Pentravel’s adventurous Product Manager Vicky Steinhardt is what we call ‘a global traveller’. She was born in Australia, and spent part of her life in the USA and in the UK. She then moved to Durban for the sun, sea and surf lifestyle. She now lives in Cape Town working for Pentravel! Her family are from Germany, so this is why she enjoyed many family holidays in Austria – no doubt getting her first taste for skiing!
Vicky’s time in Europe has meant that she’s experienced a fair number of fantastic ski holidays, and so we sat down with her to pick her brain on where to go, when to go, and what to expect if you’re planning your first ski trip…
What was your most recent ski holiday and where did you travel?
My most recent trip was when we took all our managers skiing for our Manager’s Conference at Club Med Pragelato in Italy. It was my first Club Med experience and I absolutely loved it. The value you get from a Club Med holiday being all-inclusive is incredible.
Where have your previous ski trips taken you to?
I previously worked for two ski seasons in Kitzbuhel in Austria, which I still go back to, to visit family and friends. Kitzbuhel is a small Alpine town east of Innsbruck in western Austria and is well known for the annual Hahnenkamm downhill race.
What in your opinion is the best thing about a ski holiday?
The views, and the feeling that you’re on top of the world. I really feel there’s no other escape like that anywhere else, apart from maybe going into the bush in South Africa. Just looking over the Alps and the beautiful scenery – it’s quite romantic! Also, I loved sitting in the different mountain huts for breaks and lunches and hot chocolates!
What is the ideal length of time to go for a ski holiday?
You need a minimum of a week but ideally 10 days, especially if you’re a beginner and haven’t skied before. Some South Africans choose not to take lessons, but I highly recommend doing ski classes to speed up your progress as a skier or snowboarder.
There’s a romantic idea of honeymooners going skiing, but you don’t normally progress the same, and then you end up in different ski school groups. However, if you’re both experienced skiers, then the mountain is quite simply your canvas.
What is the difference between the different European ski destinations?
France is beautiful but generally a bit more expensive. It does depend if you’re doing an all-inclusive trip (for example with Club Med) or if you’re staying in a ski village eating out every night.
I have a soft spot for Austria, as I find that it’s the most quaint and authentic, with lots of little villages with horse-drawn carts, Christmas markets and glühwein. I also think Austria has the best après ski but I’m sure that’s very debatable as I have a lot of friends who think France is the best.
Italy, specially the Livigno area (popular amongst South Africans), has a tax status as a duty-free area so it’s quite affordable.
What are five things you should plan for or be aware of when you book your trip?
You will need ski lessons. Ski boots are not the most comfortable so take thick ski socks. It’s also very easy to get sunburnt and you really need sunscreen. Make sure to get good reflective sunglasses or ski goggles.
Also, the higher the resort is on the mountain the more likely it is that you will have a guarantee of snow. This is especially important to note early in the season (December), and later during spring skiing (April).
Skis, boots & gear – what to hire, what to buy
You will hire your boots, skis or snowboard and helmet at the resort. You will need to buy (or borrow) a waterproof ski jacket, waterproof ski pants, thick socks, sunglasses and goggles. You’ll also need to bring your own waterproof gloves, and long-johns are a must for an extra layer!
Why are ski holidays great for South Africans?
Because it’s a completely new experience, and something you really cannot do (to the same extent) in South Africa.
Are ski holidays great for kids? What age is ideal?
You can take your child skiing from about the age of 5, but they will go into a separate ski school and you will likely spend a lot of time apart. A family ski holiday is best for 12 years and up, where your kids can join you on the mountain, and in après ski. It’s a fantastic bonding experience with your teenagers, fun, active and cool!
When is the best time to go?
I would suggest going in early March, it’s not heavy winter, as some of the places can get into the double digit negative degrees in December / January. We call it Magical March or Spring Ski, where rates are more affordable and you can end up spending your lunches sitting in mountain huts with just a t-shirt.
What were your favourite after-ski activities
Tobogganing, ice-skating, sleigh-riding in a horse-drawn carriage, and bum-boarding! I particularly loved après ski, which is socializing in your ski gear at a local bar or café enjoying local drinks and cuisine with vibrant music and atmosphere.
What would be your bucket list ski experience?
Japan! There are are amazing ski opportunities making it a very up-and-coming destination for ski holidays. Otherwise I’d love to visit somewhere like Aspen in the Rockies in the USA.