So, you’ve taken that first exciting step and decided on a group ski holiday! There really is no better way to spend a week with your favourite people, and although almost any trip means a guaranteed good time, some careful planning and a few well-made decisions can make a good holiday great.
The first step is establishing who’s coming, what your budget is and when everyone’s free. The packed app makes this easy. It lets you see who’s free quickly and agree a plan easily by getting friends voting on dates, destination and even the budget for your trip.
From there, if you chat to one of our team in WhatsApp or Messenger, you’ll receive advice and recommendations personalised to your group.
You also need to consider when in the season to ski (which affects the weather and the snow conditions you can expect), for how long (some resorts are more practical for ski weekends than others) and the type of accommodation your group are keen to stay in (typically either a catered chalet, a self-catered apartment or a hotel).
Finally, the European alps are home to some of the best ski resorts in the world. But which resort should you go for and what’s the best way to go about booking it? Below, we’ve broken down planning a group ski holiday into easy steps. We hope it helps.
Choose the right ski resort
How experienced is the group?
Before you go booking a trip to one of Europe's most popular ski resorts, pause to think whether it’s actually a good fit for your group. Gauging the general ski experience of everyone is crucial when it comes to choosing a skiing spot - especially if you’re holidaying with kids or complete skiing novices.
Some destinations - such as Alpe d’Huez or Bansko - are great resorts for beginner ski groups thanks to their amazing nursery slopes, great ski schools and hefty range of non-ski activities. If you’re on a family ski trip, you might want to check out somewhere like La Rosière which has its own dedicated kids’ ski park.
If you’re more of a mixed ability group, you need a resort with a diverse range of slopes. Somewhere with good nursery skiing and gentle greens and blues for beginners to develop onto, plus plenty of skiing km for the more experienced. The best of the mixed ability ski resorts also have somewhere that’s easy for skiers of all abilities to reach for lunch.
If you’re weighing up a few different resorts, why not create a poll in the packed app and get everyone to vote on their favourite..?
What's your budget?
Setting a budget for your trip (another decision you could poll friends on in the packed app) is a sensible first step as it helps narrow down your resort you should choose.
Destinations at the cheaper end of the scale include less mainstream resorts in Andorra and Bulgaria. They’re not in the Alps, but they still have spectacular snow coverage, great pistes and some of the best après ski in Europe. Some even have additional perks, such as low tax shopping opportunities in Pas de la Casa.
That’s not to say that Alpine resorts are out of reach for groups with smaller budgets. While pricier picks like Val Thorens, Val-d'Isère and St Anton are worth shelling out for for their amazing après and enormous ski areas, you can still get an equally good skiing experience at cheaper resorts like Les Deux Alpes and Tignes.
When are you planning to ski?
Although some resorts open as early as November, the ski season really begins in December, and goes on until the end of April, giving you a good five month window to book your ski trip in. Like any holiday destination though, ski resorts offer a totally different experience depending on when you book…
Skiing in December
Christmas is a popular time for family ski trips - and it’s not surprising considering how festive some of the resorts look with their snowy chalets and wonderful, wintery activities!
If you’re hoping to bag a bargain and avoid the holiday crowds, early December is a better bet. Head to a higher altitude resort for the best chance of decent snow coverage as there’s always a risk the snow hasn’t quite arrived if you book too early in December...
Skiing in January
The beginning of the year is always a good shout for a group ski holiday as prices aren’t as high as they are over Christmas and you’ll get slightly better snow coverage. One of the downsides of a January ski holiday is the lack of sunshine at some resorts; there’ll be less chance to lounge around on a sunny terrace with a pint in your hand.
Skiing in February
Snow coverage is usually at its peak in mid to late February, making it a good time for serious skiers to hit the slopes. Nevertheless, the February half term holiday is one of the busiest weeks of the season and you should avoid it if you can. Prices sky rocket for accommodation and flights, and the ski resorts are often heaving.
Skiing in March
March is typically the best month to combine good snow cover with bright sunshine. If the Easter school holidays happen to fall in March, the resorts usually get more expensive and fill up with families, so you may want to steer clear.
