Considering Europe for a ski vacation

By Felicity Long

Felicity LongIs this the season to send your been-there-done-that ski clients to Europe?

The concept might be a hard sell for budget-conscious skiers and snowboarders, but travel agents experienced in selling winter sports travel know that bargain hunters don’t tend to use retailers for ski anyway.

Upscale clients, families and groups celebrating special occasions, on the other hand, are more likely to spring for pricier packages that contain everything from accommodations to lift tickets and lessons, many of which are commissionable to agents.

When comparing ski vacation in Europe and the U.S., price is obviously a key factor.

InsightOne way to compare is to look as lift-ticket prices, which typically tend to cost less in Europe. A two-day ski pass in Val d’Isere, France, for example, costs about $107, while the same two days cost about $75 at Zermatt in Switzerland.

Vail, on the other hand, charges about $212 for two days of skiing; it's just under $200 for two days at Telluride, also in Colorado.

A better point of comparison is to consider ski-and-stay packages through tour operators like ski.com that specialize in winter sports. Here, the rates appeared more comparable. A package at Val d’Isere is priced at just under $400 a night, double, based on a seven-night stay and includes lift tickets and four-star accommodations. Similar deals at the equally top-rated Beaver Creek, Colo., generally fall in the same range, although some can go much higher, to around $700 a night. 

Just as important as price is the overall experience and ambience, and being able to describe the differences between destinations is key to matching the client to the right resort.

Families should know that while some European ski areas do have ski schools for children, for example, they tend to be less about playtime on the slopes than straightforward instruction.

Grooming is not a given at every resort in Europe, so enthusiasts who live for skiing the ridged “corduroy” of freshly groomed snow may be in for a disappointment.

On the other hand, it’s hard to beat the thrill of starting your day in one country and ending in another.

And it can be hard to top the pleasures of stopping for a cappuccino at a tavern in Cortina, Italy, or selecting from an extensive wine list at an on-mountain restaurant in Courchevel, France.

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