Any family wanting to take a ski trip will know it’s not a poor man’s sport. In fact, it is the outrageous prices for a hotel or chalet in many popular resorts, together with flights, ski hire and ski passes, which cause most families to shy away from this winter activity.
According to research from Trip Advisor, the average price of a European ski holiday for a family of four can range anywhere between £1,600 and £5,000 (depending on where you visit). These figures take into account everything you may expect to have to pay for at a resort, including the price of a hotel, ski hire, ski passes, ski lessons, food and drink.
For those, like me, who think that £1,600 is a crazy amount of money to spend on one week’s getaway, then take note of these tips for staying frugal on the slopes. Remember – every penny you save can go towards your next ski trip!
Plan the right time to go
Due to the enduring popularity of skiing, timing is everything if you want to avoid the crowds and get the very best deals. Stay well clear of the February school half-term, Easter, Christmas and New Year and aim to take your trip during the low-season weeks, which are in early December, mid-January and March. Also, be sure to book early!
Ditch the expensive hotel or chalet
The price of accommodation is always the largest expense of a ski holiday by far, but there are a number of ways to cut down on this expense. One option is to stay in a self-catered apartment (the bigger, the cheaper), or another is to check out alternative rental options, like VRBO or Air BnB, through which you also get a little extra sense of the local flavour.
If you wanted to get even more creative and adventurous, think about taking a caravan or motorhome to the slopes. According to research from Salop Leisure, families who own a caravan can save up to £1,100 on European ski trips, with the average price of a pitch coming in at five times cheaper than a hotel!
An American friend of mine sometimes takes a caravan to Aspen Snowmass. He says, “it has a propane-powered furnace that keeps us toasty even on the coldest nights, and it’s also especially advantageous on a powder day because you can park steps from the gondola, and roll out of bed right before the lift starts running!”
Pre-book your lift passes
Buying your ski pass as soon as you arrive has got to be the biggest rookie error of them all. If you want to begin saving money before you’ve even arrived then get searching online and be sure to make the most of special deals; for example, some resorts have cheaper rates for students.
If you’re planning on travelling to a large resort covering many areas, you can often save by buying a local pass and a day’s extension to ski the whole area. Also, if you’re taking young children then certain tour operators offer them free lift passes.
But if you’re children are beginners then you may not want to take them to the biggest resorts. Pick a smaller ski area for beginners, where lessons and lift passes are likely to be cheaper.
Pre-purchase your equipment
Again, it pays to be organised before you arrive. Most local ski hire outlets will allow you to book online, as will most international franchises, so make the most of their offers. Intersport Rent, for example, has discounts of up to 40 per cent in many of its outlets across France, Austria and Switzerland.
Drive to the slopes
Taking a car to the Alps takes around 10-12 hours, and you’ll have to be prepared for possible snow on the roads, but you will make a huge saving by not taking a flight (most airlines also charge extra for ski carriage). If you are staying in a self-catered apartment then having a car also means you can save money by stocking up at large supermarkets outside the resort.
Avoid the resort food
Hitting the slopes all day makes people hungry, and ski resorts know that people will pay whatever it costs when they’re hungry. Don’t let them play you for a chump! Start the day by filling up on a hot and cheap bowl of porridge and fruit. Then bring along your own packed lunch: sandwiches, cereal bars and chocolate (anything that will fit snugly inside your ski pack or jacket pocket). Most lodges will provide free hot water so be sure to also bring your own tea bags!
…and the overpriced après bars
No trip would be complete without the relaxing après ski experience, however it’s the exorbitant drinks prices that put many families off this activity. This is a real shame, as there are usually numerous après ski bars and pubs outside of the main resort hub more than happy to take your custom. These hidden gems will not only be much cheaper, but they will also have a more local atmosphere and are a great way to get to know the area.