The ski holidays industry is understandably nervous about its prospects for the 2009 season - it's the first time for over a decade that they have entered the start of the year with a full blown global recession, and how many people will be taking ski holidays is very much an unanswered question.
With the majority of ski holidays not booked until January and February, it will be a while before resort owners and hotels can measure the impact the recession has had on the ski holidays business this year, but they are bracing themselves for a sharp decline in visitor numbers and spending.
And many skiers who do book early might hold off this year to see when the ski holiday companies cut their prices, which many will do if sales have been slow up to mid January.
But among the gloomy headlines of economic woe and predictions of doom for the ski resorts in Andorra, France, Austria, Switzerland, Canada and the US has come some good news - the snow has fallen early, and the ski resorts in both Europe and North America have opened early - in Europe's case it's the first time in four years the snow has fallen early enough for the ski season to start in full swing, and not having to rely on the snow making machines.
Andorra for example opened her ski facilities for the weekend of November 22 and 23, and thousands of Spaniards flocked into the tiny Principality to take full advantage of the first of the 2008/9 skiing - and in the process got Andorra's tourism off to a flying start at the time she needed it most.
Andorra is a small country in the Pyrenees, and has borders with both France and Spain. Skiing is a major part of the country's revenue. Andorra ski holidays started in the eighties as cheap alternative to ski holidays in France, but in recent years Andorra has spent millions on improving her infrastructure.
Included in the upgrade of facilities for Andorra has not only been public spending on roads and improved access to the skiing areas, but private capital investment in some very good quality hotels, with many hotels in Andorra now recognised as of a good international standard and achieving 4 or 5 star status. Other than skiing Andorra is also a tax haven, with many people taking residency and buying Andorra property.
Andorra's big neighbour France is also worried about her prospects for the ski holiday seasons ahead - but of all the countries that have a good amount of ski tourists France has been least flexible on her opening dates. Perhaps the French tourist authorities know something no-one else does, but certainly they know they have some great ski areas.
La Grave for example is a diverse French ski holidays area in the south-east of the country and the location of 'La Meije'. Three summits comprise La Meije with the highest summit being 3,984 metres. Mountaineers and rock climbers challenge themselves to reach the highest summit of La Meije. The very first successful climb was by Emmanuel Boileau de Castelneu and Pierre Gaspard and his son on August 16, 1877. Glacier climbing or ice climbing is a very popular sport in La Grave as well as more conventional skiing and snowboarding.
Much of the La Grave la Meije ski area is glacier and considered dangerous. Guided skiing is recommended. Extreme skiers find a great deal of fascination and appeal in La Grave la Meije due to the enormous vertical drops and extreme ski conditions.
If it's a first time ski holiday then the La Plagne area might be a better option for a French ski holiday.
Nestled atop a magnificent glacier on Mount Bellecote, La Plagne is a world class ski area. Surrounded by the majestic Vanoise Massif Mountains in the Graian Alps, La Plagne beckons both the experienced and novice skier. It is spread over an altitude of 1250 to 3250 meters.
The resort was built in 1961 with the hope of attracting tourism money. It was largely conceived in the interest of four small mountain villages. The fledgling towns were dying and hoped to capitalise on the gorgeous natural beauty of the area. Today's La Plagne is comprised of many different and distinctive villages. All are linked to one another by ski lifts and trails for those who prefer cross country skiing. The villages continue to expand, giving it a competitive edge when it comes to tourism revenue.
Even the non skier will find something to love about La Plagne. Non skiers may choose from over 50 pubs and restaurants ranging from casual to fine dining. After dark visitors can hit one of the resort's many night clubs for an evening of dancing and partying. Numerous daytime activities entertain and engage those who choose not to ski as well.
But with a good amount of snow already in the area, doing some skiing at least might prove too hard to resist.
Information for French ski holidays is available online with yourandorra.com