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Ski Val Failure

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
https://www.caa.co.uk/ATOL-Failures/Val-Ski-Ltd/

Sad news. Lots of years in business.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Yes agreed good operator ... sign of times and times to come I guess
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Blimey. I was very close to booking a last minute deal with them as late as just last week.

Hopefully all effected get home/money back/sorted promptly.
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Very sad. 43 years in the business. Had some good trips with them to Val D and St Anton. Hope no snowHeads affected, especially for departures this weekend Sad
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Unfortunately, I was going to Val d'Isère this Saturday, booking accommodation-only with Ski-Val.

As usual, the devil is in the small print.

Ski-Val were ATOL but not ABTA members, so no protection for my accommodation-only booking with them.

I booked through an ABTA agent, but that might not help me.

The agent's T&C's are vague on whether my booking is ABTA protected or not. ("Most of the holidays that we sell offer financial protection, but not all so please check this at the time of booking." . . . "These are the terms on which we will make a booking for your travel or holiday requirements. When making your booking we will arrange for you to enter into a contract with the principal (tour operator/airline company or other supplier) named on your receipt. For most bookings we act as agent for the principal but we act as your agent when making a booking with most no frills airlines and some hotels. Details will be given at the time of booking. As agent we accept no responsibility for the acts or omissions of the principal or for the services provided by the principal. The principal’s terms & conditions will apply to your booking and we will advise you to read these carefully as they do contain important information about your booking. Please ask us for copies of these if you do not have them. Our Terms of Business are governed by English Law and the jurisdiction of the English Courts. You may however, choose the law and jurisdiction of Scotland or Northern Ireland if you wish to do so.")

I emailed the Ski-Val staff at the hotel.

The reply said they'd only just found out themselves, from a guest . . .

As you'd expect, travel insurance doesn't cover it, of course.

What a pain.


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Wed 13-03-19 23:15; edited 1 time in total
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@Fat George, if you paid by credit card, you can claim from your card issuer. I always pay for holidays with a credit card for just that reason.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@Fat George, I fear that you are unprotected and the easiest solution will be to approach your card issuer as @Jonny Jones suggests.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Thoughts to both staff and the owners as well as anyone who has had their holiday plans cruelly interupted. Had some good tines on many occasions. Occupied a unique price and service point which I hoped they would be able to defend. Small planet airlines going under before the season started wouldn’t have helped and may have been a major factor. Hopefully other operators start to realise the benefit of Lyon.
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This is awful for the company and those using it.

Can I check why doesn’t travel insurance cover it?
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Unfortunately with travel insurance you "get what you pay for" e.g. Voyager travel insurance has a section on Holiday financial protection which is NOT included in the basic policy, but is (at various levels) if you buy one of their premium products. However:
Quote:
This policy provides cover ONLY in the event that you cannot recover your losses from any other source. In the event of a loss, you should first make your claim against your holiday provider, CAA ATOL, your Credit or Debit Card provider under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 or against any other insurance policy which provides compensation for your loss. This policy will only make payments less the value of any compensation you have received or are expected to receive from any other source.


So the card provider is the place to start in this instance.
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@Fat George, what terrible luck and timing, George.

I’m sending you a PM.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@Fat George, sorry to hear this. I hope you can get help from your card issuers.
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Real shame that a family owned business that's been around such a long time has gone out of business. I wonder what tipped the balance in the end? It's a strange time of year, normally it's a cash flow issue in the autumn, rather than 4 weeks from the end of the season
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Probably doesn't have the cash to pay this year's invoices so has been coming. Brexit uncertainty re next year's deposits may not have helped. First of many I'd guess.
ski holidays     
 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Whilst my experience of this company is very different to some of the comments above (once only and never again) I hope everyone affected gets their money back and finds another holiday.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Accounts show a loss of 41,000 before tax y/e apr17 and loss of 90,000 y/e apr18, with negligible fixed assets

Although someone who understands these numbers better might see more to it
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Chatting with some in the know has said that the uncertainty around Brexit has meant this year has been the worst in trading since the 2008 financial crash
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
This has obviously got me slightly twitchy about my booked stuff for next year and checking more closely what is in my insurance policy.

