Skiing is expensive. There’s no getting around it, we all just have to accept it. However, there are ways to limit this expense, and as someone who’s worked in ski resorts and within the UK ski industry for a number of years, this is my insider’s guide on how to save when booking a ski trip!
When to book
When you book your ski holiday will hugely affect the price you pay and the deal you get. My advice:
Book early – operators love to get bookings in early and so offer some great early booking discounts and other incentives like buy-one-get-one-free lift passes and 2-4-1 ski hire. These usually expire during the late summer, so if you know what you want, get it booked in spring or early summer for the following season. This is particularly important if you want peak dates at achievable prices– amazing value all-inclusive offers which apply at New Year and February half term expire in July! If you are date or resort specific, booking early will ensure you get what you want at a reasonable price.
Book late – alternatively, if you don’t really mind where you go, or there’s only a few of you in the group, book last minute! When a chalet isn’t selling as expected, or there are just a few rooms left, operators tend to slash their prices with a few weeks to go before the holiday. You won’t get extras like free lift passes, but the basic holiday cost can be as little as half price so if you can wait, leave it late!
Book very late – if you’re very brave, and very flexible, you can leave it until the week before you are due to go to book your trip. At this stage there are rarely flights left so you will have to be prepared to drive to resort, but if this isn’t a problem, chalet holidays can be extraordinarily cheap. Fully catered chalets for £199pp is not unheard of! It’s unwise to leave it this late if there are more than two of you, or if you need flights, though you might just get lucky and nab a cancellation at rock bottom prices.
According to the independent snowboarding holiday guide, one of the major reasons a ski holiday is so expensive is that even once you’ve booked your chalet or hotel, or package including flights and transfers, you’ve still got a huge amount more to shell out on lift passes, ski hire, lessons and other extras. Getting an all-inclusive deal can therefore work out as brilliant value for money. Some of these deals can include ski hire and lift passes, while others include lessons, unlimited drinks, childcare, passes and more. Knowing what you are going to spend on your holiday before you go can be extremely helpful when budgeting and can save you a lot of money when you get to resort.
Go as a group
If you usually go away as a family of 4 of a group of 6, you may not be getting the best deal on your ski trip. If you know another family who also go each year, it can be very worthwhile going together! In non-peak weeks, groups of 7 or more are usually entitled to a group discount, and the more people in the group, the bigger the discount. With a group of 10 you can get up to 2 free places in early or late season, and even in peak weeks, a group of 15 at New Year could get as much as 1.5 free places depending on the chalet. Booking sole occupancy of a chalet can also entitle you to special deals such as 2-4-1 ski hire, so it’s definitely something to remember. These savings can substantially alter the cost per person of your holiday, so if you can find people willing to go with you, make sure you book as a group.
Book through an agency
Ski specialist travel agencies really are the very best people to use when booking a ski trip. The staff are hired because of their experience in the resorts they sell, and because of their in-depth knowledge of the individual properties. Someone in the office will have been inside almost every property they are selling, so just ask and you’ll be able to talk to someone with firsthand knowledge of the chalet you are looking at. My advice: pick one agency and stick with it – get to know your agent and they will work for you to find the very best deal at the best price. It saves you a lot of leg work going to all the individual operators, you’ll get impartial and honest advice as they are not biased to any operator and it means you’ll have made a truly informed decision.
Being rigid in your requirements will not get you the best deal. If money is the main priority when you’re booking a ski holiday, it really does pay to be as flexible as you can. If you aren’t tied to school holidays, go in January or March when it’s much cheaper. The week before Christmas can be a great time to get some early season skiing in, and high resorts like Val Thorens will almost certainly already have plenty of snow. If you aren’t set on a resort, try a lesser known one, or ski in Italy for a change. There are some great deals to be had away from the main resorts of the Three Valleys and the Espace Killy. La Plagne is usually a good place for deal, or try La Rosiere, Soll in Austria or Arabba in Italy. Exploring new resorts is a lot of fun and you are likely to save an awful lot of money in doing so, while going off peak means fewer crowds and more time skiing!
Follow just a few of these simple guidelines and you’ll be on the slopes for much less than you might expect!