How to save money on a ski holiday
- Credit: Archant
Ski holidays are never cheap but here are 13 ways to save money on travel, accommodation, equipment and food to keep your ski trip within budget
1. Think about the ski pass you need to buy
When buying your ski pass it pays to ask yourself whether you need miles and miles of terrain. “If you are a group of beginners or a family with young children, you aren’t likely to need to ski a big area,” says Xavier Schouller, managing director of Peak Retreats. “Instead of paying for slopes that you won’t use, choose a smaller ski area.” A six-day ski pass for the vast 600-kilometre Trois Vallées domain, for example, costs from €294 per adult. Yet for many skiers, particularly families, the 55km in Aussois would be enough – and the equivalent ski pass costs only €146. Even if you’re an advanced skier you can still save money by considering where to base yourself. “There are plenty of smaller villages that share the same ski area as larger, more expensive resorts. A good example is Vaujany – a charming village in the Southern French Alps. It is part of the massive l’Alpe-d’Huez ski area, but the accommodation is significantly cheaper. You get a great village atmosphere and world-class skiing, for less.”
2. Shop around for ski lessons
If you need ski lessons then shop around before you book your skiing holiday. In Val-d’Isère, France’s most popular resort with British clients, a six-morning group lesson will cost around €280 per adult; over in Les Contamines, close to Mont Blanc, the equivalent course costs a mere €130. Committing to group lessons is a good way of getting the most instruction time for your money. For example, about €200 will buy six consecutive three-hour morning group lessons in La Rosière, whereas €150 would only buy a private lesson for up to three people, for two and a half hours.
3. Consider booking your ski holiday during off-peak times
Timing has a huge impact on holiday cost. The priciest week is February half-term, followed by New Year, Christmas and Easter. Go outside of these times and prices plummet. A week staying at the four-star Les Fermes Emiguy apartments in Les Gets will cost £369pp over New Year with Peak Retreats, but only £160pp for the week beginning 7 January. Compared with February half-term, even Easter can deliver big savings. A two-bedroom apartment for up to six people at the Les Granges du Soleil residence in La Plagne (with Eurotunnel crossing), will cost £3,091 at half-term with Erna Low. Just before Easter, it’s £1,570.
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4. Take advantage of offers and deals
Flights and trains are cheapest when they have just gone on sale, but anyone booking tour-operator packages can take advantage of special deals too. Marion Telsnig, of Crystal Ski Holidays, says there are some great savings for early bookers, from June to the end of August, including 2-for-1 lift passes or equipment, reduced-price child places, hotel credit up to €100 and ski equipment with lift-pass bundles. “Normally, between three to four weeks before the departure date, the price of a holiday might come down 20 to 30 per cent,” Telsnig says. “But this does mean gambling with where you go and where you stay. If you are a couple or a small group, this might not matter, as you can be more flexible. But for large groups, choice of resort and location can be crucial. In this case it’s better to get things sorted in advance.”
5. Consider going mid-week instead of Saturday-Saturday
Booked independently, Saturday flights are generally more expensive than Sunday ones, particularly when comparing off-peak dates. Midweek accommodation options would make flights cheaper still. Hotels can be advantageous in this respect, normally being flexible on arrival date – with some exceptions at peak periods. While many self-catered apartment providers offer only Saturday-Saturday bookings, Pierre & Vacances, one of the largest providers of alpine apartments in France, will from this season offer guests the chance to start their holiday on any day of the week – an innovation in the industry. Saving money by going midweek applies to short breaks, too. Dan Fox, of short-break specialist Ski Weekends, says: “Traditionally, shorter ski holidays are usually over a weekend, because this reduces time off work. But if you are able to go during the week instead, the savings are considerable – and nearly half our clients do this now.” For example, a Ski Weekend Thursday-Monday chalet holiday to Les Gets in January costs £546pp; the equivalent trip, departing Monday and returning Thursday, costs £410.
