Booking a ski holiday - when and where to go

Whether you're looking for gentle slopes and expert instruction, challenging runs in spectacular locations or even just a little lively apres ski, these are the destinations to consider.

when and where to ski 2012

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The French Alps have long been the destination of choice for British ski enthusiasts, and it's not hard to see why. There's a huge choice of resorts, slopes to suit beginners to experts, and excellent lift networks. The downside is the price. The most popular resorts command premium prices, but there are cheaper options available if you're not into the fashionable ski scene. Try Serre-Chevalier or Ste-Foy if you're pinching the pennies.

One of the great things about the Austrian ski resorts is that many are picture perfect. Kitzbuhel, for example, is a pretty medieval town with upmarket boutiques so there's plenty to do when you're not on the slopes. Though many of the advanced skiers still prefer France and Switzerland, Austria is fast becoming a popular destination for skiers of all abilities, and the prices haven't yet caught up with the likes of Val D'Isere. Try Alpbach if you're new to the snow sports game, or Saalbach or St Anton if you prefer something a little more challenging.

The Alps aren't the only mountain range to play host to British skiers during the season. Deep in the Pyrenees, Andorra welcomes many visitors from the UK each year, and is an excellent place to start if you are a beginner. The ski school at Soldeu, for example, has plenty of easy runs for newbies and employs British instructors. And while the resorts aren't the most attractive you'll find, excellent prices mean you'll probably be prepared to overlook it.

British snow seekers are quickly catching on to the Swedish ski slopes, which offer reliable snow cover much later into the season. The largely unspoilt Scandinavian landscape offers something for everyone, from beginner to advanced, but there is also a lot more to keep visitors occupied, including husky sledding and snowmobile safaris, not to mention a buzzing nightlife. Head for Are for challenging black runs, or Bjornen for more family-friendly pistes.

If you really plan on splashing out this season, Canada is the place to go. The slopes will seem surprisingly uncrowded compared to the popular European resorts, and reliably good snow conditions, excellent tuition, and a wide range of slopes to suit all abilities add up to an outstanding ski destination. While the journey times and often expensive lift passes and tuition might put some people off, the spectacular Rocky Mountains might just persuade you that it's worth it. But do be prepared to get very, very cold. Newcomers can take advantage of a 'discover skiing or boarding' package at the notoriously cold Lake Louise resort, but if you're up for a challenge head to Banff.

When to book
Skiing can prove to be an expensive holiday, but keep your dates flexible and your eyes peeled and you could grab yourself a bargain. For example, if you can avoid the Christmas and New Year rush and go before or just after, it's worth keeping an eye out for late deals from tour operators.

Of course, if you're taking the family along, that may not be possible, in which case it's a good idea to book as early as possible to ensure you get the flights, accommodation and tuition you require. Many ski travel firms also offer incentive discounts for early bookers.

There's better news for families in the late winter and early spring though. British and French half terms usually clash, causing an influx of skiers at the popular resorts, but this year that's not the case so do take advantage. And with Easter on March 31 in 2013, there's a good chance the school holidays will coincide with some decent late snow.

As always with holidays though, if you're travelling outside of peak times, you are more likely to get a cheap deal.

Are you a ski fanatic? What's your preferred destination? Leave your comments below...