HikingGears tipsTips for beginners Practice TipsFamily, babies & childrenSnow & cold weather Where to go ?Hiking responsiblyNature Explore
Skiing is back! Ready to hit the slopes in your ski suit, which has just come back from the dry cleaners, your shiny boots and your skis that have been waxed like never before? Before all that, you'll need to complete a few key tasks to ensure you have a great season.
After the long wait, skiers and seasonal workers will be delighted to breathe in the fresh mountain air again and put on their skis to enjoy the powder snow. Do you miss the adrenaline of the first descents? This year's season has started! Going skiing is not something you decide to do on impulse. It takes preparation and planning. In this article, we give advice and tell you all you need to know to prepare your winter sports holiday.
Whether you have to choose the dates to fit in with the school holidays or not, the key to a good ski holiday is the snow, naturally. With snow from December to April, the ski season can be broken down into several periods.
In December, the resorts reopen and skiers begin to pour in despite the relative lack of snowfall. Not all the pistes are open and the days are relatively short. December is a festive period, between Christmas and New Year, and the resorts light up and offer various activities for young and old. Another advantage of the start of the season is the potentially cheaper prices on offer.
January is the ideal month to avoid the crowds and hit the slopes in the best conditions.
February is clearly the most popular month, it is the very high season for skiing in France, the snow cover is at its height, and the shops and activities are open. As a result, prices skyrocket and the more impatient skiers will get irritated when they have to wait for the ski lifts. If you want to go skiing during this period, you will need to book early to be sure of getting your accommodation. It's simple, when you get back from your summer holidays, it's time to think about your holidays on the slopes!
In March, the days start to lengthen and the skiing becomes more pleasant. However, it doesn't snow as often and there are not as many people in the resorts as in high season. During this period, it is strongly advisable to choose the higher altitude resorts where the day and night life is still vibrant. In March, the prices are at their lowest and the slopes are no longer crowded. This makes it the perfect month to come with a baby. Given the mild temperatures, you will be able to enjoy some lovely walks.
Finally, the month of April is worth a bet but is sure to be a good idea! Going skiing for a week during the Easter holidays is an opportunity to have a special time and savour the last snowflakes of the season. What's more, April is the cheapest month of the entire ski season, the slopes are almost deserted and the temperatures more than mild. The travel agencies offer very attractive prices as the season draws to a close. As in March, however, it is better to choose high altitude resorts if you want more snow and more people.
The winter sports season is just around the corner. As for the destinations, you are spoiled for choice. You should bear in mind that France has several hundred ski resorts, which makes it the country with the most ski areas in the world. Between the Northern Alps, the Southern Alps, the Pyrenees, the Massif Central, the Vosges and the Jura, not to mention Corsica, the choice can be difficult.
To make the best choice, ask yourself the right questions. Are you going for a weekend or two weeks? With the family, with young children, as a couple or with friends? Cross-country skiing, alpine skiing or snowshoeing? Everything will depend on your preferences.
If you are going for a weekend, choose resorts that are close to where you live and opt for a small resort. If you are going for a week to a fortnight, opt for a resort where there is a variety of slopes so that you can perfect your snowplough. Also bear in mind that you can get to various resorts on your skis. Many ski areas offer ski passes that you can use to take the lifts in the surrounding resorts. Do not forget to take a look at the additional activities offered by the resorts, e.g. when the weather is bad or you're feeling particularly tired, a spa can do you the world of good.
If two of you are going, choose a hotel or small fully-fitted studio. The village resorts are really ideal. If you are taking the whole tribe with you, you will need to book early and opt instead for a well-equipped self-catering chalet, so you can prepare your own meals. A large resort is preferable where there will be a number of activities to satisfy everyone. If you are going with children, be sure to choose a resort that has a snow garden or lessons for learning to skiing. The important thing is therefore to find out what everyone wants to do in order to find the ski area with the right services.
To find out about what each ski area has to offer, do not hesitate to call the tourist offices where you can get the information you need according to the winter sports you want. If you are going with beginners, choose a resort with many green slopes for example. Conversely, if you are a powder pro and you like black slopes, choose a resort with plenty of challenging slopes and off-piste opportunities.
Depending on the region and the altitude, the landscapes can be totally different. If you prefer large expanses of snow, preferably choose the high altitude resorts, and if you like large pine forests then opt for a resort at a mid-level or low altitude.
If you're going with friends and are not planning to get a lot of sleep at night, select a resort with a vibrant nightlife. Some resorts are famous for that!
Finally, if you love cross-country skiing, head for the Vosges or look further afield... The Nordic countries (Finland, Norway or Sweden), where it all began, will surely put you under their spell.
