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Would you like ice with that?
The Telegraph, 9th November 2005

Nicky Holford selects her favourite ski operators in four different categories

The good news for this winter's ski season is that despite hikes in oil prices, the ski holiday has emerged fairly unscathed.

In some cases package prices have actually fallen. As independent travel to resorts continues to grow, large tour operators and specialists are having to work harder to win custom and are offering all sorts of incentives, from inclusive lift passes to childcare.

But with so many companies vying for your business, how do you find the one that will suit you? The following operators are, I believe, the best in four categories.
Value for money

Inghams
Voted the best ski company in the recent Telegraph Travel Awards, Inghams' decision to go for quality rather than quantity has paid off.

New this year are great learn-to-ski, snowboard and cross-country packages, the introduction of another Bulgarian resort, Bansko, flights to many destinations from seven regional airports and family reductions.

Seven nights in the four-star Wengenerhof in the Swiss resort of Wengen in mid-January cost £618 half board, including flights and transfers and based on two sharing. In Bansko seven nights in a four-star hotel in mid-January start at £341, based on two sharing.

Erna Low
Les Arcs is now linked to La Plagne by a double-decker cable car to form the Paradiski area - a massive 264 miles of pisted runs. Erna Low offered two-week ski holidays there in 1948, for 38 guineas.

The company is still in Les Arcs, offering apartment holidays. Prices at Les Alpages du Chantel in Les Arcs 1800 start at £810, based on four sharing, for a two-bedroom apartment in mid-January, including ferry crossing and car hire.

Crystal
Crystal has 12 new resorts this season, including Kopaonik in Serbia, two new club hotels in Morzine and Courchevel and the all-inclusive resort of Prato Nevoso in Italy, with departures from 20 airports in the UK.

Holidays in Prato Nevoso start at £405 per person and include seven-nights' accommodation, self-catering or half board, a six-day lift pass, ski and boot hire and six days' tuition.
Family ski

Ski Peak
Vaujany, a French farming village, is ideal for families with young children. After a windfall from a local hydroelectric plant, the village put in a modern cable car that links to the extensive Alpe d'Huez ski area.

Ski Peak has been offering holidays there for 18 years, with a choice of chalets, a hotel and self-catering. There is a crèche and English-speaking nannies. A three-bedroom self-catering apartment for seven nights starts at £530, including ferry crossings.

Ski Esprit
This company concentrates on resorts offering good childcare facilities, English- speaking nannies and full ski programmes.

New for this season are the resorts of Saas-Fee, Obergurgl and Val d'Isère. There are also deals for single parents. Seven nights in a fully catered chalet start from £359 per adult in La Rosière and Selva, including flights from Stansted to Geneva.

Ski2
Ski2 takes skiers to the little-known village of Champoluc, one of three Italian resorts that make up the Monterosa ski area.

It is an excellent area for beginners and intermediates and more reasonably priced than most resorts, with high-quality ski school and childcare, but also with challenging skiing in the other linked resorts of Gressoney and Alagna.

Seven nights in Champoluc start at £2,182 half board for a family of four, sharing a room with an ensuite bathroom in a three-star hotel. The price includes return private airport transfers, lunches, lessons and equipment hire for two children.

Tuition is with Ski 2's own British ski school. Flights are not included.
Luxury

Elegant Resorts
Elegant Resorts puts together tailor-made holidays. It also offers some of the Descent portfolio of chalets such as Eugenia in Klosters (sleeps 12-15), a "baronial retreat" that costs £16,795 a week.

Other choices include the five-star family-run Raffel's St Antoner Hof, a 37-room hotel in St Anton, which starts at £895 per person for seven nights, including flights but not transfers.

Scott Dunn Ski
Luxury knows no bounds in the ski market these days, especially in the upmarket French and Swiss resorts.

Scott Dunn's Eagle's Nest in Val d'Isère set a new benchmark with its 12-bedroom, well-designed chalet, with an indoor pool, four-course meals and Champagne on tap.

This year sees the completion of two new chalets in Val d'Isère, Mathilda and Marie, designed by the same architect and both with indoor swimming pools and hammans. Seven nights' half board at Chalet Mathilda in January costs £1,435, including four-course dinners, scheduled flights and transfers.

VIP
Solid quality hardwood interiors, Jacuzzis, modern ensuite bathrooms, wireless broadband, massage and private nannies are staples in VIP's chalets in Méribel and Val d'Isère.

Smaller chalets sleep six to seven guests; larger ones sleep 12-14. Prices start at £779 per person for seven nights' half board in Chalet Madrisah (sleeps eight), departing on January 15 and including flights and transfers.
Off piste/adventure

Ski Weekend
If you want a taste of off-piste skiing and are a strong parallel skier, Ski Weekend has three stages of four-day courses with qualified mountain guides that can transform your skiing.

Also popular is a four-day Piste Perfection course. Prices start at £589 for four nights' b&b in Chamonix, including tuition and transfers.

Freshtracks Ski Club of Great Britain
Freshtracks offers a variety of courses for the off-piste enthusiast, from beginners to experts, including a women-only powder week in Argentière and several ski touring itineraries. An introductory off-piste week's half board in Gressoney in Italy, departing on March 11, costs £995, based on two sharing, including tuition with mountain guides and flights. Non-members must pay a half-price fee of £24.50.

Mountain Tracks
Ski touring in Morocco, the Haute Route or hut-to-hut safaris in the Alps are all included in Mountain Track's winter schedule.

Started by mountain guide Nick Parks to explore mountain areas not on the piste map, the company has expanded to offer several off-piste and avalanche awareness clinics as well as off-piste weeks and tours and short breaks.

A week's intermediate ski safari of the Western Oberland starts at £695, including half board in hotels and huts and all mountain guiding.

Visit the biggest source of information on skiing & snowboarding in Bulgaria: www.BulgariaSki.com
This website features all Bulgarian mountain resorts with useful information, facts, pictures, maps, comments, all pistes and lifts, daily updated information on the weather and snow conditions, full description of more than 200 hotels there, places to go, apres ski, etc.

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