50,000 ditch their bikinis for piste-filled fun

IRISH holidaymakers are getting ready to go on the piste again.

An average of 50,000 Irish people jet off each year to the slopes, and despite the downturn in the economy, experts predict that even more people will be trading in their bikinis for skis this winter.

Topflight managing director Tony Collins said that in order to cater for the growing demand, the company has introduced extra flights, new resorts and value deals particularly in low season.

This year there will be a flight from Shannon and Cork to Salzburg in Austria, which will cut travel time to the resorts from five hours to one hour. The flight originates in Shannon with a short stop in Cork en route to Salzburg. Topflight already flies direct from Cork to both Innsbruck and Toulouse. Direct flights from Dublin are to Lyons (French alps), Toulouse (Andorra), Salzburg and Innsbruck (Austria) and Bergamo (Italy).

Austria is still the most popular location for Irish skiers, particularly for beginners, while France and Italy cater for those more experienced.

Launching its winter 2003/2004 ski brochure yesterday, Topflight certainly ensured it had the attention of the female shoppers in Jervis Street with a bunch of lads clad in leather Laderhosen downing Austrian schnapps and performing some traditional dancing.

Topflight spokesperson Aileen Eglington said the reason why skiing is growing more and more popular each year is because it is simply a great holiday.

“People talk about the apres ski, but to be honest, you just can’t beat the feeling you get when you are standing on top of a mountain breathing in that air. It is just amazing.”

And you don’t have to be a young, fit thing to pull on those skis.

“A survey completed by Topflight shows that while 90% of skiers are aged under 55, 40% are aged between 35 and 55,” she added. While many say that once you’ve skied you will never go back to the sun again, Ms Eglington believes many Irish people are now taking both a winter and sun holiday each year. The average cost of a one week skiing break with half board is around 650 during the high season, and people can expect to pay up to 300 for their ski pack and lessons. But Ms Eglington believes the cost is not putting people off.

“People are taking more holidays now and they are trying to take at least one sun break and one snow holiday.

Skiing trips are really friendly holidays. It’s a great way to meet people as you can compare and complain about your aching thighs and bumps.

The camaraderie is what makes skiing a great break. The ability to laugh and be a kid again,” she said.

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