Itching to take to the slopes but baulking at the prices? No worries. From cheap resorts, to accommodation, to lift passes, to transport, to lessons, we have the ultimate guide to saving on your ski and snowboard holiday this year.
Ski resorts and airlines start rubbing their hands with glee over the Christmas, New Year, school holiday and Easter breaks and ratchet up their prices. If you can, make your trip outside the holiday season. No choice other than holidaying during the school break? Find out when the school holidays take place at your destination and time your trip to miss them. Sometimes European school holidays and British school holidays don’t coincide.
Being flexible and travelling mid-week can also reduce the cost of your holiday. As I write, an EasyJet single flight from Gatwick to Geneva for Saturday 11th February would cost me £503.99. Ouch. If I booked the same flight for Wednesday 8th February, it would cost me just £23.99.
Holidaying midweek to midweek also means you can miss the Saturday changeover day rush and make the most of a quieter day on the slopes.
If you’re prepared to use a ski bus to get to the slopes, you can get some good deals in lower lying alpine areas. To avoid pricey hotel and chalet prices, opt for a self-catered apartment and remember to stock up on the staples before you jet off from the UK. Resort supermarkets charge a whopping premium.
If you’re looking for a real budget ski experience, head to central and eastern Europe. Some snow snobs are disparaging about European resorts outside the Alps, and sometimes they have a point. While some non-Alpine ski resorts have a bad press, others are on the rise. Zakopane in Poland and Bankso in Bulgaria are tipped as two of the best.
If you’re impartial about where you head this year, take a look at Igluski for excellent resort deals.
Cheap flights are still out there, if you search hard (and early) enough and are prepared to travel on a weekday. Search on SkyScanner to track down the best deals. Bear in mind that some airlines will charge you pricey ski carriage charges if you’re taking skis or snowboards on board. For a useful compilation of ski baggage fees by airline, take a look at this article from APH. Remember to pre-book your airport parking online, using a site like Parking4Less.
Check to see if there is a bus or train service from the airport to your resort. Book your transfer online in advance for the cheapest fares.
Until 14 April 2012, you can ride the ski train from St Pancras International or Ashford International to Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne or Bourg-St-Maurice, giving easy access to the resorts of Val Thorens, Courchevel, La Plagne, Meribel, Tignes and Les Arcs. Prices start from £149 for a return. If you’re travelling further a-field, read SnowCarbon’s excellent guide to ski resort train travel.
If you’re travelling in a group and you’re bringing your own ski gear, driving to the resort might be your best bet. As I’m writing, ferry prices for a car and up to nine passengers start as low as £39 with P&O.
Book your lift pass online ahead of your trip to make the most of online discounts. As I’m writing, if I booked a seven day lift pass for Alp d’Huez through Ski Holiday Extras, it would cost me €235.71 online, as opposed to €243 in the resort. It’s also worth checking for exclusive offers in your resort of choice. For instance Portes Du Soleil has a whole host of discounts and deals on the go. Check out Igluski Deals for more special offers.
Shave even more money off your lift pass by opting for limited ski area passes or special concessions for young children, beginners and older folks.
Book your ski or snowboarding gear online ahead of your trip to get the biggest discounts. SnowRental reckons you could save up to 50% on ski and snowboard hire by booking in advance through their site. Ski Republic is currently offering two for one deals on all ski and snowboard rentals online.
If you’re a regular skier or snow-boarder, it might be worth seeing if you can find quality second hand gear on eBay, Polar Exchange, Extreme Sports Trader or Preloved. You can land some of the best deals towards the end of the ski season, as wealthy types dispense with their ski gear ahead of next year’s upgrade. Over the next few months, keep your eyes peeled for charity shop steals in posher parts of town. Several friends of mine recently scored some incredible ski clothing from charity shops in the suburban El Dorado of Pinner.
Lessons vary on price depending on whether you’re opting for group lessons or private tuition. Naturally, private lessons tend to be much pricier, and the Swiss and French resorts demand much higher lesson fees than the central and eastern European resorts.
Book online in advance for discounts on group lessons. For instance as I write, five morning lessons at Alp d’Huez will cost me €147.44 if I book through Ifyouski.com, or €152 at the resort.
For a slightly different approach, take a look at Ski4Cheap. Ski4Cheap is an online social networking site, which connects holiday makers directly with instructors, by-passing the traditional ski and snowboard schools. In cutting out the middle man, Ski4Cheap claims that you can save as much as 50% on the traditional school fees.
Become a member of the Snowboard Club UK or the Ski Club UK, and you’ll get exclusive member discounts on transport, accommodation, lift passes, equipment and lessons. Membership for the Ski Club starts from £58/year and £15/year for the Snowboard Club. If it looks like you’ll save more in members’ discounts than you paid in membership fees, signing up will (literally) pay off.
Whatever you do, make sure you’re properly covered by a good travel insurance policy. Medical costs can run into thousands and accidents do happen. Shop around for winter insurance policies and make sure you’re fully covered for the types of activities you’re planning on doing. Most winter insurance policies won’t cover off-piste skiing, for example.
Once you’re out on the slopes, remember to bring a packed lunch with you. Restaurant prices can be phenomenally expensive and will soon eat away any savings you made on the rest of your trip.
As with all holidays, make sure you convert your currency before you get to the airport. Airport exchange rates are often much higher than elsewhere.
Are you going on a cheap winter holiday this year? Let us know!