To be in great shape on the slopes and feel comfortable without feeling that you can't move, there's no need wear too many layers – just 3 technical layers are enough. It is very important to have the proper clothing to withstand the changes in temperature. To stay warm throughout the day, you need to be able to stay dry by choosing technical clothing that will keep body moisture away, keep hot and dry air close to the body and transfer moisture outwards. For the layer No. 1, we choose absorbent underwear and for the middle layer No. 2, a breathable – preferably non-waterproof – garment is chosen. Finally, for layer No. 3, we select a waterproof jacket or coat to protect you from the elements. Don't forget the technical underwear underneath your ski trousers to keep your legs warm, and protect your head, hands and feet. There's nothing worse than having cold hands or feet, so be sure to keep them warm by choosing gloves, mittens or lobster gloves for the hands and technical socks made from synthetic materials for the feet. You can even add hand warmers to warm yourself up even more. Obviously, you will need to adapt your outfit according to your discipline.
As for the kids, the outfit should not be overlooked, quite the contrary. The 3-layer technique also works for them. For the bottoms, choose some ski pants with braces or salopettes with reinforcements at the seat and knees in the event of a fall. Don't forget to wear properly fitting ski socks and warm mittens to protect their sensitive little hands.
These two key criteria must be taken into consideration, without fail: the size and the shape, to choose the right footwear. For even more comfort, there is a magic accessory, the thermoformable liner which adapts to the shape of the foot. And for those who are more sensitive to the cold, heated ski boots will be heaven.
When it comes to the skis, don't skimp on quality if you want to invest in the future and if you ski regularly, as you'll soon cover the cost of the equipment. Today, you can even find second-hand equipment, as long as you get the right advice. If you don't want to overload yourself and you can't bring your equipment for logistical reasons, that's not a problem. The agencies in the resort have all the equipment you need available for hire. If you start early, you can even book it online at reasonable prices depending on the season and the number of people on the slopes. Go to SkiInfo or SkiSet for example, the No. 1 in ski rental.
Everything's booked, you've done the hardest part... or have you?... to ski, you mustn't overlook your physical condition. Having not exercised for many months, apart from a few ab or core strength workouts, I think it's fair to say that you might be a little rusty! By starting with some light physical preparation for your ski trip involving circuit training, you will be able to strengthen your legs and improve your balance so that you can make the most of your days out on the snow without getting too tired.
What's more, because we've thought of everything, especially for you, we have something that you can check out on top of the circuit training, i.e. a Prepare for the winter" sports coaching program": a muscle building program, that is available to everyone for free on the Decathlon Coach application.
In order to prepare yourself for a ski holiday or just enjoy the feeling of being on the slopes out of season, bear in mind that you can try roller skiing. Roller skiing is a road skiing discipline which is similar to cross-country skiing that is practised mainly in the off-season on calm and uncrowded tarmac, using special equipment. Bear in mind that it is a very complete and very physical sport that improves coordination, balance and cardio while also exercising almost every muscle of the body with a particular focus on the abs thanks to the core strength exercises. To do so, you will need to invest in some very special equipment: roller skis, suitable boots (which can be the same as those you use in winter, as long as they are compatible with your skis) and suitable high-quality poles and protection. To find out more about the "classic" or "skating" disciplines, you can find out more here.
To start your ski day on the right foot, make sure you have a good breakfast to build up your strength. Don't forget the 3 layers for keeping you as comfortable as possible all day long. Don't hesitate to bring an extra pair of socks in your bag. When you start your day, make sure your ski boots are properly adjusted and provide the right level of support, but not over-tighten them. The setting can be adjusted as you go through the day. Follow these tips if you feel cold during on the slopes: wiggle your toes, swing your leg back and forth before putting on the skis, jump on the spot from one foot to the other without forgetting to take a few breaks to indulge yourself with a comforting hot chocolate or tea.
Naturally, consider using a factor 50 sunscreen to protect you from the UV light as well as some suitable sunglasses or ski glasses, or some ski goggles that will protect your face even more from the UV rays. For children, a helmet will not go amiss for keeping them safe. It is mandatory during the lessons and can be rented with the skis at the rental agencies. Don't forget to bring two pairs of gloves and have some après-skis for outings in the resorts after a long day of sport. If you want to plan ahead, take a small first aid kit in your backpack. You never know, something can easily go wrong!
Editor: Marie, a lover of snow-capped mountain landscapes. I love the team tobogganing and snowshoeing, and the cheese-based dishes are a particular favourite of mine in winter ;) This year, I'm trying out cross-country skiing!