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Half-term week (13th Feb 2016) - anywhere that WON'T be heaving?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi everyone,

We're returning to skiing for the first time in 12 years having had an enforced break due to children and finances.
The children have never skied. Kids are 11 and 14.
Obviously we're tied to school holidays so that leaves us February half term or Easter.

Now I know that Easter would be far preferable in terms of crowds and cost, but logistically February half-term would make a lot of sense for us.

I'm wondering if the smaller, less well known resorts would be quieter on the slopes?
With 2 of the 3 French regions also sharing the same half-term I'm thinking maybe not.
But it doesn't have to be France.

The resort doesn't have to have a vast array of skiing to keep us happy - just somewhere to suit beginners and intermediates will suffice.
Accommodation - prefer self catering or catered chalet/apartment. Hotels would be out as when we put the kids to bed, we'd not want to leave them to go down to the bar and have some evening.

I've come across recommendations for Praz de Lys and Le Grand Bernard, but have no idea what they're like at half-term.

Thanks in advance for any recommendations/advice!
Very Happy
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Italy, e.g. Champoluc
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
under a new name wrote:
Italy, e.g. Champoluc

Thanks for the recommendation. Champuloc looks great, but a couple of reports I've just read have said that there's not a lot there for absolute beginners.
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Quote:

I'm wondering if the smaller, less well known resorts would be quieter on the slopes?

The smaller, less well known French resorts (including where I have an apartment) will be full of French people, and crowded whether or not there are any Brits there. I shall most definitely not be at my apartment that week. I'd suggest Italy too. Maybe Pila? Or Cervinia?
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pam w wrote:
Quote:

I'm wondering if the smaller, less well known resorts would be quieter on the slopes?

The smaller, less well known French resorts (including where I have an apartment) will be full of French people, and crowded whether or not there are any Brits there. I shall most definitely not be at my apartment that week. I'd suggest Italy too. Maybe Pila? Or Cervinia?


That's what I'm afraid of, huge queues for lifts and overcrowded pistes would put a real dampener on things.

I'll check out Pila and Cervinia, thanks.
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@BigAde9, don't forget that children in ski lessons will have lift priority and instructors will know where to take them, even in resorts which are not specifically known as good for beginners.
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At half term last year, I found Cervinia surprisingly uncrowded. La Thuile is renowned for being quiet.
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pam w wrote:
@BigAde9, don't forget that children in ski lessons will have lift priority and instructors will know where to take them, even in resorts which are not specifically known as good for beginners.


That's a fair point, although they won't be in ski school all day and the adults will be just as affected by lift queues.
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What about Spain.I don't think the Spanish schools get a February half term holiday . Baqueira beret has a large amount of slopes ,decent lift system where any drags can be avoided,good beginner areas and an English ski school.lots of apartments both in resort and in the villages leading up to it.Lift pass not the cheapest but eating and drinking is about half what you will pay in France and a superb snow record for the last 5 years.You could also try Formigal which has Panticosa nearby,big area lots of apartments or cheap hotels( by other European standards))and good lift system. There is also Cerler which has a decent sized ski area and a lot of chairlifts .
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Albiez will be perfect - and not at all busy at half-term:

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Great, lots of suggestions there. I will check them all out, thank you!

One problem I'm finding is that a lot of the ones that rely on flights to the usual places i.e. Geneva and Lyon are already booked up, particularly at sociable times, so the only tickets left are crazy money.
With that in mind, Spain sounds like it might work... hadn't considered it much to be honest.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Yep, half term flights are now some crazy prices. Another argument in favour of Easter - easyJet's easter flights go on sale tomorrow.....

Adults can do ski lessons too! If you've not skied for 12 years, not a bad idea. I ski a lot but still have lessons every year, as do many people I know who ski a lot better than I do.
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The nearest airport for Baqueira is Toulouse which Is about an hour and 45 mins by car or at a push Barcelona which will take 4 hours or if you go by Ryan air Carcassonne is about the same as Toulouse. As for Formigal or Cerler nearest would be Zaragoza or Lourdes( Ryan air) in France .
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I was in Les Contamines last February half term, and other than the scrum at the cable car first thing in the morning, once up on the slopes it was not busy at all. In my opinion, it's a good resort for beginners and intermediates. Have you thought of driving? With 4 of you I am sure it will work out a lot more economical when compared to the cost of Feb half term flights. Les Contamines is quite an easy drive from Calais.
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I don't think Les Contamines (which I like very much) is ideal for beginners though certainly good for intermediates. Some good terrain is accessed by drags, some of them not too easy.

Driving will certainly be cheaper than flights at current prices but NO drive to French resorts will be "easy" at half term - the roads get very busy.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@BigAde9, you have a PM (top right Send/Read messages) Very Happy
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Been looking at Baqueira. Looks really nice. Flights are still affordable (if not mega cheap). Not desperately cheap as a resort, but could be worse. Seems to be the most likely option if we do go for half-term.
From a financial perspective, Easter makes a lot more sense though.

And yes, I'm definitely going to be taking lessons - definitely in need of some help after 12 years away!

