Skiing On The Cheap – Right Up To The Last Moment

If you’re looking for a cheap family skiing holiday the best piece of advice anyone will give you is to avoid school holidays. Unfortunately my wife is a teacher. So that idea doesn’t work for us. So for the last few years we’ve taken our chances and left it to the last minute to book – heading for the Alps late season in the Easter holidays. So far it’s worked pretty well. Our ski holidays have come in at around £700 each all-in and that includes ski passes and hire too.

Hop on the ferry

We reckon taking the car and going self catering works out cheaper than booking a cheap flight plus hotel package. You always end up spending loads more on eating and drinking in resort if you don’t self cater. So one thing we do tend to do early is fix the ferry booking. Book well ahead and you can get return crossings with a car for well under £100. The trick is also to go at less popular times of the day – either early morning or late evening. The drive down to the Alps from Calais then takes about 10 hours and we usually stop for a night somewhere en route – typically delightful Troyes.

Go self catering

We’ve found it significantly better value to book self catering apartment accommodation than ski hotels. You get far more space than you would if you just had a hotel room. We usually find the cost is so much less than a hotel that we book a four-person apartment just for the two of us and that leaves extra space for all our ski gear. It’s all-in-all far more comfortable. Many of the big resorts in France have a lot of cheap apartment accommodation. Most of it is in rather ugly 1970s-era concrete blocks, but they are well maintained and everything works just fine. Many are owned independently and you can book them through sites like www.skihorizon.co.uk. Having a fridge and kitchette means you can also make your own packed lunches which saves a small fortune compared to paying for meals on the slopes

Ski high

It goes without saying that if you leave it ’til late in the season to ski you need to head for a high altitude ski resort. Prices for accommodation in some of the lower resorts at the end of the season are ridiculously low, but let’s face it, you are there to ski and you don’t want to risk there not being any snow at all. Our resorts of preference are Tignes – where you can even ski in summer on the glacier and Val Thorens in the 3 Valleys. A handy tip here is actually to stay in Les Menuires just down the valley from Val Thorens as it’s quite a bit cheaper. Snow cover here is usually adequate and it’s easy to access the top level slopes at Val Thorens too.

Stock up en route

If you do decide to self cater then don’t whatever you do leave your shopping until you reach the resort. The cost of basic groceries up there is probably double what you pay elsewhere. We usually stop at Moutiers where there are lots of big hypermarkets and do a really big shop – aiming to buy pretty much all our food and drink for the week. We still go out for a beer or two in the evenings and stop for the odd coffee or hot chocolate in the bars on the slopes but for pretty much all our food we do it ourselves.

About the Author: This guest post was written by travel writer Jeremy Head. Over the years he has skied in France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Norway, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

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Robert Stewart

Ski Editor at Snow.Guide

Rob has extensive knowledge and experience of winter sports and has been qualified to instruct and teach Alpine Skiing for over 25 years. He is also an experienced off-piste and backcountry skier and has competed in freestyle and freeride events around the world. Now a full-time ski writer and Director of Ski Press, Rob is Snow.Guide’s Ski Editor and contributes to many other snowsports, national and lifestyle publications.

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