A half-term family ski holiday could set you back thousands of pounds – but follow our guide to cut the cost
Cost is likely to be the single biggest obstacle if the Winter Olympics has given you the urge to hit the slopes. Taking a ski holiday can quickly become expensive once you’ve factored in travel, lift passes, accommodation and ski hire.
A family of four heading to a top resort in the Swiss Alps during February’s peak half-term period could pay anything up to £9,500 for a week, according to research from M&S Bank.
You can slash the cost by heading to Europe’s cheapest resort, Bansko in Bulgaria, where a week would cost the typical family £6,225 instead. But that still isn’t what most people would call cheap.
Hitting the slopes on a budget is far from easy, but there are some ways to cut down the cost.
Choose a resort carefully
Unless you’re an experienced skier looking for world-class runs, you could get snow and savings in eastern Europe and Italy, says Andrew Brown at Post Office Travel Money. “Bansko or Slovenia’s Kranjska Gora are the cheapest, according to our research, but some eurozone resorts are also affordable. Ellmau in Austria and Livigno, Cervinia and Sestriere in Italy offer really good value.”
You should look beyond the cheapest headline price, says Craig Burton, managing director at winter sports holiday specialists Ski Solutions. “Switzerland is considered expensive, but can be surprisingly good value. In Zermatt, for example, kids under 10 get a free ski pass and airport transfers. Lots of skiers take the train to the slopes from Geneva and Zurich, and kids under 16 travel free.”
At Whistler and Banff in the US, children often get free ski passes and equipment rental. “The problem is, you have to factor in an airfare of around £600 or £700 a person,” Burton says.
France can be surprisingly expensive. “You might get a cheap apartment, but pay more for your ski pass, equipment rental and food. You can easily pay £20 for a plate of sausage and chips on the mountains.”
Ski consultant Chris Exall says you shouldn’t rule out Scotland: “It is having a bumper winter and it’s cheap.”
Get the timing right
As the ski season draws to an end, prices should fall. This might be small comfort for parents, although some schools will have early Easter breaks. “There is great value as we get closer to Easter, with departures on weeks beginning 5 and 12 April still popular,” Burton says.
If you are looking for a short break, consider midweek rather than a weekend as you are likely to pay less.
Keep your other costs down
Kitting yourself out with skis, boots and poles can cost several hundred pounds. “Skis are your biggest expense, with prices starting at £130, plus £25 for poles and £80 for ski boots,” says Asaad Dookhy at sports retailer Decathlon.
“You can get a serviceable pair of ski pants for around £45 and a jacket from £25. Goggles start at £40, helmets at £25 and gloves from £6. You will also need to buy thermals, a hat, ski socks and, maybe, a beanie.”
Rather than buying the big equipment, borrow it. “It is often cheaper to rent in the resort, plus you save on airline charges for ski carriage,” says Exall. Booking in advance online is usually cheaper than turning up at a hire shop in a resort, and means you can guarantee you will get the equipment you want.
Before you buy clothing, ask around; friends may have things they are willing to lend. If you do need to buy, look for sales in specialist shops.
“You might pick up a cheap ski jacket and pants at Primark, Aldi and Lidl, TK Maxx or Sports Direct,” says Exall. “A decent pair of sunglasses could do double duty for a ski holiday.”
Try a DIY package
While most British skiers take a package deal, you could ceate your own holiday, using budget flights and booking accommodation separately.
Manchester couple Stephanie Staszko and Mark Phillips regularly jet off for affordable skiing trips using budget flights to cheaper resorts in Eastern Europe and have just returned from Zakopane in Poland.
Stephanie, who works for winter sports online equipment store Ski-trek, says: “We flew with Ryanair from Manchester to Krakow for £100 each, and paid £80 for a week’s ski pass. The town was fantastic and eating and drinking out was really affordable.”
The couple have also been skiing in the Austrian Alps. “If you fly midweek you can bag a really cheap deal on flights and accommodation.
“We flew from Manchester to Munich for £50 return, then paid another €40 each for a return train trip from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.”
Even if you are confined to peak periods, like half-term, you can still save, say Stephen and Deborah Murray of Derby. They are taking their three sons to the French Alps for around £2,500 all in.
“We will drive to Eurotunnel, then bomb through France overnight,” says Stephen. They have further trimmed costs by booking a self-catering apartment and they will be stocking up on food in Tesco before they leave.
“We carry most of our ski equipment in the car, which saves hire costs.
“Any other equipment we book in advance, which also saves money, and we take advantage of family discounts on ski passes.”
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