HOW TO SAVE MONEY SKIING
As we reach the halfway point in the ski season, 2012 is turning out to be a classic year for snow.
If you're planning a trip to the pistes, timing is everything when it comes to grabbing a bargain and making sure the mountains aren't swamped when you arrive:
• Prices in the Alps remain high for what's left of February as a result of school holidays in France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Austria.
• If you aren't encumbered by school holidays, March is the month to travel.
The first two weeks of the month offer the best choice, are almost certain still to have decent snow and a good chance of sunny weather, but not so warm that the pistes become too heavy.
• Overall, March 10 is perhaps the pick of the weeks if you want the best chance of quiet slopes, good value and good snow.
It's worth noting, however, that while most of the resorts in the high Alps -- especially in France, Switzerland and western Austria -- look certain to have good snow late into the season, in other parts of Europe resorts will start to close, or operators will cease to offer them, so the amount of choice on offer from the bigger tour operators reduces.
• Easter falls on April 8 this year and most schools will break up at the end of the week before that, on March 30.
This has put a lot of pressure on the first week of April, with some prices edging up to a similar level as that for the February half-term.
• If you want to book in the Easter holidays, you might do better to wait for a few more weeks to make sure that the good snow does indeed last.
If it does, consider going away for the week of April 8, or April 15.
The high, snow-sure resorts such as Val Thorens, Tignes and Zermatt can look very attractive and offer excellent value in late season.