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Organising a corporate ski trip is not easy. Among the myriad tick-lists to tackle, there are flights, equipment, resorts, hotels, insurance, restaurants, entertainment and budgets to consider. Not to mention making sure your gang of powder hounds are content enough to continue – or start – doing business with your employer. It’s enough to make you jump off a T-bar. So why dare? You could just pack them all off to Wentworth for the day and be done with it. No stress.
The thing is, skiing is seriously good fun. There’s also the obvious wow factor that a handsome mountain will elicit. And don’t forget all that important face-time with the client. There’s loads of it. On the slopes, at lunch, during the dinner and après ski – it’s hard for a client to escape. So skiing is really a hard-to-beat option, even if it’s hard to pull off too. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make sure business stays nicely on-piste, even if your party of skiers doesn’t.
A good place to start is making the right choice from the hundreds of resorts available in the Alps. With the whole trip likely to last no more than three nights and four days (usually Thursday to Sunday), you need to make an impact with a resort tailored to your group. If you’re catering for the media set, you’ll probably want some banging après ski. For City denizens, there’s a strong chance you’ll be sourcing fine dining, helicopters and a name that carries instant cachet.
Richard Lumb, industry director and co-founder of Kaluma Travel, says, ‘Choosing the right resort makes all the difference, and a little insider knowledge really helps. If you don’t have time to research the resort properly, going to an agency will help.’
He’s right. Instead of labouring over choosing the perfect resort, just choose a good organiser and they will match you to the right location for your group. Those that have bases in the Alps are a bonus – they tend to have strong links with resorts and will get you better deals through repeat business. That also takes care of things like your equipment supplier, instructors and a local guide.
Part of choosing the right resort is taking into consideration the transfer time. Anne Pedersen from Switzerland Tourism explains, ‘One of the most important things for groups is that the transfer time is short. But if an organiser is after more advanced skiing slopes then, typically, it will take longer.’ You can make the most of a long transfer, though. On the train from Zurich to St Moritz, for example, groups can hire their own carriage and hold a meeting while taking in the picture-postcard views.
Make sure the resort caters to mixed abilities; the avid skiers will happily disappear on the slopes for a morning, but you need to make sure the intermediates and first-timers are just as happy. There’s a chance the novices will tire quickly or just not enjoy skiing at all, so having alternative activities – off, as well as on, the slopes – is wise.
Mixing up the itinerary can also keep things interesting for the whole group. On the piste, Pedersen suggests tobogganing, which is easy and fun – try a torch-lit ride at night – or igloo building, which is also a good teambuilding exercise. For beginners who want to stay on their skis, cross-country is slower and safer, while the more advanced will be excited by heli-skiing. Off the snow, Lumb suggests a meal with a view. ‘You can take a snowcat up the mountain and enjoy lunch in isolation, with plenty of valuable face-time.’
When you put this action-packed itinerary together, it’s important not to over-organise – spending more money on more activities doesn’t always make for a better trip. Skiing is tiring – make sure you leave enough time between events so people have time to relax. If you’re on the trip, you’ll find this keeps you sane too. Charlotte Cresswell, director at Adding Value Events, explains, ‘People don’t want to feel like they’re being herded. Create anchor points during the day, but allow them to dip in and out.’
Another way of creating a good atmosphere is by getting the group size right. Lumb suggests that an ideal ski group will have 20 to 24 people. ‘With that number, you get a great dynamic of people. Once it goes over that, it loses some of the personality and becomes a lot harder to manage.’ Sometimes you’ll need to take more, but Lumb suggests no more than 80 people per trip.
Group size will also dictate the type of accommodation you end up going for. If your group is small enough, you could hire a chalet and create a very personal vibe to chill out and socialise in. This is a golden opportunity for a tête-à-tête with clients.
If you’re keen to book a hotel, you’ll need to do so well in advance – October at the very latest – and pick your dates wisely. Pedersen says, ‘Choosing the right time of year is important. When schools go on holiday for half term and Easter, availability is thin and prices shoot up.’ In the high season, resorts are especially busy over the weekend, which is when your trip is most likely to be. The best time to go is between December and March.
Also consider that hotels and chalets are reluctant to take weekend bookings because of the midweek loss – a growing trend is for organisers to book the whole week and do two trips. Often there will be one for clients and one for colleagues. Finding the right rooms, at the right time of year, is another reason to consider a specialist with a good knowledge of your chosen environs.
Once you’ve got the big ticks out of the way it is also important to remember the finer details – they can make all the difference. Cresswell suggests a small, considered gift waiting for guests in their rooms (try sunglasses with a branded wipe cloth), or a hamper of useful goodies in the boot room. On the piste, you could organise video analysis to help your group improve their technique, and if you can find a hotel with ski-in, ski-out facilities, it won’t go unnoticed.
