In previous ski holiday posts, I have looked at winter sports destinations based on a number of criteria. Your ability level, après ski, non-skiing possibilities and country location. One of the most important factors when considering where to ski is cost. With the industry as a whole concerned about the impact of the global financial crisis alongside the fluctuating currency exchange rates, especially affecting UK tourists, there will be many bargains available in the 2008/2009 winter season.
Saying that there are still huge variations in cost when it comes to different countries and different resorts within these countries. Below, I have listed the ‘major’ European Alpine nations and a few North American resorts to outline the general variations in costs, involved in skiing there.
Before I go into the individual resorts and countries, I want to point out that with the £/Euro exchange rate the way it is on publication of this article (approx 1 to 1) anywhere within the Euro zone will feel considerably more expensive than one year ago. With this in mind, I have listed resorts that provide good value for money in their respective countries as well as those with a reputation for being more expensive. In the end, it depends on what you want to spend your money on once you are there.
There are also a number of factors to remember for any country. The price of lift pass tends to reflect the size of the ski area, as does the food in mountain restaurants. The overall cost of a skiing holiday, especially for a family, is rarely what would be considered to be cheap, but the main costs like accommodation, can vary massively from country to country and resort to resort, as can your spending money budget once you are in resort.
The most popular destination with UK skiers both providing relative ease of access and a huge choice of resorts and quality skiing. Every kind of price category is catered for from small family resorts providing good value to up market glamorous destinations that attract the rich and famous. Hundreds of tour operators from major companies to independent chalet owners provide an abundance of choice and price options. Budget travel from the UK means a ski holiday in France can be achievable on a modest budget and many families choose to drive to the resorts. Self catered apartments are very popular in France and this can provide a low cost base for a holiday, if you are prepared to cook for yourself every night.
Some well known resorts that can provide good value for money include: Chatel, Serre Chevalier, Alpe d’Huez, Le Grand Bornand and Risoul.
Glamorous resorts include: Courchevel, Megeve and Val d’Isère.
The country that founded the modern day sport of Alpine skiing remains a strong favourite of skiers from all over Europe. Switzerland has a reputation for being expensive and some resorts can be, but there are many smaller resorts which provide excellent value for money. Access from the UK is good with both Geneva and Zurich serving budget airlines. It is also close enough to drive to in a day from the UK. Because chalets and hotels are more common than self catered apartments the initial outlay for your holiday will be more than with a self catered option. But many smaller resorts have hotels and chalets that are good value compared with UK prices, especially out of season, and if you consider the fact that you will be fed well in the evening, then overall this can provide good value for money.
Some well known resorts that can provide good value for money include: Interlaken/Lauterbrunnen (serving the resorts of Wengen/Grindlewald and Murren, Engleberg, Andermatt and Adelboden).
Glamorous resorts include: St Moritz, Verbier, Zermatt and Crans Montana.
As a whole Austria provides good value family skiing holidays. For UK skiers, it is the second most popular destination after France. With a reputation for friendly family run hotels which serve hearty food at decent prices, Austria provides a combination of charm and good skiing at reasonable prices. Like Switzerland it lacks self catered accommodation so the options for a really cheap holiday are more limited, but once you are there, your money will generally go further than in Switzerland and the larger French resorts. From the UK, it is a little further than France and Switzerland to drive and therefore flying is more common. The major tour operators control a large sector of the market, although with the increase in internet use, it is possible to make your own arrangements if you choose to do so.
Some well known resorts that can provide good value for money include: Innsbruck (major town with access to many resorts in the region), Westendorf and Schaldming.
Glamorous resorts include: St Anton, Lech, Zurs, and Kitzbuhel.
Generally Italy has a reputation for being good value for money compared to its Alpine neighbours and in the most part, this is true. Certainly your spending money will go a little further in many resorts and lift passes, ski rental and accommodation can cost less than in the other major alpine nations. Budget airlines fly to many destinations that are in reach of the Alps and this provides many opportunities to create bespoke trips to suit your budget. A mixture of self catered apartments, hotels and chalets provides a choice to suit your financial needs and the small family run hotels can often be great value and serve good wholesome Italian food in the evenings.
Some well known resorts that can provide good value for money include: Cervinia, Pila, Souze d’Oulx, Livigno and Santa Caterina.
Glamorous resorts include: Alta Badia, Cortina d’Ampezzo and Courmayeur.
Both Norway and Sweden have a reputation for being expensive countries to visit but providing you are sensible with your money once there, they can provide good value destinations for a skiing holiday. Places like Lillehammer, in Norway, have excellent infrastructure in place and a choice of accommodation to rival anywhere. If booked through a UK tour operator and paid for in sterling, accommodation here can be good value compared with the Alps.
The US dollar does not provide the favourable rate to British skiers that it did a year ago but value for money can still be found in US resorts. The cost of self catered accommodation is comparably low to the major European resorts and the cost of living in some resorts is also lower than expected on this side of the Atlantic. In general the smaller resorts that attract families will be better value for money, whilst the more glamorous names like Aspen, Telluride and Jackson Hole will be pricier.
Notable countries that provide good value for money skiing include:
Andorra – Great skiing for all and excellent value for money.
Bulgaria – Up and coming east European ski destination with some good resorts for beginners
Slovenia – Similar to Austria in feel with some small resorts that would suit families and beginners.
Romania – Good value skiing for beginners and families.