How to plan a ski holiday

Tips & guides

8 July 2019

Taking any kind of holiday usually comes with the usual types of questions: Passport? Check. Flights? Check. Toiletries? Check.

But a ski holiday is a pretty unique experience, with a few different holiday essentials to keep in mind when planning and packing for your trip.

So from equipment to childcare and from choosing the right resort to staying safe on the slopes, here’s AXA’s essential checklist for how to take a ski holiday.

Choosing the right ski holiday for you

First up, think about what you want to get out of your holiday. Are you determined to brave the elements and master the slopes, or are you more interested in making a few quick runs before hitting the spa with a glass of wine for the rest of the day? Are you going alone, as a couple, or with young children? Different resorts will cater for different needs, from romantic getaways to family friendly resorts with childcare options, so consider what’s right for you first.

If you’re a beginner, pick a novice slope and consider going all-inclusive. It’s an upfront expense that could save you in the long run, since your flights, transfers, food and drinks and (in some cases) even your lift pass and ski lessons are all included in the price.

When picking a date to go, it’s worth getting familiar with the seasonal ski schedule. You can get a better deal if you go at the start or end of the traditional ski season, and chances are the best times for good prices and quiet resorts are January or March. However, holiday weeks or peak seasonal times like February are likely to be more expensive (and much more crowded).

Where to go on a ski holiday

The Alps may still be the go-to location for the classic ski holiday experience, but as this type of holiday becomes more popular, new locations and resorts are always popping up in places like eastern Europe and Spain.

Bulgarian resorts like Bansko are becoming much more popular as a cheaper alternative to the Swiss Alps, while Andorra and the Pyrenees regions are offering challenging slopes and high-end ski experiences at a fraction of the price.

How to book a ski holiday

So you know the type of trip you’re looking for and where and when to go, now it’s time to book.

If this is your first ski holiday, it might be a good idea to book via a tour operator. While you might love the idea of planning your own trip from scratch, doing your own research, comparing prices online and booking each element of your holiday individually, a tour operator or specialist company will be able to help you find the type of ski holiday that’s right for you, from the location, the accommodation and equipment or lessons you might need when you get there.

Safety on and off the piste

The best way to get off to a good start on the slopes is by brushing up on your ski skills before you go, whether it’s your first time on the piste or you’re a seasoned snow pro.

Practice on an indoor ski slope before you travel or book a day-long course or programme of lessons – the more time you can get on the snow before you go, the better. Ski lessons usually include tuition and equipment, so it’ll give you a taste of what to expect and whet your appetite for the real thing before you fly out.

And although the resort bar is a great place to chill and unwind, be sure to keep an eye on your alcohol intake and never, ever hit the slopes if you’ve been drinking.

What to pack for a ski holiday

Not sure about what to bring with you on your ski trip? AXA’s ski holiday checklist has got you covered.

Ski equipment

While it’s likely that you’ll be hiring your skis, snowboards or other kit when you arrive at your destination, more experienced skiers might want to bring their own. Just remember to get winter sports and ski insurance, which will cover your own equipment if it gets damaged, stolen, lost or destroyed. And if you’re bringing your own kit, always check the luggage guidelines and allowances for any flights, bus or train journeys before you travel, as these can vary from provider to provider.


Just like ogres and onions, ski clothing is all about the layers. Thermal base layers of fleece or wool will help you stay warm on the slopes, while waterproof and breathable ski trousers and gloves or mittens will stop moisture from seeping in. Never underestimate the importance of many pairs of good quality socks either. Ski boots are heavy, and you may find yourself changing socks more than usual.

Don’t overpack on your normal street clothes either, as chances are you’ll be in your ski clothing from breakfast to the apres-ski bar that evening.

Goggles and sunglasses

Googles are an absolute ski essential, perfect for stopping snow, ice and sun from affecting your vision on the slopes. The best way to avoid paying high in-resort prices is to buy before you fly. In addition, when the goggles come off the sun can still dazzle your eyes, so a good pair of sunglasses is a ski holiday must have.


Although it may be cold, the sun is still strong and can bounce off the snow, so always bring enough sun tan lotion to avoid goggle tan lines. Lip balm is also essential to avoid your lips drying out and cracking in the dry mountain air. Other toiletries to consider include moisturiser, paracetamol and plasters for the odd cut or scrape.


It’s a good idea to bring some cash in the local currency. Some places are still cash only, especially on the pistes themselves. Shop around for the best exchange rates before you go and avoid paying over the odds at the airport currency exchange. And if you’re bringing any cash, travellers’ cheques or pre-paid vouchers, check the limit your travel insurance will cover before you set out.

What else do I need to do before I go?

Get insurance

Whether you're taking on the challenge of a black run in Klosters or snowboarding in Whistler, you need the right protection on the slopes. AXA Winter Sports and Ski Insurance goes further than normal travel insurance, and includes emergency medical and repatriation cover, piste closure cover for the cost of travelling to an alternative site, personal accident cover, cancellations or disruption to travel, as well as your ski equipment if it’s lost or damaged.

Click here to find out more about ski holiday insurance from AXA*.

Check the weather

We all cross our fingers for fresh powder and blue skies before we hit the slopes, but ski trips can be prey to bad weather conditions maybe more than any other holiday.

Check in advance what the weather conditions are expected to be while you’re there, for safety reasons as well as any cancellations or closed slopes, and adjust accordingly. Always follow the advice of the local authorities, and if they advise that it’s not safe to ski, don’t. Remember, there’s more than one way to enjoy a ski holiday, so if the weather outside is frightful, that’s what a nice coffee in the ski lodge bar is made for.

Get a European Health Insurance Card

A European Health Insurance Card gives you access to state-provided European healthcare if you’re a resident of the UK. It’s a good idea to have one if travelling to Europe for your ski holiday.

However, the Card won’t cover you for certain medical treatments and won’t allow for you to be airlifted off the slopes or flown back to the UK following an accident on the slopes, so isn’t a substitute for proper winter travel insurance.

And if the UK leaves the EU without a Withdrawal Deal in place, the European Health Insurance Card may no longer apply. Always check the arrangements before you travel, even if you are visiting a non-EU member country such as Switzerland, Norway or Iceland.

So you’ve done all the planning, all the preparation, you’ve aced your lessons, your bags are packed and ready to go? All that’s left is to hit the slopes, stay safe and enjoy your ski holiday!

Start your trip the right way with AXA Winter Travel Insurance

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* 10% of our customers paid this or less beween July and September 2020