Ski 2016/17: What's new on the slopes for Irish skiers this season?
On the piste
The 2016/17 ski season is carving ever closer - here's all you need to know before you hit the slopes.
I'd be surprised if a snowflake has fallen on the ski resorts of Europe, and yet the bookings are flying. If ever you needed proof of a rebound in Irish travel, there it is.
Skiing is rarely cheap, and yet snow bunnies are returning to the slopes in droves. You don't have to be an economist to draw a conclusion.
So what's new this year?
The first thing I'm noticing is the prices. Though capacity is rising, there are currently very few bargains - certainly none of the €299 teasers we saw last year.
Nicola Brady has trawled the brochures to give our readers first dibs on the deals, but if you plan on hitting the pistes during school holidays, book as far in advance as possible. Now's the time to bag those early-bird deposits and extras - particularly if you're organising a group or family getaway.
Resort-wise, Topflight (topflight.ie) is continuing its expansion in France, with Les Arcs and Tignes back in its brochure this year.
Accommodation has grown in its other French resorts, and its chalet holidays - first introduced in 2015/16 - are continuing this season.
Highlife (highlife.ie), which specialises in catered chalet holidays, is forging ahead too. If you fancy a luxury stay in the French Alps - with your own personal chef, no less - throw an eye over its website.
It's extravagant, sure, but the fact that food, wine and other extras are included means you cut down on the guesswork in your total holiday spend.
You'll get a good feel for it in Deirdre Conroy's report from Morzine.
Elsewhere, Crystal Ski Holidays (crystalski.ie) has a bumper, 196-page 'Guide to the Mountain' crammed with 117 worldwide resorts. New this year are Sun Peaks in Canada and Hochsolden in Austria - a neat option for serious skiers and boarders (watch out for its free child places in select stays, too).
Topflight's DirectSki.com is another site to bookmark for savings; going to press, it had Christmas week in Andorra from €349pp, based on eight people sharing a two-star, self-catering set-up.
Austria continues to warm the hearts of Irish skiers, as Conor Power discovers in our Kirchberg feature, and the new Flexenbahn lift has just created its largest interconnected ski area in Arlberg.
Because Austrian resorts tend to be real villages, you get a really cool Christmas market vibe, too... although don't forget Italy and Andorra when it comes to the weigh-up.
A final tip? If you're flexible on dates, watch mid-late January for late deals. But however you get on the piste, enjoy!
Deals & steals
Directski.com has a three-star New Year package to Livigno, Italy, from €699pp departing December 31. Looking for a bargain? Topflight launches a five-day ski sale starting tomorrow, October 16... you heard it here first!
Highlife has early season deals including seven nights in Val d'Isere (above), Meribel or Morzine from €660 per adult (flights are extra, but half-board drinks are included). Topflight has chalet packages including flights from around €760pp.
See highlife.ie & topflight.ie for details.