We all know the price of a snowsports holiday means saving like crazy or cashing in your life’s savings; it will not financially compare to two weeks in ‘Costa Del Cheapie.’ However, most of us are prepared to stomach the strain it places on our bank balances in order to get our annual or bi-annual snow fix. And despite what you see in the press a winter holiday need not cost as much as you may think with some clever tips and hints to make the pennies go further. Some ideas below:
Time of year: avoid Christmas, New Year, February half-term and, to a lesser extent, Easter if you can. Not only will you save money but the slopes will be less crowded too. The cheapest times to go are at the beginning and end of the season but you run the risk of poor snow conditions. If you do not have to consider school holidays and you are not bothered about the warmer, sunnier days in March then a good time to go is January once the schools have returned after the festive break. There are often some good deals to be had for accommodation at this time of year.
Resort choice: country and resort will have an influence on your final bill. In Europe, France and Switzerland are more expensive, and the financial heavy-hitters include Courcheval 1850 (patronised by the wealthy Russian ski set) and St Moritz (high-end boutiques and home to the Cartier Polo Tournament). The most expensive places to visit according to a recent survey are Aspen, USA and Whistler, Canada. Cheaper countries include Austria and Italy, and lesser known resorts with less extensive ski areas will have more reasonably priced lift passes. Try Ellmau and Mayrhofen in Austria and Sestriere in Italy. Other places to consider are Slovenia, Bulgaria and Andorra. If you must go to Switzerland or France stay away from the fashionable resorts.
Travel: options include budget airlines, travel by coach, driving, particularly if you live in southern England, or letting the train take the strain. If you are travelling with the kids think about which will be the less stressful option for the family, as arriving in resort with fractious, tired and argumentative children is no fun.
My good friend Lyndsey is a teacher and has the added challenge of keeping costs low when she has to snowboard at the most expensive times during school holidays and her tips for snowboarding on a shoestring include:
Package up your own holiday: use budget airlines such as Jet2 or Easyjet and book self-catering apartments from private owners using websites such as ownersdirect, holidaylettings and airbnb. Keep costs low for transfers by booking the Ben’s Bus if flying into Geneva or Grenoble. Doing this halved the cost of a normal package holiday. Beware as there will be no ABTA protection so more extensive research is needed on your part. But it is possible to stay in popular resorts and not compromise on the quality of accommodation.
Bring food from the UK: even with self-catering holidays it can be expensive to buy groceries from European resort supermarkets. We tend to use our luggage allowance to the maximum and pack pasta, rice, curry sauce mixes, muesli, cooked meat joints, biscuits, snacks, casserole mixes, mayonnaise, meatballs, sausages and lots more. You also won’t get caught short by a poorly stocked supermarket as we did one year.
Pack your own entertainment: apartments usually have a TV and DVD player so we often take the latest season of a box set series such as Dexter or Breaking Bad which we can watch after a hard day on the slopes. Who needs après anyway?! (And for those with kids make sure you pack their favourite DVDs for some quiet-time before bed).
Take a packed lunch onto the slopes: mountain restaurants can be very expensive but some resorts have indoor picnic areas and if the weather is good you can sit out and enjoy the sunshine.
Snowboarding is a passion which needs to be fed and in the current economic climate this has become harder to do on a regular basis. However, we need not be disheartened as pounds can be saved, without too much compromise, by thinking and planning ahead. So if it’s too late for this year start thinking about next season and all those pennies you save can go towards a treat for yourself or your family.
Ta ta for now