Five million Brits say that they ski or snowboard, but only one million go each year. We need to get better at arranging ski holidays, says Daniel Elkan
Ski holidays might be an incredible experience – but organising one for a group of friends can feel like a daunting task. There are a myriad of options and yet rarely something that will please everyone. For the past 14 years I’ve organised ski holidays for my group of friends. During this time, experience has taught me that the skill and success comes with knowing what not to do.
Arranging a ski holiday for a big group is a chunk of work. Once you are on your way, however, it all feels worth the effort. Sat on the Ski Train, glass of bubbles in hand as we plunged through the Kent countryside towards the Alps, the plan had come together, A-Team style. Around me 24 beaming friends were chatting away to each other. The holiday had begun.
We were headed to the huge Paradiski, to carve and cruise the slopes of Peisey-Vallandry, La Plagne and Les Arcs – all 425km of them.
The variety of slopes would cater amply for a mix of nervous beginners, mile-munching intermediates and powder-hungry experts. With so many of us, a catered chalet, acting as a home from home, meant that we could come back from the slopes and not worry about the need to shop or cook. Indeed, it turned out that our First-World problem was only whether another log should be chucked into the furnace or the wood-fired hot tub as the snow melted on our steaming shoulders.
The great thing about travelling by train is that the journey is relaxing and social, with space for people to move about and mix. With a group of people who don’t all know each other, it’s a tremendous bonus to see friendships forming before your eyes, en route. When we arrived at the chalet at dusk, it felt like everyone knew each other already.
At dinner, surrounded by animated chat about the skiing we could look forward to, a thought struck me. Having made it on holiday, we really were the lucky minority: so many ski holidays get little further than an excited pub conversation, drowning in a flurry of group emails and no eventual decision. I believe this is because people make classic errors in planning and communication – condemning the holiday to never actually happen. With that in mind, here are what I refer to as the “seven deadly sins” of organising a ski holiday. Avoid these and you are well on your way to the slopes!
Sin #1 – Trying to please everyone
Your friendship circle is likely to encompass people who have different tastes, priorities and budgets – better to please most people and let some fall by the wayside. Your mate who insists on a ski-in/ski-out infinity pool, for example, may need to find some other buddies this time.
Sin #2 – Wide consultation
Step back from the keyboard … that well-meaning group email asking for everyone’s thoughts and where they want to go is like throwing a grenade into your planning. Everyone will have suggestions, and this will bog you down. Instead, if you want representative opinions, consult a couple of friends privately.
Sin #3 – Giving people choice
Barry Schwartz’s illuminating TED Talk, The Paradox of Choice, shows why too much choice is counterproductive. The more options there are, the more difficult it is for everyone to come to a decision. Instead, once you’ve sifted the options and decided what you think is best for your group, offer it as a “yay-or-nay” choice to your friends.
Sin #4 – Too much detail
Don’t fill your initial invite with endless details. Just keep things inspiring and honest – blending excitement with the essentials like date and price. Personally, I don’t even give the name of the accommodation I’ve found, just the facts about it and photos as attachments.
Sin #5 – No simple next step
Don’t ask for a deposit immediately; that’s a step too far. Just ask people to indicate their in-principle interest. Once you’ve got a long list of people, you can send a second email to those people letting them know that you are ready for deposits. That way, everyone knows it’s happening – and that they need to get their act together to assure their place.
Sin #6 – Under-inviting
Saying that you want to go skiing is one thing; committing is another. Be aware that you need to over-invite to get the numbers that you need. Encourage people to invite like-minded friends – which in any case can be a good thing for a social mix and new friendships to form on the slopes.
Sin #7 – Lack of deadlines
Plan in advance and give people clear deadlines as to when they need to commit and pay by. People will procrastinate if you let them – so be friendly but firm. You don’t want them to jeopardise the trip for everyone, so appeal to their better nature and make sure they are on the case.
FIVE OTHER GREAT SKI RESORTS FOR GROUPS
The completely ski-in/ski-out nature of this compact resort makes this a great base for groups of mixed ability – with a vast 650km of slopes to explore in total. Neighbouring resorts include Morzine and Les Gets, and the variety of terrain is a huge attraction here. The village has buzzing bars that will keep the party people happy – as well as the unique Aquariaz tropical swimming complex.
Val Thorens, France
Nestled on one of the peaks in the huge Les 3 Vallées ski area, Val Thorens has excellent beginner slopes just below it and a huge extent of terrain to explore. The village has plenty to do off slope too, with a new sports and aqua centre – along with a vibrant après-ski and nightlife scene.
Alpe d’Huez, France
One of the big hitters of the Southern Alps, Alpe d’Huez makes a central base for skiers to explore off in all directions. The local slopes have a huge network of green and blue runs, fanning out to red and black runs in some spectacular, scenic terrain and some very rustic mountain eateries for group bonding over lunch.
Sauze d’Oulx, Italy
Part of the 400km Milky Way ski area, Sauze’s slopes are fantastic for intermediates – tree-lined, quiet and dotted with some great mountain restaurants for a cosy cappuccino stop or a sumptuous lunch. The resort has a lovely cobbled old centre with a relaxed ambience and plenty of lively, friendly bars.
Val d’Isère, France
Endlessly popular with ski groups, Val d’Isère is arguably the birthplace of the French après-ski scene, home to the original and legendary Folie Douce bar. The village has an abundance of catered chalets for a range of budgets – along with wonderful ski slopes – shared with the neighbouring resort of Tignes.
Les Arcs: en.lesarcs.com/in-winter.html
La Plagne: winter.la-plagne.com/
Rail travel with Voyages SNCF: Voyages-sncf.com; 0844 848 5 848
Daniel’s group stayed at Hidden Alps’ Chalet Mountain Maison: hiddenalps.com/