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Half term has only just passed, Easter is yet to arrive and there is still around eight weeks of the season left to play with, yet next winter's school holidays are already a hot topic in the office. And with the amazing snow we've had this season, I can see why.
Christmas, New Year and February half term remain the three most popular weeks of the season to ski. Kids and teachers are off from school, New Year's week typically involves less holiday time off work, typically only using three days of holiday, and the snow is usually pretty good. The result — the best chalets and hotels in the most popular resorts are gone before the summer begins.
This season there was a small amount of nervousness as the early snow started to dry up, then from mid-December onwards the snow arrived in dump-after-dump, week-after-week. Christmas and New Year in the Alps was a romantic winter wonderland, with roof tops, trees and even street lights covered in a layer of snow. The slopes were deep in thick white snow, with so much falling, corduroy was impossible and powder skiing was plentiful.
Roll on a few weeks and to February. As snow continued to fall throughout January, with light snowfall in early Feb, skiers were happy to see the sunshine come out for half term. Over the last few years the slopes haven't been at their best in the school holidays, but with most resorts boasting upwards of two metres of snow on the upper slopes and with Siberian levels of cold arriving, the pistes were in perfect condition. Half term involved wrapping up warm, slapping on the sun block and cruising along perfect corduroy runs, followed by leisurely lunches on sun terraces (though preferably one's with heaters).
So, having enjoyed the peak weeks this season due to amazing conditions, from power turns to piste cruising, the skiing bug appears to be well and truly spreading again. It's like a healthy (apart from the cheese and wine), but expensive, pandemic.
Mid season usually marks the early releases of the following winter's prices, and this year is no different. The pre-brochure deals are already arriving on the site and, from someone who likes to book early, the deals on offer now are almost guaranteed to be the best price you will get a peak season holiday for. Once the brochures arrive after Easter the prices will rise, and though the summer offers are good, if you know exactly where you want to go and when to go, now really is the time to book for school holidays.
Every year, and this year has been no different, the peak and popular week enquiries start to gather pace once half term has passed. Every year the same story of people holding out for 'a better deal', either end up paying more, losing out on the property they want or having to compromise. Now, I'm not saying last minute deals aren't great, or that you won't find a fantastic holiday come September. But if you want the best chalets, or hotels, in the most popular resorts, get in early.
Also, in a financially aware climate, booking early has other benefits. You only have to pay a deposit — typically between £130pp and 25% of the total price — and then you have until 12 weeks before departure to pay the rest. So, if like me you work in a job for love as opposed to money, booking for New Year before the winter is out, means you have another 5/6 months to save up the rest of the holiday. For half term you have another 9 months to save. When booking a peak season, peak price holiday, the early savings and additional time to pay the bill offers you that extra piece of mind — which has to be a bonus!
With this in mind and properties opening up for next years bookings, here are a few snippets of what we have on offer for 2012/13 already.
Family Chalets: Family specialist chalets, offering in-house child care, dedicated kid's ski school and family-friendly meal times, sell out for peak dates so, so quickly. The large chalet hotels, such as the Ducs de Savoie and the Des Deux Domains, sell the best rooms before you know it, but the main problem is, the child care places are filled long before the summer holidays arrive. The smaller 8-10 person chalets also go quickly, as family groups looking for chalets that fit their needs and offer childcare don't waste their time booking. Just try and find a small chalet for Feb half term in, say, Meribel, with child care by mid-summer.
Luxury Chalets: Here's the serious stuff. Our selection of luxury chalets vary from 5* affordable luxury to a chalet that Roman Abrimovic once tried to buy and über luxury properties, with Michelin starred-style cuisine and champagne on tap. These chalets vary in price, but the one thing you can guarantee, the most luxurious, best located and most unique chalets go early.
Club Med: Club Med have become one of our most popular products over the past couple of years because of their fantastic value. Whether going away on a romantic skiing trip for two, with a group of friends or taking the extended family, they have properties to suit all. Also, when the price includes all of your meals, not just breakfast, cake and dinner, your weekly bar bill, your lift pass and ski school, you have to be on to a winner. To whet your appetite Club Med's 2013 ski deals already include a selection of their most popular hotels, offering fantastic pre-brochure prices (due to increase mid-March) as well as up to £180pp discount, including peak dates!
Oh, and one last thing, after a couple of years of juggling departure dates around the December holiday season, Christmas and New Year dates are back to normal. Which means weekend departures and getting home from a New Year ski holiday before the kids go back to school.
Last night the world tour of the Art of Flight arrived in London for the UK premiere at the BFI IMAX, Europe's largest HD screen. Though the film has been available to buy for a few weeks now, the vast majority of people in the room had waited so they could watch the Art of Flight on the big screen, and none of them, me included, were disappointed.
The event started as soon as you arrived at the IMAX, where the girls greeting you on the door, checking your tickets and generally being helpful, were all dressed in Red Bull flight attendant gear. Once through to the big screen itself, Tim Warwood, introduced us to the film, while looking like a WW1 pilot, before introducing and interviewing Travis Rice, the man behind the film. On discovering the fact that most people had waited to watch his film the excitement built up and culminated when a fan (our Invoice & Ticketing Manager) donated a beer to Rice, which he finished in one to applause and cheer from the crowd.
The room then went dark and the film started...
The Art of Flight opens with Travis Rice discussing the digital age that we now live in and the world of second hand information we are a part of, going on to say that sometimes you need to experience things for yourself. The opening sequence is him going through the airport and the production team giving us a glimpse of the amazing HD filming we were about to experience.
Then bang — the crew are in Alaska, with Rice being dropped at the top of a ridge and the helicopter takes off, shown in an incredible showcase of HD slow-mo, with the heli flipping itself over 90°, before vertically heading down the cliff face. The room was silent... the crowd was already in awe of what we would spend the next hour watching.
This film is truly incredible, and rather than ruin it for you I'm going to leave it for you to watch, but here are a couple of highlights to enjoy.
The team's first trip Canada is incredible, showing how dangerous the mountain is, how every snowboarder, however famous and skilled, has to respect their surroundings. The section shows them testing the conditions and setting off avalanche after avalanche, before finally finding a line they think is safe, only for Mark Landvik to be swept down the mountain by another avalanche. Though he was okay, he was both upset with being swept down the mountain and that they'd put themselves there in the first place.
The section where Travis Rice heads to Patagonia will have you on the edge of your seat, as they push the level of safety beyond the realms of normality, to get one, insane line in an area the locals describe as: "where the devil lives."
The film isn't all about beyond the realms of safety. The sections where the team head to Jackson Hole and Revelstoke are the most fun, with the guys clipping trees in mid air, throwing down huge tricks and hitting lines that make the sport look fun — with some sections in Revelstoke looking rideable by mere mortals like us.
The Art of Flight pushes snowboarding to another limit and though it lacks the story-style feel of That's It, That's All, it truly is a masterpiece. The cameraman turns to Jeremy Jones in his section at the end and Jeremy perfectly sums up how this film will make you feel: "Travis is the future of snowboarding, and the future is now." If you don't own this film, then get onto iTunes and download or fork out for a Blu-ray player, as this is what HD was made for.
I doubt there'll ever be a film that makes me want to strap on my snowboard more.
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AAA Large Online Travel Agent of the Year 2013