The wording to look for is End Supplier Failure, or Supplier Insolvency.

It looks like this is also something you can take out individually where your policy doesn’t cover it at from £5 per person, from ProtectMyHoliday.com. Is anybody aware of any others which offer this individually? As I am slightly concerned by one part of the specification of what is covered.

Thanks for highlighting this to me.

Really hope people impacted don’t loose out too badly.
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@iainm;
If I'd done a company check, that would've raised my eyebrows a bit.

@PeakyB, @Rabbie; thanks for those kind thoughts.
Fortunately for me, I've just found some well-placed and reasonably priced alternative accommodation, so I'm still getting my week in VdI after all.

Best of luck to everyone involved in this.

The agent I booked with said I can expect no cover from them in this case: only Ski-Val's cover applies.
So recovery of my Ski-Val costs will be an issue.

The Ski-Val staff in VdI are in full crisis mode judging from the tone of their emails to me.

The agent I booked with said it's almost unheard of for this to happen mid season - end-of-season, yes, but peak season?

IMO doing it mid-season really is the worst thing to happen to customers and staff.

Ouch.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
jdowdall wrote:
Chatting with some in the know has said that the uncertainty around Brexit has meant this year has been the worst in trading since the 2008 financial crash

You only have to look at how much availability Alpine Elements and Neilson have for what is / was supposed to be Brexit week (and the week thereafter) to support this.
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This might well explain why a blown light bulb in my room never got replaced a couple of weeks a go
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Indeed, and how many people would be required to change it?
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Saddened to hear this, hope everyone affected doesn't lose out too much....
...
...

Brexit added with the change in legislation for seasonal worker pay, I suspect we may be seeing more of this in the coming 12-24 months.
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There is so much last-minute ski package-holiday availability - dead cheap - at the moment that I am not surprised.

A shame; nice people. The rooms in the Alpaka were a complete hole, but it was a cheap holiday and the staff were nice. They also sold me some flights & transfers to Tignes once; I think they were the only unbooked flights to the Alps for new year that were available anywhere.
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iainm wrote:
Accounts show a loss of 41,000 before tax y/e apr17 and loss of 90,000 y/e apr18, with negligible fixed assets

Although someone who understands these numbers better might see more to it


Really hard to tell because they appear to have a non-Ltd company and a Ltd company at the Devon address, plus a French company in Tignes.

If you look at their latest Ltd Co accounts here https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/03579283/filing-history you'll see they squeaked a very small profit on a nearly £2m turnover (so not sure where you got your numbers from and that link has expired)

I think this is just the tip of the iceberg, many more will flounder and they'll probably all blame Brexit even though they mostly run along on prehistoric business models.

Used to enjoy Harry's Bar Tignes back in the day and had many an entertaining chat with Mike Harris, after who I think the bar was named, so sad to see this happen.
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
@Pruman, But if you check the companies that the 'officer' is involved in there is the Tour Operator Val-Ski (03786519), which made a thumping loss. Ski-Val was the transport provider to Val-Ski
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Having worked with the company in previous years, it wouldn't have been too hard to forecast. I had heard stories in previous years from chalet owners not being paid etc, very shady accounting techniques and payment structures (payslips being withheld etc).

In all honesty, it is time for UK companies to stop taking advantage of underpaid, overworked British employees being employed on 5-month temporary contracts. I have personally seen managers ask employees to sign timesheets stating that they only work 35 hours per week to satisfy French regulations. 50 - 65 hour weeks were the standard there.

I feel for the family but honestly, these holidays were being provided on the back of low paid 18 - 24-year-olds living in accommodation that had been deemed unsuitable for purpose by French authorities (6-8 persons in a room with bunk beds).
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@lostintranslation123, I do think that things are starting to improve for UK workers out there.

