Early snowfall raises hope of good ski season

TUI’s ski boss is anticipating a good upcoming season after seeing heavy snowfall in the Alps.

Pistes have already opened to the public in Austria after up to a metre of snow fell on six glacier ski areas last week, while snowstorms have also been reported in France, Italy and Switzerland. (See photos of Austria’s snowfall on travelhub.)

This year’s first proper Alpine snow comes in the same week as last year, which saw the best skiing conditions in Europe in more than 20 years.

TUI Ski managing director Mathew Prior is hoping this year’s early snow will lead to a good 2009/10 season for the industry, which is seeing bookings strengthen.

He said: “It was around this time last year that the snow started, and I think it is a very good omen. Since the middle of September we’ve seen quite a big upturn in bookings, with some very strong volumes.”

Prior added that, while bookings over the last month were ahead of this time last year, the operator was still making up for weaker sales following the TUI operators’ programmes’ launch in July and August.

He said: “We’ve still got a bit of catching up to do from the early bookings, but the trend is very positive.”

He believes consumers will choose packages over dynamic packages this year as many operators hedged the different components such as flights, accommodation, ski hire and lift passes before the pound’s fall against the euro.

Prior said: “What this will do is highlight the benefits of going on a package, as we’ve hedged at a significantly better rate; for people wanting to DIY their holidays, it’s going to be around 20% more expensive.”

Prior said he did not believe the recent decision by British Airways (BA) to charge customers up to £40 each way for taking a ski bag in addition to a normal bag on flights will affect the market.

“I’m not surprised BA has done that; they’ve been trying to work out ways of improving their profitability,” Prior said.

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