Time to plan your winter ski holiday

    Menno van der Horst on Flickr

    Still on a high from your summer holidays? Why not start planning your next getaway, perhaps a ski trip during the winter months? It may seem a bit early to be thinking of snow sports, but the earlier you book, the more likely you’ll get the ski trip of your dreams at a reasonable rate and reap the benefits of taking an active break this winter. Here are some reasons why it’s a good idea to start planning your winter holidays now, plus tips on how to make the most of your trip…

    Why skiing and snowboarding are good for you

    Skiing and snowboarding both offer a range of physical, mental and social benefits. Both sports improve balance, coordination and core strength and tone the entire body. They allow you to burn a significant amount of calories and target muscle groups you wouldn’t ordinarily use, all while engaging in a fun, social activity with friends and family.

    Most significantly, participating in winter sports is a good excuse to go outdoors and get moving during the colder months, when our natural tendency may be to snuggle indoors on the couch instead. The daylight and fresh air will lift your mood and help alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as well as allow your body to produce vitamin D – all important considerations during Britain’s grey winter months.

    What’s more, a study done last year by South Korean researchers found that even a one-off ski trip is enough to create feelings of happiness that enhance your overall wellbeing. The effect seems to be related to the absorbing qualities of the two sports, allowing participants to “get in the flow” and forget about their usual concerns as they concentrate on the activity at hand.

    Yet another study indicates that looking forward to a holiday contributes just as much – if not more – to your general level of happiness than actually going on the holiday, so there’s really no such thing as planning too soon.

    Some favourite ski resorts

    Ready to hit the slopes? Consider heading to the French or Swiss Alps by train. The trains leave from either St. Pancras or Ashford International stations.

    Need more inspiration? These classic ski resorts can all be reached by the Eurostar ski train – choose the one that best suits your tastes and level of ability:

    Courchevel

    Courchevel‘s location in the scenic Three Valleys means both skiers and snowboarders benefit from varied terrain suitable for all ages and abilities. Renowned as an exclusive, luxury destination for snow sports with plenty of five-star hotels, it also has more budget-friendly options. Aside from hitting the slopes, you can also try out snowshoeing, tobogganing, or even sightseeing flights from Courchevel Altiport, then relax in one of the many sophisticated bars and restaurants or indulge in a spot of designer shopping.

    Les Arcs

    Part of the vast and varied Paradiski ski area, a favourite of snowboarders, Les Arcs comprises six distinct towns, each with its own unique character. For instance, Arc 1800 is the largest of the bunch, and has the most vibrant après-ski scene, while Arc 1950 is distinguished by its quaint village feel. Less expensive than Courchevel, Les Arcs is a great destination for groups with skiers and snowboarders of varying levels of ability.

    Tignes

    Tignes has something for everyone, even non-skiers! As well as excellent opportunities to ski off-piste high above the treeline (great for those who are keen to develop their skills), you can try ice diving, ice driving or enjoy relaxing in the countless bars and restaurants throughout the resort’s towns. There’s also a cinema, sports centre, pool, bowling alley and cross-country ski track, so there’s really no excuse not to stay active throughout your holiday.

    Val d’Isėre

    Trendy and glamorous, Val d’Isėre is the perfect resort to see and be seen, with a wide variety of stylish shops, bars and restaurants on offer. It’s not all about the après-ski, though – Val d’Isėre also has varied off-piste terrain that can be accessed by lift, making this an ideal destination for those who’d like to work on their technique with one of the resort’s experienced instructors.

    Val Thorens

    At 2300 metres, Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe, and perfectly situated for access to the extensive trails of the Three Valleys area. While many of the slopes are geared for beginner to intermediate-level skiers and snowboarders, those who are more advanced can easily access runs throughout the region. As a purpose-built resort, Val Thorens is very much geared for those who want to ski or snowboard and other activities are limited – however, there is a lively bar and restaurant scene to keep you entertained après-ski.