As I struck up a conversation with Anna The Explorer, she mention she absolutely loved skiing. My reaction was to ‘poo-poo’ it as I didn’t believe paying a lot of money to strap two planks of wood on my feet and hurl myself down a snow-covered mountain. She looked on in alarm and said ‘but you can ski on a budget!’ Crossing my arms, I didn’t believe it. ‘Prove it, Anna,’ I said, ‘Convince me to go skiing on the cheap.’
Anna squinted evilly at me and darkly muttered that she would write a post to get me on the train to Europe and raring to ski. Would she convince me? Or perhaps you? Here’s her post…
Ask even the most unapologetically enthusiastic skier if they think their sport is expensive, and they will undoubtedly reply in the affirmative. Expensive? Of course it’s expensive! Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll hear tales of stunning Alpine views, peppermint fresh air, merry après ski and of course buckets of snow that are accessible by those on a budget. The fact is, there are many options available for those looking to book a fun break for a fraction of the price and it’s perfectly possible to bask in the beauty of endless slopes and mountain views without breaking the bank. Whilst a ski break may not be as cut-price as some cheaper holidays, once you’ve weighed up the pros and cons, you are almost certain to see why it is really worth giving skiing a go! There are few feelings on this Earth that come close to the buzz, the thrill, the rush of mastering those faltering first turns, nailing your first red run, hitting your first kicker and landing it, or of bouncing wide-eyed and joyful through deep, light, fresh and untouched powder. And the scenery! You’re surrounded on all sides by high, majestic mountain peaks and deep snow-covered valleys… the views are just jaw-dropping.
For ski fans, the sport is just such phenomenal fun that even if you spend slightly longer saving, it’s still well worth it. Luckily, there are lots of options to save as much where possible for every budget conscious skier!
Many people, even complete non-skiers, have at some point or another come across resorts like Courchevel, Meribel, Verbier, St Anton or Val d’Isere. These are well established mega-resorts and if you’re looking to keep costs down, they are generally to be avoided. Sensible resort choices for those looking to ski on a budget are those lesser-known places sitting on the periphery of their ski area, tucked away in the trees and generally rather unassuming. La Tania is a charming little resort which sits between Courchevel and Meribel in the mighty Three Valleys ski area in France; a rose between two thorns, if you will. Equally, the resort of Vaujany sits across the valley from its better known neighbour, Alpe d’Huez, and is a haven of cheap apartments and inexpensive amenities. The charming base-villages of Peisey and Montalbert sit quietly below the tree line beneath the French resorts of Les Arcs and La Plagne respectively, offering cheaper accommodation rates and a great deal more character than the resorts above! Over in Switzerland, anybody keen to experience the slopes of Verbier without foregoing a fortune should simply stay in Nendaz, a beautiful little village on the outskirts of the ski area with superb links up to the valley.
Deals and Discounts
There was a time when buy-one-get-one-free lift pass offers were a rare treat, but these days competition between ski companies is rife and such offers are really rather common. It’s even possible to find lift pass deals on peak dates like New Year and half term holidays, and groups can save a lot of money by taking advantage of these offers. Equally, 2-4-1 deals on ski hire seem almost de rigueur these days, with many tour operators and ski hire companies offering it as standard. Groups keeping an open mind regarding resort choices (notwithstanding the above, of course) are best placed to make the most of these deals and discounts, because they usually apply to a certain selection of chalets or hotels in specific resorts.
Timing Your Booking
In a nutshell, leaders of large ski groups need to rally the troops over the low-season summer months. It’s important to take advantage of the large group discounts and other tasty incentives that chalet companies dish out – they’re trying to drum up business when the phones aren’t ringing and savvy groups leaders can really capitalise. Smaller groups (let’s say, groups of 2-6 people) can leave it a great deal later and watch chalet prices tumble in the last-minute market. Again, the groups which get the cheapest prices are those with the greatest resort flexibility, but whenever you look to place your booking the general rule is the later you leave it the cheaper it’ll be, but the less choice you’ll have. So it’s a fine line to tread, but a fun one! It’s also worth noting that large chalet-hotels often have the best prices in the last-minute market, as they try hard to fill the last few rooms for each departure date.
Although there are quite a few skiers who feel the best way to save money is to drive out and go self catered, this writer doesn’t agree. On peak dates like Christmas and New Year chalet prices are inflated because demand is higher, and in such cases it can be cheaper to drive out. But overall, the best value for money is found in chalets and hotels offering the full package; flights, airport transfers, accommodation and meals on a half-board basis. The accepted ‘extras’ include lift passes, ski hire, lessons and après ski, as required.
photo courtesy of www.telemarktracks.com
Many people also choose to buy their flights separately. In such cases, it’s worth undertaking a little research into the different resorts serviced from various airports. To save money it’s also worth buying your flights early as possible to get the best prices, and you can even sign up to various airlines’ mail shots to alert you when your flight path prices get released. The snow train is also a decent way of getting to the Alps on a budget, and can also be pleasantly inexpensive. With careful planning you can even travel through Friday night, arrive early on the Saturday morning and gain an extra day’s skiing! Booking a late train on the following Sunday can also give you one more day on the snow. The bottom line really is that although skiing is renowned to be expensive, budget options are available for value for money can be outstanding! Few other hobbies have as much to offer as skiing, and quite apart from various health benefits it offers, skiing is a wonderful way to see the world with friends and family, enjoying the great outdoors together and returning home happy. I challenged Anna to convince me to go skiing on a budget break in Europe. Did she accomplish it? YES and NO. I’m still not 100% convinced if it would be worth it but Anna has definitely convinced me to begrudgingly try it out. But you know what? After glumly complaining on the way there, I bet once I’m top of the Alps, breathing in cold fresh air and tentatively pushing myself off to hurl down the side of the mountain, those doubts will whip from my tight fist and I’ll love this new extreme sport to go with my skydiving and bungee jumping. Well done, Anna. You’ll make a skier out of me.