A winter sports holiday should be the highlight of your year, but it can be difficult to decide which of the many ski resorts available to book your break in. There are a whole host of things to consider before making your choice, so it is worth doing some research.
There are now a mass of destinations to select from, with traditional favourites in France, Austria, Switzerland and Italy facing competition from towns in Spain, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Serbia and North America. A cursory look at the options may lead you to conclude many of the resorts are similar, but the reality is that each location has its own character and the facilities available differ hugely.
Perhaps the most important thing to think about is cost, as you are sure to have a budget you need to stick to.
Until relatively recently, winter sports getaways were seen as the preserve of the wealthy, but there are now plenty of ski deals available that have made them accessible to everyone. Remember to take a look at what is included in the package before making a final decision and to factor in costs like lift passes and equipment hire.
If you are on a tight budget, it is a good idea to look at what some of the newer ski destinations have to offer, as they tend to be cheaper than the popular resorts in the Alps. Kranjska Gora in Slovenia, Oppdal in Norway and Romania's Poiana Brasov are all worth considering.
Should you be in a position to be looking for luxury ski holidays in top-class accommodation, Switzerland and France are probably your best options and resorts such as Zermatt, Val d'Isere and Megeve will have everything you need. If you want an upmarket getaway, but would prefer a more unusual destination, take a look at what Formigal in Spain, Breckenridge in Colorado and Kimberley in the Canadian Rockies have to offer.
Price is likely to be the decisive factor in your choice, but there are other things to consider before you commit to booking your break.
Among the most important is the weather. It is a good idea to do some research about what times of year the snow is best in your favoured resort, as you will want to ensure you can ski when you get there.
Another key factor is the difficulty of the slopes in the destination. If you have never skied before, you will need access to plenty of nursery slopes and a ski school. Experienced winter sports enthusiasts will prefer resorts with lots of blue and black runs to test themselves on.
If you will be travelling as part of a mixed ability group, one of the larger resorts with a variety of runs is likely to be your best option. Make sure you also find out whether there is a snow park in the destination, as this will allow you to try snowboarding.
The other major thing to think about is whether you want a family-friendly resort or somewhere with plenty of action off the slopes.
If you are travelling with children, make sure there are chalets suitable for youngsters - many offer child-minding services that allow parents to enjoy an evening at a restaurant - slopes for kids and a range of other fun activities, such as ice skating and tobogganing. Meribel, Tignes and Verbier are all worth considering.
Young adults may prefer somewhere with lively apres ski bars and nightclubs, so Austrian resorts like St Anton, Ischgl and Kitzbuhel are good choices.