Skiing in April
Similar to early December, April is low season and can be a great time for a cheap ski holiday. You’ll have your pick of the pistes, but you some of the slopes can get a bit slushy in the afternoons, especially on sunnier days and lower down the mountain.
Look beyond the slopes
Ski holidays aren’t just about skiing (really!). Every resort in Europe offers up a plethora of things to do off the pistes too, whether that’s cosy pubs to grab a pint in, buzzing clubs for late night antics or a range of classic winter activities.
If après ski is high up on your list of requirements, many resorts - think Meribel, Morzine and Mayrhofen - have legendary nightlife scenes and brilliant bars located right on the slopes. You’ll find most destinations also have an abundance of off-piste activities to sink your teeth into, whether that’s speeding across the powder in a snowmobile, testing your skills at an ice rink or donning your swimming trunks/bikini at a heated pool.
You’ll also want to consider how easy it is to get to your chosen ski resort and whether you’re willing to sit on a bus for three hours on windy mountain roads. Which brings us nicely to the next point...
How long are you planning to ski for?
How much time your group can dedicate to the slopes will also play a factor in how you plan your ski getaway. While all of our recommended resorts are ideal for week-long holidays, there are certain ones which just don’t make sense for shorter trips.
Booking a ski weekend will limit your options, but they’re not completely out of the question. You’ll want to maximise the time you have on the pistes by choosing a resort that only has a short transfer time from the nearest airport. Many accommodation providers have a minimum stay policy, meaning finding somewhere for the group to sleep can be slightly trickier.
Hit up our team on WhatsApp or Messenger for advice or check out our ski weekends page.
Choose your accommodation
There’s a handful of different accommodation options to choose from when you’re skiing, with each one offering up its own set of unique benefits...
Ski chalets are a classic option for a ski trip and you’ll find them in most ski resorts, particularly in France and Austria. Catered chalets are extremely convenient and normally include breakfast and dinner (with beer or wine) on at least five days of a week-long ski trip. You’ll usually have a fun host to keep you entertained and sort out any issues, plus chalets can be pretty sociable if you share with other skiers.
Alternatively, you could go for a self-catered chalet if you’d rather have the entire space to yourselves. They’re a great shout for larger groups, and can end up considerably cheaper, although you have to cook your own meals or eat out every day. There is also a handful of brilliant food delivery services that’ll drop off goods straight to your door.
Nabbing an apartment for a ski trip is almost always the cheapest accommodation option, especially if some of the group don’t mind bunk beds or snoozing on a sofa bed. They give you plenty of privacy and space to hang out altogether, too, although it can be tricky to find individual apartments that sleep more than 10 guests.
You’ll find hotels to suit every budget in the mountains. They’re go-to options for last minute ski holidays and are great if you’re unsure of your group’s final numbers as they’ll usually let you add more people to your booking later on. What’s more, hotels make it easier to ensure you all have separate beds (or rooms) if you’re not keen on sharing.
Choose your ski holiday package
Whether you want to book everything yourself and just need some tips or you’d rather we do all the work for you, there’s a variety of ski holiday packages to choose between.
If you want to plan a ski holiday with very minimal effort, a pre-packaged getaway is ideal. This will usually include everything from flights and transfers to accommodation. As you book everything together, pre-packaged ski holidays are often cheaper and have lower deposit options. The downside is you’ll have less flexibility with things like flight times, and you often have to share airport transfers with other groups.
As well as booking you a pre-packaged ski holiday, our team can also help with something more bespoke. While your deposit can often be a little higher to cover flights up front, you’ll have more freedom around every aspect of your trip. You’ll be able to choose which flights you want, opt for a private transfer and be a bit pickier about your accommodation.
Booking a tailored group ski holiday with packed not only gives you more flexibility and ATOL protection, but you’ll also benefit from separate payments so you - as the group leader - are never left out of pocket.
Do it yourself
Finally, you could always go it alone and book a group ski holiday all by yourself. There are downsides to this (especially if you have little or no prior experience). Arranging flights, transfers, hotels, lift passes and equipment hire separately can be incredibly time consuming and is almost always more expensive, and you'll be drowning in the admin of name-changes for months.