Trying to rush some research through today, so can make our mind up on dates before the EasyJet flight sale tomorrow.
Thanks again everyone, your help is very much appreciated.

I have replied to your PM Montana, thanks.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
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Take a look at the German resorts south of Munich.

I went to Wendelstein, Spitzingsee - Tegernsee & Sudelfeld during Feb half term. Didn't queue for more than a minute or two all week.

Cheap too. Stayed in Bayrischzell.

http://www.bergfex.com/sommer/wendelstein-bayrischzell/
http://www.bergfex.com/spitzingsee-tegernsee/
http://en.bayrischzell.de/winter-holidays/skiresorts.html

Or Civetta, Italy.
http://www.dolomitisuperski.com/en/civetta

One of the best beginner areas I've seen.

Walk in gondola takes you from the base to the summit plateau.

200m walk to the dedicated beginner area.

Restaurant and bathroom opposite.

Learn to ski on good snow, on a great pitch and when the instructor thinks you're ready to move on you just keep on skiing down the blue run back to the base.

No 'getting it' and then having to get on a t-bar, chair or gondola.
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I've often thought that Baqueira looks nice. If you do go, be sure to do a detailed trip report.
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We went to Baqueira at the half term 3 years ago and it snowed for first three days.dropped about a metre of snow .Snow ploughs were working 24 hours a day.I remember sitting on a chairlift looking down at skiers coming through the trees and I could only see their head and shoulders,awesome.You could stay in Vielha and drive up to ski every day.Much cheaper to rent an apartment and their are lots of bars,restaurants Shops and large supermarkets for self caterers.
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The people that own the British ski school also have a catered chalet.cant remember the name but you should be able to google it.
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Quote:

but NO drive to French resorts will be "easy" at half term - the roads get very busy.

I can only go by my own personal experience last half term, and the drive was very easy and we had a good run through with no delays. However, we did Eurotunnel at about midnight, and drove straight through with my wife and I swapping driving every couple of hours, which I appreciate is not everyone's cup of tea. It is also of course dependent on weather conditions when approaching the mountains - but that can equally affect transfers from airports. We always drive, generally two trips a season and always during school holiday times, Christmas or New Year, and then either February half term or Easter, but more often Easter, and we have been fortunate to have never experienced any major problems. (I'm bound to regret saying that when it comes to our Christmas trip this year!!). Anyway, back to topic and agree that Baqueira seems a good choice - my son went with his school several years ago at Feb half term and they had a great time and had plenty of snow.
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We had a surprisingly quiet week in Valmeinier a couple of years ago for half term. One delay of around 10 mins at a bottle neck all week. The rest of the week we managed to work out times to get through the bottle neck before/after the crowds.
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I have similar aged kids and we started taking them at half term 3 years ago. I just love going at half term as it breaks up the winter, by easter we are looking forward to spring! It was supposed to be a 'one off' but we've been every year since so watch out!
First year- alpbach in Austria, gorgeous place and a great intro to the charm of it all. Crazy busy on the slopes but no lift queues, wouldn't go again as you had to get a bus and they were packed.
Vaujany- fabulous, brilliant apartment, ridiculously quiet and access to big alpe d'huez ski area. Only one queue coming out of alpe d'huez one day and stupidly trying to get on at mid station. Best of the 3.
Sauzed'oulx- last year, cheap flight to Turin and lovely apartment. Shocking state of the slopes nearly ruined our holiday ( it was Mardi gras and apparently that means even the slope bashers go on holiday!!)

I actually think queues have largely been reduced by better and faster lifts. People who skied in the eighties and nineties had it far worse than half term now. The slopes are busy but my kids don't know anything else.
We have always managed to go on a Friday or Sunday which makes a huge difference to the travel and the cost. This year we are going the masses and heading to vallandry on a Saturday so fingers crossed!
Let us know about baqueira, I nearly want for that the first year but I was put off by the long transfer so make sure that's OK with you. Enjoy!
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I'm not sure that half term is as bad as some people would think.

Last year I was in Meribel (Les Allues), it was busy at ski school time at Chaudanne but other than that we never found any serious queues (greater than a couple of mins).
HT2014 was Verbier (Nendaz), Up to 10mins queue for first lift in the morning but after that fine wherever we went.
HT2013 was ValCenis - no queues
HT2012 was Samoens - 10 mins for the GME in the morning and then sizeable queues (20mins) in the valley before Flaine (Vernant / Corbalanche) in the morning and the evening.
Prior to this we have half termed in La Plagne, Serre Chevalier, SuperBesse, Saint Gervais.

In fact, the only places where I have found queues at half term have been Plagne Bellecote lift to Roche de Mio and Bellecote to the glacier (40mins plus queue).

We normally self drive and have given up using the tunnel. The queues on a couple of returns from Calais have been ridiculous.
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Quote:

We normally self drive and have given up using the tunnel. The queues on a couple of returns from Calais have been ridiculous.

We have booked the ferry for our Christmas trip as the last few occasions we have used Eurotunnel we've always had a delay of at least an hour which negates the quicker crosser time. We used the ferry for our summer holiday and were able to get on an earlier ferry on way out and there were no delays on the return, and we found it to be a decent driving break before setting off again from Calais.
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my experience is the small resorts are the ones to avoid at half term as they don't have the capacity of the bigger names. Always ski 3V in half term and don't really notice it too much other than a bit more advance lunch booking - more difficult issue is getting into big resorts on changeover day and the tunnel.

