Make your euros last longer on your ski holiday
Ski holidays on a budget sounds like a pipe dream, but with a little clever thinking, you can go on ski holidays this year without breaking the bank. Discounts for families, low-season deals, lesser-known ski areas, ski shuttle group offers and even ski holiday packages from tour operators can help you stretch your money as far as it will go, for ski holidays that are easy on the wallet. We’ve compiled a list of tips to get you brainstorming about how to make your budget-friendly ski holiday dreams come true. Do you have any ideas of your own? Let us know how you ski on the cheap!
There’s probably no need to repeat this, but try to avoid booking ski holidays during busy times like Christmas and half-term. Not only will the ski resorts be more crowded, but prices tend to shoot up during these periods. You can get cheaper lift tickets during low-season times like November or Easter, and you might even find 2-for-1 or half-price deals on lift tickets at some ski resorts in January and March. Of course, if you go very early or in the spring season, there’s always the risk that you there won’t be much snow cover.
Even just starting your ski holiday on a day other than Friday or Saturday can get you deals. The French website Skiez en Décalé has a list of ski resorts that offer discounts for ski holiday packages starting on bizarre days like Tuesday or Wednesday. If you’re flexible with your dates, this can be an attractive option.
Calculate luggage costs, airport shuttle costs and mountain transfer costs into your transportation budget. At the end of the day, that budget flight doesn’t look so cheap anymore! Swiss Airlines has a relaxed baggage policy for skiers and snowboarders, so even though the flight ticket might be more expensive, the price could work out in your favour. Check out our tips for packing for a ski holiday with a budget airline.
The Eurostar is another cost-effective option for getting to the Alps. When you factor in airport queues and transfer times, taking the Eurostar ski train to the French Alps is almost just as fast as flying. Plus, you’ll be much closer to the ski resorts and you’ll save a bundle on ski shuttles. Speaking of which, poke around for shuttle deals if you’re travelling in a large group.
Lastly, you can even consider driving to the Alps. The south of France is not as far as it appears, and a quick drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel will even get you in the heart of the Italian Alps – where you’re likely to find a few budget-friendly ski resorts!
Big names like Chamonix and St. Anton are all very well, but if you really want to save money on your ski holiday, try heading to a lesser-known ski resort. The Pyrenean ski resorts of Andorra, Spain and France rival the nearby ski areas in the French Alps, but without the sky-high prices. The Italian Alps have a lot to offer as well, and if you really want to beat the crowds and ski for cheap, try Eastern Europe or Norway.
If you’re hell-bent on going to Les Trois Vallées or Les Portes du Soleil, consider staying in one of the smaller ski resorts within the linked ski area. You’ll still have access to the full gamut of slopes, and you’ll enjoy a peaceful ski holiday at a much lower price.
Andorra's Grandvalira ski area has great skiing on a budget
This paragraph will be contradictory. Ski holiday packages including transportation to and from the Alps as well as accommodation and ski pass can often save you money (and hassle), as the tour operators can look around for the best deals and offer discounts when combining services. Then again, sometimes your best bet is to check packages and then contact the hotels directly to see if they can offer you a better price. The moral of the story is not to settle for the first offer you find.
Many ski resorts offer free skiing, even for adults, if you only want to use the nursery slopes. This is a fantastic way to learn skiing without having to pay the full price of a lift pass. Kids, of course, get random discounts all the time, on ski passes and ski lessons. Unless you’re going in the thick of high season, you probably shouldn’t be paying full price for your children. There are also loads of free or cheap kids’ activities available in many ski resort villages.
If you’re learning to ski or snowboard, chances are you’ll be splashing out for lessons. But there’s no need to be silly and spend more money than you need to. You can often find discounts on afternoon ski lessons, since most people want to get an early start. This way you can acquaint yourself with the feel of your skis against the snow before heading to your lesson, show up and impress the daylights out of everybody! CheckYeti has a good network of ski schools to choose from.
Esprit Ski and Ski Famille post deals on their web pages. The Ski Club of Great Britain also offers discounts, so consider getting a membership to benefit from their deals.
If you don’t have your own winter clothes, it will be expensive to invest in a brand-new ski suit. Consider borrowing things like your ski jacket, ski pants, goggles, beanie, helmet, ski gloves, etc. Whatever you can’t borrow, you should be able to find in a second-hand sports store or in a Decathlon. Check out the end-of-season sales in spring, when loads of retailers discount their ski equipment.
It’s nice to have your own pair of ski boots that fit you well, and you can usually squeeze these into your hand luggage. But investing in your own skis or snowboard is not likely to save you very much money if you’re travelling to the Alps on a budget airline, as you’ll have to pay a pretty penny in checked luggage fees. It’s smarter to rent your skis or snowboard from the ski resort. Do your research and try to reserve your equipment online before you even get there – often you’ll get a discount this way.
Ski resorts often start off the season with a demo show where you can try out skis or a snowboard for the whole day for free. If you can get away for ski holidays early in the season (think October-November), this is a great bargain. Later in the season, if you’ve rented equipment all week and you really like it, try negotiating with the rental store to see if you can buy it from them at a discount.
Save money by investing in ski boots and a helmet
Everybody knows the prices at mountain restaurants are ridiculously inflated. You’re paying for the view and the convenience of eating slopeside. But you can save piles of money by packing a bagged lunch for your day of skiing – many ski resorts offer picnic areas that are open to guests not purchasing anything from the restaurants. That way you’ll have a few coins left over to enjoy a hot cocoa, or an extra drink at happy hour. The same view for a fraction of the price!
Even the restaurants in most Alpine villages run a little dear, so help your budget along by picking a holiday rental that comes with a kitchen, or a chalet with half-board. If you’re staying in an expensive country like Switzerland, try to pick up some groceries before you cross the border. Even several rations of tea, coffee, etc. can save you the price of buying an entire package from the ski resort supermarket.
Unless you’re skiing in Scotland, you’ll probably have to deal with currency exchange. Before you even book your trip, it’s worth comparing the sterling against both the Swiss franc and the euro, to see which exchange rate works out more favourably. You might even consider checking the Canadian dollar, which hasn’t been very strong this year. Once you’ve picked your ski holiday destination, be smart about changing your money. Pick up some cash before you leave the UK so you can avoid changing money at the airport, where you’ll pay a hefty commission. Credit cards will also ding you for using your credit card abroad, so try to stick to cash or consider getting a pre-loaded debit card.
Don’t forget to get winter sports travel insurance. All your cost-cutting efforts will have been in vain if you get stranded off-piste with a broken leg and no travel insurance!
If you’re smart about looking for the best discounts and avoiding tourist traps, it is possible to book ski holidays without breaking the bank. Families, especially, can benefit from the many deals for childrens’ lift passes and accommodation. Enjoy your ski holidays this winter without burning a hole in your wallet!
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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