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When booking your ski holiday, it can be difficult choosing between the simplicity of a large tour operator such as Crystal or doing a bit more research and finding an independent owner run chalet in a smaller resort. There are many pros and cons to each holiday experience so we have listed a few to help your decision process and added a few insider tips to make sure you get the best deal.
There are definitely some deals to be snapped up when booking your holiday with a tour operator. With a bit of research, you will certainly be able to find early deals, late deals, free ski passes etc. But watch out for the hidden extras, for example there may only be a limited complimentary drinks selection or wine is only included during dinner, so you might be faced with a hefty bar bill at the end of the week.
When booking your holiday with an independent chalet company they may not always advertise promotions but it’s often worth asking for a small discount – because it’s their chalet / company and they will have more flexibility with pricing than a corporate entity.
Tour operators will generally include charter flights in your package which can be a real bonus, however make sure you check the travel times are not too anti-social especially when travelling with children.
Top Tip – If choosing to holiday with an independent chalet operator then you will need to book your own flights. As such plan your trip early and take advantage of cheap Easy Jet flights. This can make a huge difference especially during school holidays.
Most tour operators will use large coaches to transfer you from a French / Swiss airport to your resort. This can be seamless, however if one of the flights scheduled for your coach is delayed then you could be waiting at the airport.
Most independent chalet companies now use one of the many transfer companies so you will probably have a private minibus driving you to resort. However, it is definitely worth checking if your transfer is shared or private as this can make a big difference to your journey.
The overall service you receive will have a big influence on how you rate and value your holiday experience. The standard of catering, cleaning, general interaction and attention to detail all adds up to create the perfect holiday.
We believe the care and attention to detail that you will probably receive from an independent operator will be better than the service you receive from a large tour operator with a large team of young seasonaires.
We believe the standard of catering varies enormously across the ski industry, and there is no hard and fast rule about which companies or chalets deliver exceptional food and wine each year.
Top Tip – You get what you pay for. It is very unlikely that if you are going on a budget ski holiday (£500 per person) that the food and wine will be very good, so if you are looking for a gastro experience then you will need to pay a bit more.
Some large tour operators specialise in offering a full childcare solution for families, including a crèche service and ski school. This level of facility is only possible because of the scale of their operation and the number of clients in resort at one time, so cannot be matched by a small independent company.
However most independent operators will have a babysitting / nanny service in place which is a great alternative and will be a much more personalised / one on one experience for the children.
The large tour operators have some very impressive properties however we would argue that on the whole the quality of an independent chalet is better for one simple reason. An independent chalet is owned, operated and probably lived in (during the off season) by the person delivering your holiday so they will love that property, invest in it, maintain it and ensure that every aspect of the property makes a perfect holiday home.
In our opinion the staff that look after you during your ski holiday will have the biggest impact on your enjoyment.
When travelling with a large tour operator the standard of your staff can be a lottery. The large companies will have over 300 staff spread across 10 resorts, so to have the same standard of service and motivation across their portfolio is impossible. Some staff will be brilliant however others will be more focused on skiing and their social life than the enjoyment of your holiday.
It’s the same in most industries – the attentive service offered by a business owner is priceless. A private chalet owner will usually be very experienced in running ski holidays, they will be able to anticipate your requirements and manage their small team of staff to deliver a very personalised experience.
We believe many people fall in love with a certain ski resort for various reasons; the skiing, the architecture, the landscape or the apres ski. As such we find that many people like to return to the same area, resort and chalet year after year. A large tour operator may keep the same properties however the staff will usually be different each year which creates a different experience and atmosphere in the chalet, therefore if you are looking for consistency we would recommend an independent chalet operator.
Just over 1 million Brits go skiing in Europe every winter, so it is a very big industry and everybody has different requirements and tastes, as such we think there is the right holiday out there for you.
Economies of scale will always mean the large tour operators will be a bit cheaper and be able to offer promotions that a small company cannot match. However, the service and attention to detail that an owner run operation provides can be priceless and ensure your holiday is truly memorable.
Whichever option you choose, skiing in the Alps is one of the greatest holiday experiences possible so we are sure you will have a fantastic time.