How to avoid Ski Politics on a Group Holiday

It’s that time of year again when serious consideration needs to be given when organising a 2013/14 skiing holiday especially if like myself you are taking a group of 20+ friends and family.

Why so early given the fact that we’re only in Jan 2013. Well for those of you that have never organised a large ski trip (or are lucky enough to have your ski trips organised for you), you may be be blissfully unaware of what is known in the business as Ski Politics.

What is Ski Politics?

Ski Politics is that almost impossible task of trying to please everyone, ensuring a consensus of approval is formed. A nigh on impossible task!

Firstly we need to consider who is coming on the group holiday so we are aware of the group’s dynamics and thus what possible conflicts may occur.

In no particular order here are the most common differences within your group you may find:

Expert Skier v Timid Beginner

The Expert Skier wants nothing less than a bashed up mogul field (think St Anton on a Sunday afternoon) and steep couloirs, whereas the Timid Beginner often panics and gets out the spirit level when faced with a gradient of anything more than that of a bowling  green. Unless the resort has 50% black runs the Expert Skier will sneer at its inclusion as a worthy ski resort and make comments such as “In Jackson Hole we just skied the double back diamonds and gave the single blacks a miss”. On the other hand the Timid Beginner will show signs of elation when progressing from the nursery slope and mastering their first T-bar lift. Therefore variety of terrain needs to be given much consideration so as not to alienate the experts or beginners from the rest of the group.

My top 10 all round resorts would be:

  1. Alpe D’Huez
  2. Les Arcs / La Plagne (Paradiski Area)
  3. Meribel / Val Thorens / Courcheval (The Three Valley’s)
  4. Flaine
  5. Les Deux Alpes
  6. Selva
  7. Sestriere
  8. Obertauren
  9. Winter Park
  10. Whistler

Party Animal v I’m here for the skiing

The Party Animal lives for the après ski and party’s hard into the early (and possibly) late hours of the morning. The fact they end up rolling out of bed at midday is of little concern and skiing with a hangover and double vision has become the norm. The I’m here for the skiing skier will feel aggrieved and distraught if they feel their skiing has in anyway been compromised by the fact they have had a few beers the night before and woken up with so much as a furry mouth. If they were ever to wake up with a full blown hangover immediate guilt sets in as they can’t come to terms with the fact they have spent so much money on a skiing holiday but have missed the corduroy due to a hangover induced lye-in.

Therefore try and find resorts that suit all tastes regarding Après Ski and Night Life. Resorts such as Solden, Les Deux Alpes, Val D’Isere and St Anton can get wild and raucous, whereas resorts such as Flaine, Le Thuile, Passo Tonale, and many North American resorts can seem devoid of any après ski /night life at all.

Therefore choose a resort that sits somewhere in the middle such as:

Pampered Skier v No Frills Skier

The Pampered Skier v No Frills Skier is often where the cost factor is most likely to be brought into question. The Pampered Skier will insist that leisure facilities including a pool are a must and that without these necessities their “dodgy“ back will go into meltdown, and their quads will remain forever in a state of spasm. Also without the services of Heidi and Helga in the wellness centre providing essential lower body massage the Pampered Skier may never be able to ski again. The No Frills Skier on the other hand like the I’m here for the skiing skier is happy with just a bed in a shed and a WC. (A private WC is seen as a bonus). The No Frills Skier accepts that quad burn, shin bang and calf bruising is all part and parcel of skiing and simply cannot understand why relaxation facilities are required , especially when the majority of European Saunas require you to use them in the buff; a phenomenon that the No Frills Skier finds odd and frankly, quite disturbing.

Location is also a huge factor. For the Pampered Skier nothing short of Ski In – Ski Out will do. With their tender calves, glute burn and toe cramp any additional exercise in the form of a walk is simply not on. Unless they can ski to within 5 feet of their bathroom then the Hotel is not Ski In – Ski Out and must simply be dismissed as a potential option under false advertising. The No Frills Skier on the other hand as been skiing for the last 6 hours and 10 minutes more exercise is not really a problem. In fact to the No Frills Skier a 10 minute walk is not seen as a problem especially when there are 3 ski umbrella bars on the way home. A 45 minute stop in each of these conveniently rules out the need for a Ski In – Ski Out Hotel and wellness facilities are completely disregarded as the Gluvine and Amstell’s medicinal properties kick in.

Therefore if your group comprises of those who want wellness facilities and those who don’t I would suggest looking at Austria.  Many Hotels in Austrian resorts (particularly Bad Gastein, Mayrhofen and Zell am Zee) have some really well priced hotels with fantastic facilities. Therefore those who want facilities are well catered for and those who don’t are not expected to pay inflated prices. Many Austrian resorts also offer good ski in / ski out options. The only drawback is that with Austrian resorts generally being at low altitude you really need to book Mid Season to ensure good snow.

Gastronomic Skier v Student Skier

There’s the Gastronomic Skier for whom eating, wining and dining is what skiing is really all about and if truth be known skiing is in fact just an unwelcome distraction to them. At a minimum they expect half board, grumble at buffet service and expect nothing short of 2* Michelin cuisine. The Student Skier who has relied upon pasta, beans on toast and fasting (during exam stress) will be more than happy with self catering and will see meat in the form of a burger as a gastronomic treat (especially if smothered in mayo). The Gastronomic Skier will also expect a midday stop at a Mountain restaurant (preferably in Zermatt) whilst the Student Skier can often be seen rifling through his backpack on a chair lift looking for the pre-prepared roll he swiped from the breakfast buffet back in the chalet that morning. However it is getting easier to cater for everyone as some hotels do now offer a choice between SC apartments, BB and HB.

So what’s the answer?

In truth there is no perfect answer. Unfortunately not everyone in a cosmopolitan group is going to be perfectly catered for, however I hope the above information has been of some help. Just remember whatever the outcome you as the group organiser are still likely to be better off than anyone else given the fact that many travel agents offer a free place and free lift passes to group organisers.

If i’ve missed out any group battles in your ski party then please let us know!

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