Byline: PETER HARDY
WARM sunshine and the best spring snow across Europe for at least five years are expected to draw thousands of extra lastminute skiers and snowboarders to the Alps over the Easter holidays.
If you haven't already booked, it is not too late. Plenty of accommodation is still available - some of it substantially discounted - although flights are becoming limited.
The huge amount of snow that has fallen this winter means that where you choose to go at this stage of the season is not as dependent as usual on altitude.
However, obviously the best conditions will be found in the higher Alpine resorts such as St Anton, Chamonix and Verbier.
In Europe, the first of the two Easter weeks (April 3) is the most popular, but in recent years the best skiing at altitude has been found later in the month.
A few operators such as Flexiski (0870 9090 754; www.flexiski.com) and Swiss Travel Service (0870 191 7281; www.swisstravel.co.uk) offer midweek travel which avoids the inevitable Easter weekend airport crush and air traffic delays.
One word of warning for anyone planning an Easter break on skis.
Conditions in low-lying ski areas can prove difficult for beginners.
Low overnight temperatures freeze the snow to 'boiler plate'.
Earlybirds on the first lift of the day are likely to find pistes hard to negotiate - and painful to fall on - until the sun has softened them up. Best skiing is to be found midmorning when the snow is cooked to the right consistency.
But by lunchtime on a warm day, the snow on village nursery slopes takes on a sorbet-like consistency that is hard on inexperienced legs.
This makes the learning process more tiring. Beginners should opt for higher altitude resorts.
Here is my personal pick of what's still available on the ski holiday market: (Holidays are subject to availability and prices may change. Unless stated otherwise, prices are based on seven nights half-board accommodation with two people sharing a room and …