Esprit Ski to Cease Trading at End of Season

The family ski brand, Esprit Ski, is being scrapped after 41 years. It is part of the Hotelplan Group that is being sold off, but the company says the decision is unrelated.  UPDATED

The Esprit brand will be ‘retired’ at the end of this winter.

The decision is said to be to allow the company to “focus its resources and expertise into the continued success of sister brand, Inghams.”

The reality is that its business model doesn’t work in the post-brexit world, with spiralling costs making the more affordable end of the family ski market a tough nut to crack.

In recent years, Esprit – which focuses on ski holidays for families –  has faced an increasing number of what it calls “operational challenges”.

Inghams, on the other hand, claims it continues to do well.

The statement says this is because of Inghams’ broad range of holidays, wider choice of resorts, accommodation types and high-quality service.

Last week, the supermarket giant Migros, which owns the Hotelplan Group, announced it was selling off all the group’s travel businesses.

But Joe Ponte, CEO of Hotlelplan UK, says the decision is unrelated.

“The UK business has been reviewing the performance of Esprit for some time, and this channelling of resources is part of our existing strategy and ongoing commitment to invest in the long-term future success of the other brands in the group,” he says.

In other words Esprit Ski doesn’t make enough money to make it viable.

Its demise is put down to a number of reasons.

Brexit is one as it has created bureaucracy and extra costs for ski operators wanting to hire British seasonaires, recent research suggests.

The number of UK workers able to work in the EU fell by more than two thirds between 2017 and last year, according to trade bodies Abta and Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBiT).

Among the British travel firms surveyed for Abta and SBiT, 61% said that problems with hiring UK seasonal staff could reduce their possibilities for growth over the next five years.

It was more of a concern for these businesses than the affect of the cost of living crisis on consumer spending, and other economic conditions.

Esprit holidays booked for the current season will go ahead as planned.

Customers who still want to book a ski holiday for this winter can.

Esprit customers looking to book for the 2024/25 season are being advised to book through Inghams which will have many of the Esprit chalets and hotels, including family-friendly options.

Crucially, though, the childcare that came with Esprit holidays will not be will be offered by Inghams.

More and more UK ski operators do not actually offer their own holidays anymore that they run, but act as agents selling someone else’s.

There has been reaction from past customers including PlanetSKI reader, Carl Taylor.

“We had some good holidays with Esprit when our children were younger. You couldn’t beat the childcare offering,” said Carl on the PlanetSKI Facebook page.

Others have added their views.

Tom Thorp – “Extremely sad! Quite apart from the fact that I consistently recommend it to my ski lesson clients with kids; I went on many extremely happy ski holidays with Esprit as a child. I probably wouldn’t be a Snowsports professional without the love of skiing and the mountains I got from those holidays. A huge loss to the industry. Thanks #espritski”

Kate Gale – “Very sad. Had some great holidays with them when the kids were young. Also a couple of memorable holidays, for the wrong reasons! But overall they were a great company. The kids learnt a skill that will always be with them. Unfortunately kids grow, and hence we stopped going with them. I always recommended them though.”

Thelma Jackson – “Oh no, we had a fabulous ski holiday to Austria with them when my kids were little!”

Melissa Collins Pell – “So sad! My kids learnt to ski with Esprit Holidays what a shame 😞 they were amazing ski times.”

Scott Fraser – “Incredibly sad. I had some amazing trips with my daughter through Esprit when she was around 10 years of age. Safe in the knowledge that if anything happened to me she would be ok.”

Therese Clelland – “Real shame although my sons now older and we do use them . It was a great atmosphere, was perfect when you have young children.”

Jim Duncombe – “That’s a big shame – Worked a few seasons for them. The best option for families now will be Ski Famille.”

Another is The Family Ski Company.

We at Family Ski are not surprised that Ski Esprit have made this announcement,” The Family Ski Company said on the PlanetSKI Facebook page.

“Whilst there is a strong demand from families for ski holidays with childcare it has become more challenging to deliver a top class product.

“However after a successful 28 years Family Ski Company remain fully committed to providing our guests, many of whom have skied with us for years, with fully catered chalet holidays with full and flexible childcare options.

“Already we are more heavily booked than ever for next season and without Esprit we can only expect availability for holidays with childcare to become much tighter.”

Some have blamed the demise of Espirt Ski on the additional costs associated with Brexit.

Nathan Dennis – “Another Brexit success… The cost and administration related to visas for staff is killing a lot of UK ski brands.”

Matt Ottaway – “Another Brexit bonus!”

Esprit childcare on the slopes. Image © Esprit Ski

Esprit childcare on the slopes. Image © Esprit Ski

“It is incredibly hard to say goodbye to Esprit, but focusing our efforts so Inghams continues to thrive across its Ski, Lapland and Walking programmes is the right decision,” says Esprit and Inghams Ski Managing Director, John Mansell.

“Esprit has had a fantastic 41 years and we are so proud of all the families and children we have introduced to skiing.

“Esprit will always have a place in our hearts, and we would like to thank all our team for their hard work and passion over the years.

“We hope our customers, travel agents and partners will join us in celebrating this final season and the legacy that Esprit has created.”

The decision is likely to mean job cuts, especially among seasonal in-resort workers.

Most of the Esprit team at Hotelplan UK also work for Inghams and Santa’s Lapland.

However, the company says the number of overseas seasonal roles needed next winter will reduce.

A small number of permanent positions within the teams responsible for the in-resort delivery of Esprit are also impacted.

Those affected have been told and the company is consulting with them.

La Rosiere. Image c/o Tim Clark.

Skiing with Esprit in La Rosiere. Image c/o Tim Clark.

This week also saw the demise of another ski brand.

Powder White ceased trading on Monday 5th February after more than 20 years.

It blamed a combination of Brexit, Covid and the cost of living crisis.