Experts share their tips for booking the best-value European ski holiday
Ski trips have always been considered fiendishly expensive, but over the years some great packages have emerged.
However, as demand grows and the weather becomes increasingly unpredictable, it’s getting harder to find the right resort at a favourable price. Throw into the mix environmental concerns and the market becomes even trickier to navigate.
Fortunately, it is still possible to get a great deal for this season if you follow some expert advice…
Reduce costs by cutting carbon emissions
When it comes to environmental concerns, the way we travel is a big factor. Of course, nobody wants to give up going on holiday but there are ways to reduce our carbon footprints and the ski industry is taking note.
Family-run company AliKats, based in Morzine, France, is offering up to 20% discount for people who take the train, eat a plant-based diet and don’t use the hot tubs in the chalets.
Inghams Ski, meanwhile, has made life easier for conscious travellers by creating a portfolio of train packages to resorts across Austria, France, Switzerland and Italy.
“Flights make up the largest slice of the pie when it comes to our holiday carbon footprint and aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe,” comments Krissy Roe, senior sustainability manager at Inghams Ski.
Along with existing train routes, the company is utilising the new Eurostar Snow train which launched in August. Running from Saturday to Sunday, the train connects London St Pancras to Bourg-Saint-Maurice (with one change in Lille) to reach the slopes of Val d’Isère, Tignes and Les Arcs.
Further benefits include shorter check-in times and no weight limits on luggage.
“This is something our ski customers have been crying out for,” says Lizzy Nelson, ski consultant at Nelson Travel. “Starting at £99, these tickets include two suitcases, one piece of hand luggage, and space for skis or snowboards. In contrast, many pay higher prices for flights and then have to purchase extra luggage space to fit sportswear, snowboards or skis.”
Snap up a Christmas bargain but watch out for Easter
It’s typically the peak season for most resorts and sells out months in advance but – by a strange twist of fate – Christmas ski holidays could be your best bet for a bargain.
“With some resorts seeing late snow last year, many skiers have moved their school-holidays ski trip to half-term and Easter,” says Richard Sinclair, CEO of SNO. “Many families found how much fun T-shirt skiing is in the spring, with long sunny days and an early start to the afternoon après ski.”
But the Christmas bargain won’t be around for long.
“Prices will rebound as soon as the big snowfalls come,” warns Sinclair. “But pick a high resort like Val Thorens or Zermatt, to be certain of great snow conditions.”
Try lower resorts for a bargain
If you’re prepared to take a gamble on booking a lower resort, it’s possible to get some good deals.
“Since May 2023, we’ve seen a shift in early bookings, with higher resorts booking up earlier in the year with a 154% increase in booking numbers for winter 23/34 (Val Thorens and La Plagne) in tandem with a 67% decrease in bookings for what are seen as lower resorts (Les Gets and Megève) year on year,” says Cahal Kane, managing director of SkiYodl, an online platform where people can book self-catered ski accommodation.
“As a result there is an abundance of availability for high-quality properties in lower resorts that are normally snapped up by now. We can’t guarantee the snow, but booking in February or March should give you the snow security in resorts such as Les Gets and skiers can currently get the pick of the properties at great prices.”
Don’t book too late
Whatever you do, however, don’t leave it too late. “Lots of the cheap or less popular accommodation has gone, and so waiting for late-deals on the unsold properties doesn’t work like it used to,” says Sinclair.
“Bookings overall for next winter are ahead of previous years. There are some new chalets coming onto the market but likely not enough to satisfy increased demand.”
Cathy Rankin, UK & Ireland sales director for Groupe Pierre & Vacances, agrees: “There is an increasing shortage of beds available in the French Alps for holiday rental. This is a result of many ‘leaseback’ owners have reached the end of their mortgage and no longer rent their property for season long tourism.
“This is combined with a long (pandemic shaped) delay on new developments opening resulting in a squeeze on beds. New planning regulations also slow down new development as they need to be eco-rated. Customers need to book now to get the best choices of resorts/accommodation in a more restricted market place.”
Give Scandinavia a go
Alternatively, ditch the typical resorts and try something new. Skiers searching for snow-sure destinations are increasingly looking to the north.
“April 2023 showed record levels of snowfall in Norway and Sweden with 20-30cm falling, while the resorts of the Alps struggled to open fully with lack of snow,” says Laura Greenman, managing director of Magnetic North Travel.
“Many factors make Scandinavia an attractive destination for skiing. Spacious chalets in Norway are often much cheaper than their southern European counterparts, coupled with attractive flight prices.
But what makes Scandinavia truly stand out is the offer of winter adventures that go beyond the pistes, she says. Try husky sledding, snowmobiling, ice-fishing, snow shoeing and Northern Lights activities coupled with days skiing downhill.
“We’ve even arranged winter kayaking trips in the fjords which can experience a completely different climate to the high altitudes of the ski resorts.”
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox