Ski holiday prices rise thanks to warming Alps and Brexit

Ski holidays are getting more expensive as climate change pushes Britons towards snow-sure, high-altitude resorts and adds to the hurdles faced by operators.

The struggles of the ski industry was highlighted on Friday when it was announced that Esprit Ski would be retired after more than 40 years of business due to “operational challenges”.

In the same week, ski specialist Power White abruptly ceased trading.

A statement on Power White’s website read: “Despite our very best efforts, we have regrettably been unable to navigate the extraordinary challenges our industry has faced over recent years.

“The immeasurable combined impact of Brexit and Covid, which has more recently been compounded by the cost of living crisis, has resulted in us not being able to fulfil our obligations and most importantly, our valued guests’ ski holidays.”

Meanwhile, Hotelplan UK, owner of family-focused Esprit Ski, said: “Holidays booked for the current season will go ahead as planned, and customers wishing to book a last-minute family ski holiday for this winter still can, with the same level of service that they know and love from Esprit.”

The warming of the Alps is affecting resorts at lower altitudes, suggested Fraser Wilkin, founder of weathertoski.co.uk and managing director of Snow Wise, which offers tailor-made holidays.

Mr Wilkin said prices for ski holidays “have gone up disproportionately since Covid, way ahead of inflation.

“It has been so volatile for snow conditions in the Alps in the last few years, that the tour operators that can adapt are the ones that are going to survive”.

This typically includes resorts at higher altitudes and operators that offer tailor-made itineraries, which can potentially be altered according to weather conditions.

An farmstead is seen in a valley with little snow near Prags, Braies, on February 6, 2024. (Photo by Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
An area near Prags/Braies this month. Some parts of the Dolomites have seen little snow (Photo: Manuel Romano/NurPhoto)

Brexit, meanwhile, has created bureaucracy and extra costs for ski operators wanting to hire British seasonaires, recent research suggests.

The number of UK workers in the EU fell by more than two thirds between 2017 and last year, according to trade bodies Abta and Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBiT).

Among the British travel firms surveyed for Abta and SBiT, 61 per cent said that problems with hiring UK seasonal staff could reduce their possibilities for growth over the next five years. It was more of a concern for these businesses than the affect of the cost of living crisis on consumer spending, and other economic conditions.

The pandemic left many travel firms under financial strain. Sean Tipton, of Abta, said ski businesses were among the first to be affected by Covid towards the end of the winter season in March 2020.

However, he added: “Once restrictions were lifted, they benefited from massive pent-up demand. People that go on ski holidays are a very loyal bunch.”

Andy Sturt, owner of VIP Ski, which specialises in luxury holidays in French resorts, said that providing consistent ski holidays in a place like the Alps was challenging at the best of times, but that Brexit and Covid had made the situation harder still.

“It has made both the larger corporates and the original pioneers of the industry think hard about the reward against the risk. Some are looking to retire their brands quietly and, for some, events overtake them and force them to close down abruptly.

“For those of us that remain, the demand is even greater.”