6. Consider driving or travelling by train instead of flying
Just getting to the slopes can make up a big chunk of the holiday cost. Flights at peak periods can be eye-wateringly high – with a family of four easily paying £2,000 or more for London to Geneva – even without transfers. Driving to the Alps can be a way of saving money and making you self-sufficient as you can stock up on supplies en route instead of at the expensive resort supermarkets. Rail travel is also worth thinking about. Many skiers imagine that the train must cost far more than flying or driving, but this often isn’t the case, and during peak weeks rail travel can offer considerable savings. For example, a family of four with two children (aged between four and 11) but without skis going to La Plagne at Easter would pay a total of £1,956 for return air travel to Geneva airport with easyJet. Travelling on the direct Eurostar Ski Train to Aime-la-Plagne would cost £1,132 – a saving of £824. Tickets for children aged four to 11 cost about 30% less than adult fares. Consider, too, that most airlines charge for ski carriage, whereas this is free when travelling by train, with no weight limit on inclusive luggage. To save even more consider indirect options via Paris and book as soon as the tickets go on sale to get the best deals.
7. Consider accommodation a short distance from the slopes
Ski-in, ski-out location is something that many skiers initially request as a ‘must-have’. However, few properties can genuinely claim to offer this facility and those that do command a huge premium. Many experienced skiers realise that by staying a short distance from the slopes, they can have far more chalet for their money and still access the slopes easily. Chalet companies often offer a free minivan chauffeur service to and from the slopes – normally just a few minutes’ drive away.
8. Don’t waste money on accommodation extras you don’t need
Outdoor tubs are a good example: they add an average of £100pp to the cost of a catered chalet, but often guests will use them just once or twice during their stay. Instead look out for inclusive facilities at self-catered residences, more and more self-catered residences have access to an indoor pool area with spa facilities.
9. Consider choosing the catered accommodation option
Larger upfront costs for catered stays can sometimes work out cheaper overall. “On paper, catered chalets look more expensive than self-catering,” says Nick Williams, managing director of Mountain Heaven. “But catered chalets can be great value because most include a full breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner with wine – which will almost certainly give you a saving over eating out. All the shopping and cooking is done for you, so you are saving money and hassle. Plus, there are no surprise costs, because your meals have been paid for.”
10. How about staying in a hostel?
For those happy to stay in hostel accommodation, a superb-value option is Action Outdoors, which can offer low prices due to being a partner of UCPA, the not-for-profit French hostel association. Packages include full-board accommodation, ski pass, equipment hire and lessons or guiding. Its weekly piste and ski touring programme alone has 127 courses in 11 destinations, with prices starting from less than £500.
11. Take a packed lunch with you on the slopes
Depending on the resort and the restaurant, lunch on the mountain can burn money. It’s all too easy, after an exhilarating morning carving the pistes, to find only an overpriced restaurant for a refuelling stop. Starting the week with local tips on where to eat and where to avoid can help. Packing healthy snack bars, nuts and dried fruit or even pre-prepared baguettes in a small rucksack for your party is a great option.
12. Cook your own dinners
Sticking to cooking in the apartment, without straying to restaurants can cut costs further. In this case, be wary of prices at ski resort supermarkets, which can be extremely high. Stopping en route to the resort at one of the large supermarkets down the valley for a week’s shop is far more cost-effective.
13. Borrow ski clothes and equipment
If you have your own skis or snowboard, be wary of airline charges – travelling by train is a way to avoid them. When it comes to renting gear, the cheapest online deals are rarely for the best equipment. It is better to pay a little more for the quality offered by shops in the resorts, either in person or online in advance. Ski gear can cost a fortune – and for items of clothing that might be used once or twice a year, the relative cost is phenomenal. Consider borrowing items, rummaging in charity shops or on the Gumtree classified ads website, or keep an eye on discount retailers such as SportPursuit and TK Maxx.