Valloire/Valmeinier was mentioned in an earlier post - this would be a good mid sized resport and not a big drive off the motorway and some good places for the evening. A fair bit of building going on so a good choice of newer places
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Quote:

my experience is the small resorts are the ones to avoid at half term as they don't have the capacity of the bigger names

I suspect that's dead right. Certainly my "small resort" is worth avoiding throughout the French holidays. Some long queues, some shorter, but crowded car parking and busy runs in the main resort areas. My daughter and SiL went to Flaine at half term (both teachers) some years ago and were impressed at the lack of lift queues but very unimpressed by hugely crowded pistes (snow was bad so everybody was up in flaine). Both experienced skiers but really a bit freaked out by too many skiers taking the slick, icy, slopes very fast. My son has done seasons working in the 3V and EK and reckons you just need to know the main bottlenecks to avoid. They are such huge, efficient, systems. In Les Saisies the "main bottlenecks" are bad precisely because they can't be avoided.
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Thanks everyone - I'm still reading all your suggestions.
What I've found is that the killer for nearly everywhere that's been suggested is the cost of flights.

Flying into Toulouse is the cheapest option at the moment.

I've been in touch with the people who run the ski school's chalet and apartments in Baqueira. It's certainly a possibility, but I've also seen some other apartments in Baqueira that are cheaper and possibly more practical.
It's just a shame that the prices for lift pass, equipment hire and lessons are offsetting some of the savings made on the flights and accommodation.
That's what comes of booking late and having a restricted budget I suppose!
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@BigAde9, if you send a PM to a snowHead called And another thing he should be able to provide you with some contacts as I believe he has worked (or does still) with a ski school in the Pyrennes and has quite a lot of knowledge about the skiing there.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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If budget is a real issue, you can ski in Sierra Nevada in Spain ,it's very high up and near Granada .Hotel prices in resort at half term will be expensive but you can stay in central Granada in winter in a good hotel very cheaply and drive up every day..There is a large underground car park as you enter the ski resort.Quite a good area if you have kids who are learning.
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Have you considered the resorts in the Sella Ronda (Dolomites) ? I've been there a few times at half-term and never had a problem
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Have a look at Les Sybelles - been there for the last two half terms and only had to queue once.
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Been to La Plagne at half term a few times. On the face of it, very crowded at some pinch points (like Bellecote) but scratch under the surface there are pockets of opportunities. For instance, by not taking the long cable car like Roche de Mio, but the smaller chair lifts to the top, not sliding to the bottom but half way to take the shorter chairs / drags back up. Skiing at lunch time and after 4pm are also quieter times. Another trick is to ski to the outer reaches of the area (e.g. monchavin, montalbert, champagny) first thing and then skiing around these areas. I imagine similar large ski domains will have their own quiet areas.
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Quote:

We normally self drive and have given up using the tunnel. The queues on a couple of returns from Calais have been ridiculous.

?? We have used the tunnel at 1/2 term for many years and never seen any queues, perhaps the time we hit it

I am hoping to take my 7 yr old to Soldeu, Andorra for 1/2 term flying into Barcelona, I think there is a better selection of flights to Barc and the drive to Andorra is not much different to Toulouse. The queue for the main lift up on Monday morning is huge but the lifties make sure each bubble is full and the queue disappears quickly, the queue for ski school registration at the top is also a bit of a scrum so getting in the lift queue early is worth it. Having said all of this, once you get over Monday morning the slopes and queues are quiet for 1/2 term.
Half the reason my 7 (8 when we travel) yr old loves skiing is the friends she makes in ski school so 1/2 term is best for us as there are more kids in ski school.
Booking with Crystal, half board in the hotel sport comes out at £2500 for the two of us! (flight hotel pass ski hire and school) the same hotel booked independant but b&b comes out at £2100 Andorra travel have a few independant apartments on their books and eating out in Soldeu varies from cheap n cheerful to some really nice restaurants.

We have mainly used ski school in Soldeu but also in Switzerland and France and the English run Soldeu school beats them all
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@tangowaggon,
Never mind the cost saving of DIY. It would be worth avoiding the TO coach transfer to Andorra if it was twice the price Very Happy
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A flight followed by a long transfer is still shorter than driving or a flight to Colorado. Why do some people make such heavy weather of the inevitable travelling involved with a ski holiday? We did several holidays by coach to the Alps with kids. A long trip but better than staying at home wishing we were skiing.
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Here here pam w! We always fly into the Altiport at Courchevel1850 by private plane and it's such a pain having to wait for the 2 minute snowmobile transfer to our £2m chalet... wink
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Baqueira Beret.
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@BigAde9, take a look at the Bregenzerwald resorts like Damuls, family oriented and readily accessible from Zurich and Friedrichshafen or Memmingem with a hire car. Some challenging skiing there and great off piste, worth considering but you will need to speak German there....they don't speak any English (which we like!)
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