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Organising a group ski holiday is a time consuming activity and can be a real pain in the backside. You would think that a group of ten grown adults would be easy to please but the reality is a very different story.
For the past couple years I have been given the task of organising the bi-annual ski trips. As I work in the industry, and have done multiple seasons, my friends felt that I had the experience to make this nice and easy, so I happily volunteered. The first job is always to find out who can travel and when. With dates limited to December and March for most the group that made it a little easier and I managed to pin down New Year for the first trip and a pre-Easter trip in mid-March. Brilliant, job one done. New Year is just about the busiest time of year to go skiing and when you have three accountants coming on holiday, getting them to spend money is akin to getting a Premier League manager to agree with referees!
With the budget finally sorted this was looking like plane sailing from here on in, all I had to do was find the right resort, right property and the right flights. Now this is where it gets a little difficult with most the party traveling form London and a handful in the Midlands this should be easy, but when you have people who will only travel from one airport and these don't match, it becomes a little harder. I had to find a way of getting two people out of Heathrow, two out of Stansted, two out of Gatwick with two more 'happy to do whatever' then two from Birmingham and a possible Dublin flight for good measure.
After much debate, banging of heads and thoughts from the group the answer presented itself. My hopes of an nice easy package from Gatwick for ten people had been dashed to at least the first trip. In the end after speaking to a few operators I had the perfect solution for the accommodation - the independent chalet operator. We found a great chalet company in Morzine, only an hour from Geneva, that offered chalets, with transfers, right in the middle of the resort; perfect. The next thing was to look at flights, by going through a travel agent, we were able to book scheduled flights from all the required airports and even managed to land within an hour of each other, perfect for the included transfer and for traveling to resort together.
The next challenge was to convince people that I had found the right resort and property. This was a little more difficult as I had advanced skiers wanting a large ski area, party animals hoping for St. Anton, beginners needing good instructors and easy slopes and a random Les Arc fan fighting his corner. The resorts in the mix were St. Anton, Meribel, Val d'Isere & Les Arc. After a little persuading and a few dummies being spat we agreed that Morzine would be perfect. 600km of piste in the Portes du Soleil, short transfers, chilled Apres but lively nightlife (perfect for New Years Eve) and the all important charming instructors for the beginners.
Several weeks in we had now agreed on dates and a resort. Next thing was where to stay, some people wanted 5* chalets with hot tubs, others wanted warm food and a bed near to the bars. This is where it gets really difficult to find a property, through some friends in resort and several phone calls we managed to agree on a chalet in the centre of town with a sauna.
Had we done this alone we would have had to call every company under the sun, booked all our own flights and transfers and had anything gone wrong we would have been stuck as this was not a package holiday. This is where using a travel agent to orgainse the holiday comes in handy, I was able to book the flights, chalet and transfers all through them. Not only did this offer protection, for example if the operator went under or the flights were cancelled, it also made life easier. Rather than maxing out credit cards and chasing people for money everything was sorted for us. All I had to do was to get everyone to call in and pay their deposits and balances separately.
So far so good, holiday one booked. With New Year being so popular it was very handy indeed to have managed to arrange everything by June. This gave the group time to book the week off, pay their balances and save for a week in the mountains.
Though it's hard work, being the group leader is worth the effort. This season I have a much easier job, we are almost ready to book one of three chalets in either La Tania or Meribel on a package holiday again and knowing that when multiple airports are needed a trip to an independent chalet company in a resort like Morzine is on the cards again for the main group holiday.
Written by Stephen Adam.
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