Daughter #2 is working her 3rd season at the mo and is on a much better deal than in previous years.
ski holidays     
 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
{rant:} Reflecting on my failures re my Val d'Isère holiday as I pack, it seems to me as if the situation was designed so the average holidaymaker (me: I don't mean YOU here obviously) unless having a lot of knowledge beforehand and being really attentive and diligent, in practice can't really have spelled out to him the full risks on what's not covered, at the point of sale, for that particular sale at the time of sale.

And in any case he (me, that is) sadly has (had) little practical chance of fully keeping it all grasped in his head at the time of parting with cash.

Enough is made clear to make the sale.

But only enough. Lurking deep in the sea of words the average holidaymaker (me) hears, are sharks.

Obscuring the sharks are the murks of deception, obfuscation, misdirection, double-talk, sleight-of-hand, legalese, small print, pseudo-regulation and pseudo-self regulation, piled up year-on-year by the sincere.

The murks hide enough sharks to make the sale competitive and profitable without being too illegal.

When it's all gone wrong, as it occasionally does (and has), the average holidaymaker (me: I don't mean YOU here obviously) who is unlucky may find out the real situation when he was sold something was a bit different from what he thought, often to his disbenefit (definitely mine in this case).

Then, I fear it'll be followed by mediaeval trial-by-combat justice for the unlucky (me), in the form of trial-by-claim, to try to get the money back.

There may be endurance failure on the road.

There may be a vague feeling there must still be some sort of guarantee of success, even if there isn't really.

For the unlucky, varying degrees of success are possible from nil to 100% if you've the time, energy, willpower, and as I say, endurance (again, I don't mean YOU here obviously, because you know everything already, and are hard as nails as per Rule 5. That's not me.)

So for full protection you should either (a) read everything and know everything and never make a mistake, or (b) be lucky.

{edit: Someone reminded me there's more ways: (c) Get someone who'll take the loss pay for your holiday instead of you!}

And yes, I do know it's market so-called-capitalism in action. {/rant}

Just been PM'd by @ben.clatworthy, Times journalist, wanting a 'quick chat'. Myself, I've nothing against him as a journalist, but I've replied that instead of talking on the phone, I'll put any stuff I have to say on here meanwhile, if he's up for it, so y'all can see what's said.

Obvs. I want to get my money back now; I'm on the 'chargeback' route: if Ben can help add some pressure to get us English/British customers a fairer deal on having our holidays properly protected financially, then I'm all for that. Hope he can write an article that helps.

I didn't fully appreciate the possible consequences of the risks I took.

I suppose a judge would say, before putting my card forward, I should have read and understood everything: all the mazy implications, and inter-relationships of what wasn't covered by the very wordy combination of an ABTA badge, ABTA's rules, an agent's Terms and Conditions, two ATOL badges, ATOL rules, the Ski-Val Terms and Conditions, my insurance, which card I was using, and various domestic and international laws, and regulations.

Among today's holidaymakers, what proportion of people can do that, and does?


Last edited by You know it makes sense. on Fri 15-03-19 12:41; edited 2 times in total
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
tarrantd wrote:
... Voyager travel insurance:
Quote:
This policy provides cover ONLY in the event that you cannot recover your losses from any other source. In the event of a loss, you should first make your claim against your holiday provider, CAA ATOL, your Credit or Debit Card provider under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 or against any other insurance policy which provides compensation for your loss. This policy will only make payments less the value of any compensation you have received or are expected to receive from any other source.

In what circumstances, precisely, could that ever pay out?

S75 only applies to Credit Cards, but a Chargeback would work for debit cards. You have protection for both credit and debit cards.

I don't think it's legal to sell insurance if they know it can never possibly pay out.
If these people tried to stiff a customer using that small print, I doubt it'd hold up if challenged.


Last edited by Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name: on Fri 15-03-19 12:43; edited 1 time in total
ski holidays     
 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@Fat George, you have highlighted to me personal that we are carrying more risk than I realised. Our insurance does not cover End Supplier failure.

I have tried finding where I can get that cover on its own and so far only found one source which has now confirmed with me they don’t cover catered ski chalets (hotels they do but these are seen as different!).