Oh, and one last thing – budget. ‘Once you come up with your final figure, double it, add a bit more and that’s what you’ll end up paying,’ says Lumb. Winter’s on its way, you’d better get started.
As the home of all things high-end in the Alps, the name alone has the cachet to immediately impress. Lawn-like slopes, a glut of designer shops and a liberal smattering of accredited stars make it the go-to for big-budget luxury trips.
Over half of the hotels are four- or five-star, the highest concentration in Switzerland. Magnificent, but be prepared to pay for it. Alternatively, there are plenty of lodge and chalet options for a more intimate – and budget-friendly – trip.
For wow factor, try a mountain-top dinner with a funicular ride at the Romantik Hotel on Muottas Muragl. For lunch, the swanky Mathis Food Affairs at the Corviglia top station will please foodies. If fine dining isn’t a priority, check out the various Italian eateries. Chesa Veglia, for example, is excellent.
There’s a good mix to suit tastes and budgets. For glamorous and chilled out, the Muli Bar and the Piano Bar under the Schweizerhof hotel are fun. If you’re are after something lively, clubbing at Vivai goes on until late.
The long, wide and well-groomed runs in St Moritz make it a great location for intermediate skiers. The two extremes are a little harder to find. There are 350km of pistes in three separate areas with plenty of modern lifts across the range.
Alternatives to skiing
The resort is a hotspot for cross country skiing – there’s 180km of track – which is safer and slower than the slopes. If you’re planning your trip in January, the St Moritz Polo World Cup on Snow is well worth booking. If you miss that, try the Gourmet Festival at the end of the month.
Davos, to the north. There’s extensive skiing, particularly for beginners and intermediates. The town is well-known for its extensive conference facilities, with the World Economic Forum held there annually.
Combining a recently recaptured glamour status with a party atmosphere, Val d’Isère is a safe bet for most. Keen skiers in your group will also know that it has some of the best slopes in the Alps.
Chalets are available to suit most group sizes, profiles and budgets and work well for house-party-style events. There is also a range of four- and five-star hotels with ski-in, ski-out access, plus a range of cost-effective options, incorporating a modern, designer edge.
There are 70-odd restaurants in the resort to choose from. For a lively and fun atmosphere, check out La Fruitière at La Folie Douce and the Oh! Crazy Barm’s brasserie. More refined options include Michelin star La Table de l’Ours and La Perdrix Blanche.
If buzzing nightlife is what you’re after, Val d’Isère ticks the box. On piste, go to La Folie Douce for some lively après ski. In the resort there’s Dicks Tea Bar – it’s the established party central – or Doudoune if you want something more exclusive.
The sheer size of the resort means there’s extensive skiing for all levels throughout the Espace Killy and there’s a modern, efficient lift system. For more experienced skiers and boarders, the off-piste possibilities are vast.
Alternative activity options
For those who want to remain active, there’s ice skating, ski driving and torch-lit descents at night. For those who don’t, book a private patisserie class at the Chevallot bakery. If you get the dates right, there’s also a range of festivals and events, including the X Games in March.
Tignes (where the X Games are held) is just up the road and part of the same Espace Killy ski area. Or the famous Trois Vallées is about an hour away, by road.
According to those in the know, St Anton is home to some of the most reliable snowfall in Europe, with slopes to suit all abilities. The town combines a traditional Austrian character with plenty of lively après ski.
Purpose-built 20-24 bed chalets in central St Anton are fun or there’s a range of four-star hotels and one five-star hotel, if you’re after extra facilities, like a conference room or spa.
Try anything from traditional local cuisine through to Michelin-starred restaurants. Or there’s pizza/pasta, Spanish, Thai, steak houses and American diners on offer. You could also hire a private chef for your chalet.
Bars range from loud and busy, slope-side après ski bars – the Krazy Kanguruh and MooserWirt are musts – live music bars and clubs, to more relaxed wine and cocktail bars.
St Anton is classed as a more advanced resort and quite challenging in parts. The extensive off-piste areas are great for the experienced skiers and powder hounds. There are also
the requisite long blue runs for beginners.
Alternatives to skiing
If you want fun, then easy tobogganing is a good idea; or if have confident companions and want to go all out, try heli-skiing. For non-skiers, long lunches with a wine cellar tour work well – the Hospiz Alm in St Christoph has the world’s largest big-bottled wine cellar.
Lech and Zurs – a short bus or cab-ride away – have an exclusive feel and score high on views. Or try St Christoph for a very chic lunch on the slopes. These resorts are all covered on the same lift pass as St Anton.