You may not benefit from any package discounts or special travel operator rates, either. What’s more, you’ll need to choose options which suit everyone and manage the travel details of multiple people.
Getting to your chosen ski resort from the nearest airport is usually pretty straightforward, with transport options varying from private transfers to shared buses. There’s benefits to both: private transport is quicker yet more expensive, while shared will save you some pounds but isn’t available for every resort. If you book the latter, you’ll be limited by a set schedule and might have to wait around for another group to arrive.
If you don’t fancy hopping on a flight and then sitting in a minibus for three hours, why not go for a resort like Les Arcs or Meribel which can actually be reached by rail? (NOTE, Eurostar have stopped their ski train in light of the pandemic and we are awaiting details of any replacements, but it is still possible to take the Eurostar to Paris and continue south to the alps).
While it’ll be almost a full day’s travelling, the routes take you through some pretty stunning mountain scenery (and you’ll be able to stay sustained on croissants and other tasty French pastries).
Ski equipment is easy to hire in resort but can be expensive if not booked in advance. Get in touch with us about our excellent rates for equipment hire.
If you’ve got your own equipment, you want to make use of it. Just bear in mind it’s sometimes more expensive to take them on the plane than to rent especially if you’re only away for a weekend. But sometimes it’s just worth it!
One thing we do reckon is always worth bringing if you have your own are ski boots. You can often squeeze them into your suitcase and it’s much nicer wearing boots that fit.
Lift passes are your ticket to the mountains and you’ll find some resorts offer tiered options which give you access to a range of different ski areas within one resort. Which level of lift pass you need will depend on factors like your overall experience and length of stay.
Beginners often only need a basic pass to access the nursery slopes and easy blue or green slopes, while better skiers will want to go the whole hog so they don’t run out of piste. Not sure which lift pass to get for your chosen resort? Our team can point you in the right direction.
If some of your group have never stepped foot on a ski slope before, we definitely recommend getting some lessons. Most resorts have excellent ski schools with English speaking instructors who’ll be able to show you the ropes and put you at ease.
Joining a group of fellow novices is by far the cheapest way to learn. If you want to get to grips with skiing as quickly as possible though,, private lessons are the way to go. Fitting a few lessons in at an indoor slope in the UK before your trip is never a bad idea, either.
If you’re hoping to venture off-piste, consider hiring a local guide to show you the best routes and hone your technique for backcountry skiing. Private guides can be pricey, but it’s a nice way to enhance your trip if you split the cost between a few of you.
Other costs to consider
If you’ve gone for a catered package and have your ski equipment and lift passes sorted, the only other thing you’ll need to consider is lunch and meals on the days your chalet doesn’t provide them.
Luckily, every ski resort in Europe is inundated with great restaurants (both on and off the slopes) where you can try local delicacies or fill up on hearty comfort food. Self-catered ski holidays and hotel stays will also mean extra expense when it comes to food.
Après ski is another necessary cost to think about and, depending on the resort you go for, can start to add up pretty quickly! Factor this into your planning and budget, especially if your group are party animals.
What to pack
Ski holiday packing is mainly about warmth. Make sure every member of the group takes a ski jacket, salopettes and warm under clothes. Must-have accessories include gloves, a hat, a neck warmer, ski socks and goggles/sunglasses. There’s also the option of taking your own ski equipment, including your own pair of snow boots (although you can also hire these at your resort).
Check out our guide to ski holiday packing essentials.
A few final things to consider when planning a group ski holiday include sorting out suitable insurance (remember that you’ll need extra cover if you’re planning to ski off-piste). You’ll also want to order some foreign currency for your trip or get a card that’s pre-loaded with money. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the weather forecast for your ski trip dates, too, to see what the snow coverage will be like and if there’s any risk of avalanches.
If you’ve read this far, you must mean business 😋
We really hope this guide has helped shed some light on what to consider when you’re planning the perfect ski trip. Ski holidays are the trips packed was founded on, and our experts spend all day every day helping groups find the right option for them. If you’d like help at any stage of the planning process, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!