that although there are few people booking at present, early bookings had been good and levels are actually about normal for spring and that they are aware of a big increase in ‘research browsing’ by skiers sat at home in lockdown and dreaming of their next ski holiday.

At the top-end of the market there are reports of rich people booking out chalets for the entire season already so that they can self-isolate on the slopes!

Will Resorts Be Open?

The short answer here is “yes”… but there may be provisos and exceptions… or there may not be.

Most leading ski resorts are already selling season passes for next winter and are working on summer upgrades so everything appears pretty much normal in that regard.

The only examples we have of an active winter season to look at is the southern hemisphere where the pandemic lockdown is still very much a live event as it is in most of the world, rather than, we hope, quite a few months behind us by the start of next winter in the northern hemisphere.

But southern hemisphere ski areas have taken steps to remain viable which have included opening a little later than planned in the season and switching to a weekends-only opening in quiet parts of the season.

One resort in Argentina, Las Lenas, has decided not to open at all for winter 2020 in the Andes because the country is still in a strict lockdown as the season starts and flights will be banned through the season, so they can’t see how they can make it work financially even if the lockdown is eased mid-season.

Ski areas in the northern hemisphere will need to look carefully at how they operate if they can only run lifts a limited capacity due to social distancing. There are many different factors at play in the short and long term and it will work better at some resorts than others.

But then perhaps a vaccine or other big step forward will be in place by next season and resorts will be able to operate fairly normally.

What About Travel?

Currently, travel remains the biggest unknown factor with borders closed, airlines grounded and mandatory two-week quarantine periods when people do cross borders.

It is unclear how long some of these restrictions will stay in place but it does appear that they will be eased over the summer and autumn with airlines announcing the resumptions of flights and internal borders coming down in Europe through June and July.

easyJet and others have put flights on sale right through next winter much earlier than usual and often with seats at far lower prices so those prepared to risk booking now whilst not knowing exactly what will be the state of individual airlines and travel in general by next winter can often secure a good deal.

Will Resorts Get Booked Up?

On the one hand, at present, there is a great deal of uncertainty about booking travel, but equally, there are signs that as restrictions ease, pent up demand will lead to a surge in bookings.

Some ski tour operators InTheSnow spoke to said they thought next season could actually be a ‘boom winter’ … maybe… as they feel summer travel will be muted so next winter could be when everyone starts to feel free to travel again.

If a vaccine is found over the coming months it might have been rolled out by then too, the thinking goes.

If ski areas are also having to limit the numbers of people allowed in the resort this could actually create a scenario where resorts get fully booked, especially at peak times.  That has already been the case at ski areas that have re-opened in April and May in Norway and the US, where people have not been able to get their hands on one of the limited numbers of lift tickets available each day as they sell out like tickets for a big pop concert. 

So those could be arguments for booking early, and securing your lift pass, although no one knows if that really will be the case!

What Deals Are There?

More and more resorts are offering deals to try to get people to book early.

These generally take the form of cheap lift passes or other initiatives.

Zermatt and Arosa in Switzerland are among resorts offering a kind of holiday bond which may be worth considering if you plan to ski there. In Zermatt’s case, you buy their bond, like a gift voucher, and can spend it any time in the next 10 years.  The perk is that when you spend it Zermatt add 10% top-up its value, so a 100 Franc bond is worth 110 Francs and a 1000 Franc bond 1,100 Francs for example.  You can use the bonds on anything from accommodation or restaurant meals through to lift passes.

How About Lift Passes?

This is an interesting conundrum that may be worth thinking about if you are certain you will be skiing at a particular resort come what may. On the one hand we have the complete uncertainty of the details of net season but for those resorts that have re-opened and for resorts starting their winter season in the southern hemisphere we have seen:

  • Limited numbers allowed on the slopes at some resorts, at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado tickets have been like gold dust with a lottery system in place to win the chance to buy one.
  • A big price rise at some areas to cover the reality that resorts have less money coming in with fewer skiers allowed but often higher costs due to pandemic prevention requirements so need to increase costs to stay viable – Thredbo in Australia is reported to have increased their ticket price by 20%.
  • Some great deals and no-questions-asked-refund-guarantees for those who buy passes early at some ski resorts in the Alps as resorts try to get some money coming in.

So in certain circumstances having a ticket to the slopes in your pocket now, maybe at a discount and hopefully with a refund guarantee could be reassuring against the possibility of ticket availability being limited and prices going up next winter.

Brexit

With the virus dominating our lives through spring the ‘B-Word’ that dominated our lives for the previous five years or so has largely been forgotten. But the British Government is determined the UK will end the current period of alignment with the EU at the end of this year – in fact right at the start of the busiest week of the 20020-21 ski season, so we are back to the usual “will there/won’t there?” question on ‘a deal’ and whether this will or won’t have consequences for travel.

As with the position with the virus by the end of this year, no one really knows how things will play out.

However, the British government has reached an agreement with several non-EU countries including Switzerland that seem to mean travel to those countries at least will be unaffected however the latest Brexit negotiations play out.

Insurance

When booking anything keep in mind that most insurance companies have been fast to say that any future issues related to coronavirus will be excluded from policies. 

On the other hand lots of tour operators,  resorts and other travel companies are offering various ‘full refund’ offers if there are any problems that are much more generous and comprehensive than they would be in ‘normal times’ in order to reassure us when booking but the terms of these vary tremendously so it’s important to check he details before paying.