So I am no contemplating taking a specific trip policy for that one risk. My main concern is that if they chalet goes bust we are left having paid out for a lot of other stuff (lessons, flights, lift passes, transfers) which I really can’t afford to double up on, if we can’t find suitable alternative accommodation in resort which are Feb half term is highly likely!

As to you specific case I would ha e thought you may have a case against the travel agent you booked through especially under unfair / unclear terms and conditions. The fact you can be covered for some things not for others means they should make it clear at point of sale and as they didn’t feel you should have some sort of claim. I would say try the trading standards as first port of call.

But most importantly have a wonderful time and enjoy the snow!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
philwig wrote:
In what circumstances, precisely, could that ever pay out?


If you had paid by bank transfer and had no other insurance?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I think the lesson is to take any small business owner with a pinch of salt. They may be the nicest folk in the world but when push comes to shove and you are giving them money they will continue to take that until they are told absolutely they need to shut up shop, because in their hearts they believe they can trade themselves out of any hole. And that's before you get to the crooked ones (not looking at any particular ski related businesses but you can have a guess who they are) who, knowing they are going down deliberately stiff creditors and take as much as they can out of the business as a little nest egg before it goes down.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
I think the lesson is to take any small business owner with a pinch of salt. They may be the nicest folk in the world but when push comes to shove and you are giving them money they will continue to take that until they are told absolutely they need to shut up shop, because in their hearts they believe they can trade themselves out of any hole. And that's before you get to the crooked ones (not looking at any particular ski related businesses but you can have a guess who they are) who, knowing they are going down deliberately stiff creditors and take as much as they can out of the business as a little nest egg before it goes down.


I really can't see that's any different to a big business, in fact big business could well be worse!
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@martinm, agreed.
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philwig wrote:
tarrantd wrote:
... Voyager travel insurance:
Quote:
This policy provides cover ONLY in the event that you cannot recover your losses from any other source. In the event of a loss, you should first make your claim against your holiday provider, CAA ATOL, your Credit or Debit Card provider under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 or against any other insurance policy which provides compensation for your loss. This policy will only make payments less the value of any compensation you have received or are expected to receive from any other source.

In what circumstances, precisely, could that ever pay out?


If the insured gets no or only a partial refund from another source.

I think it's pretty standard in the insurance World, after all they have to mitigate any payout that may have to make so they're saying to the insured, "if you try all other means to get a refund and don't get all your money back then we'll give you the balance, but you have to try all of them first"
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True enough - I'm not meaning to suggest that small businesses are intrinsically unreliable - they are after all the backbone of any country. The only difference with big businesses is that there is often more skin in the game re bank loans at stake etc such that there are possibly more opportunities to be saved/restructured and/or that their financial woes are often publicised in advance of the plug being pulled.

The old adage of owe me £50,000 that's your problem, owe me £50m that's my problem...
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Dave of the Marmottes, That is a very harsh viewpoint. Is it borne out of some particular experience ?
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
True enough - I'm not meaning to suggest that small businesses are intrinsically unreliable - they are after all the backbone of any country. The only difference with big businesses is that there is often more skin in the game re bank loans at stake etc such that there are possibly more opportunities to be saved/restructured and/or that their financial woes are often publicised in advance of the plug being pulled.

The old adage of owe me £50,000 that's your problem, owe me £50m that's my problem...


I am not sure that the fact the mess being created is bigger, possibly being able to basically hold creditors to ransom etc, makes for more "skin in the game". Not much skin, or bones, left out of BHS, or Carillion. Lot of disappeared money that has to be made up somewhere, by the rest of us.
You've probably worked out by now I have a small business Laughing
Suns out now too so I am going skiing snowHead
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I would say small UK TOs are likely to be high risk right now, but booking directly with accommodation providers in Europe is very low risk. It's rare for hotels to go out of business. I know of one that sold up and the new owner decided not to continue operating as a hotel, but existing bookings were honoured by a neighbouring hotel.
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