If you’re watching the snow reports across Europe, and starting to get tempted to book a family ski or snowboard trip, then you’re not alone. Skiers and snowboarders across the UK go through the same process each year, with the Christmas holiday rapidly becoming a distant memory and the daily work routine back in full swing, it’s hard not to be lured into thinking about a trip to the mountains once the alpine snow begins in earnest. But let’s face it, Europe isn’t the cheapest place to visit at the moment, especially when you’re thinking about popular ski resorts where retailers benefit from a captive market. So we’ve put together some tips for making the trip as affordable as possible.
When to Travel
For those of you with families, this bit of advice is going to be painfully obvious. Avoid the school holidays. Accommodation, flights and lift passes can double if not triple in price during high season half term, Christmas and even Easter holidays. If having children means this isn’t an option, then try taking a look at the prices available at the start of the season when the kids have just broken up, leading in to Christmas. You’ll need to keep a close eye on the weather reports because snow fall isn’t guaranteed, but in most of the higher resorts there should be a good number of lifts running. If you have the luxury of going away when the time suits you, then great bargains can be had either very early (late November) or very late in the season (April), but again check the reports from previous years to see what kind of snow can be expected.
Where to Travel
Many of the popular, well known and large resorts such as Val D’Isere and Chamonix have a guaranteed flow of visitors every year, and this can make them an expensive option. True, there’s a lot to do while you’re there, but if you’re going away for one week then surely the most important thing is the quality of the piste and the time you spend on the slope? There are plenty of cost effective options about that won’t disappoint if you try searching for lesser known resorts. Eastern Europe is a good place to start, with resorts such as Bansko in Bulgaria and Mariborsko in Slovenia offering good quality accommodation from as little as £175 per week. Closer to home, there are usually some good deals to be had in Andorra, but our top tip is Scotland. Admittedly, the resorts aren’t that big and you need to watch the weather, but fantastic times can be had in Glen Coe and Aviemore when the conditions are right. They’re close enough for you to be able to split the trip between the two, accommodation is cheap and you’re bound to save a lot of money on travel.
How to Travel
For most European resorts flying is the natural choice, but flights can get quite expensive during holiday times. Booking as far in in advance as possible is usually a good way to save a few pounds, particularly if you can fly on less popular days and avoid the weekend changeovers. During peak times the ski train can be a good way to get to some of the more accessible resorts particularly in France, but it can mean lugging bags around particularly if you’re taking your own skis and boots. If you’re a family, then it’s also worth considering driving. The Eurotunnel is by far the cheapest, and greenest way to get to mainland Europe when a budget flight isn’t available, and staying in a couple of nice locations on the way to the resort can add a pleasant top and tail to the holiday.
Taking the ski train can prove to be a cost effective option.
About the author: Zak Hood works for Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports, who offer a large range of outdoor clothing and equipment include a wide range of snowsports clothing.