Miss Erna Low was the creator of the British ski holiday and chalet holiday, and her contribution to the ski industry over seven decades has earned universal respect and recognition. Her company, Erna Low, is the UK’s leading specialist in self-drive ski holidays. Read about this remarkable pioneer.
Erna Low, the first lady of ski
If you ever feel a bit tired or dare I say it, middle aged, then read on! There can only be a very few of us who, at 72, decide to set up a new travel company to reflect the changing trends in skiing. And yet, Erna Low, the doyenne of the ski world, did just this!
Not only that, in the 1950s, she was responsible for what eventually became the disco car on the snow train. It started life as a gracious music car on the overnight train journey to Austria but the 1970s, John Travolta and the Bee Gees changed all that. The sparkling disco ball and party atmosphere are all part and parcel of the snow train today. Erna Low also gave us the chalet holiday, having set up house parties in the UK for paying guests during the war, she combined it with skiing holidays to Europe in the 1950s, and the rest is history. Now hundreds of thousands of Brits enjoy the delights of chalet holidays in Europe, North America and beyond each winter.
Erna Low came to Britain in the 1930s as a student, and as a means of funding trips home to Austria, starting taking clients skiing to resorts she knew. Her first advert, in The Times, read, ‘Young Viennese graduate invites other young people to join her Christmas skiing’. The first trip, with just five clients, was huge fun and a financial success too. The group stayed at the only inn in Solden, for the unbelievable sum of £15 for two weeks. Skiing then was almost unrecognisable, sturdy leather boots, wooden skis with ties and not a lift or mountainside restaurant in sight. You most certainly had to be very fit and very determined to climb up the mountain before skiing down it. Possibly very slightly bonkers too!
‘To Sun and Snow with Erna Low’ was the slogan on the early Erna Low brochures in the late 1940’s, and against a backdrop of post-war austerity Erna built up her ski business, using trains and later ‘planes to take clients to the slopes.
Today, the company is the leader in French self-drive ski holidays, maintaining Erna’s ethos of quality holidays with value for money, although sadly Miss Low is no longer at the helm. She died in 2002, in her nineties, having entered the British Travel Industry’s very honoured Hall of Fame in 2000.
Joanna Yellowlees-Bound, a graduate from Oxford University, has worked with Erna Low for 18 years and on Miss Low’s retirement in 1994, became her Partner and Managing Director of the company. Joanna feels privileged to have learnt from Miss Low – and it is her mission to continue to promote the hallmark of the Erna Low holiday in the 21st century – ‘quality’ holidays at affordable prices for the discerning traveller.
Images by kind permission of Erna Low