Lux for Less: how to do high-class skiing on the cheap

A ski trip is a luxury itself, but when you indulge in a few fineries in resort, the holiday price can sky rocket… If you’re hankering for some alpine luxury but reluctant to re-mortgage, here’s how to have a classy ski holiday without spending mountains.

Ski pre/low season

First-class resorts like Val d’Isere and Zermatt stay open beyond the main ski season thanks to their amazing snow conditions. They often discount lift passes for pre and post-season skiing, and their finest accommodation can be thousands of pounds cheaper than it would in high season.

If those dates don’t work for you, most importantly, avoid school holiday weeks like the plague – especially February half term (you can check your local term dates on the UK Government website but don’t forget your destination holiday season too).

Book early

If you’re set on staying in a particular luxury property, waiting around risks someone else snapping it up. Take advantage of early-booking discounts and flash sales (like Black Friday) which cut the cost of the original price and often come with deals on equipment hire, ski carriage and lift passes to save you money on extras.

Land a late lux deal

Keep your mind open to a range of destinations and your eyes on luxury late deals to ski resorts (maybe bookmark a luxury last minute page like this). You can save 30, 40, sometimes 50% off the original price of a high-end chalet or hotel – it’s often possible to ski North America for the cost of skiing Europe or stay somewhere 5-star for the cost of a 3-star.

Drive

By driving rather than flying, you can reduce the final holiday bill significantly. On peak weeks, getting a car full of people to the Alps can set you back about the same as flights and transfers for one person…

It also gives fabulous flexibility: set off whenever you like (perhaps squeezing in an extra day or two of skiing), stop wherever you like en-route (at Calais for a duty-free splurge, or Paris for a romantic stopover) and load whatever you need into the car (no luggage limits here!).

Some of the world’s finest ski resorts happen to be some of the closest to Calais: Chamonix and Megeve are about 8 hours away by car and you can drive to Verbier in around 8.5 hours.

Just make sure you clue up on the rules of the road (this RAC guide is helpful), as a fine certainly won’t help you save money!

Ski the underdogs

Rather than sticking to the big guns, have a luxury holiday in a lesser known skiing nation. There is some awesome touring to be had in the Rila and Pirin mountains of Bulgaria, the Julian Alps of Slovenia and the Andorran Pyrenees, where high-end hotels, private mountain guides, slap-up slopeside lunches and spa treatments are cheaper than you’d find in the mega nations of France, Switzerland and Austria.

Heliski Spain or Italy

Landing you on faraway mountain tops for steep pillowy-powder descents, heli-skiing takes any trip to a whole new level of luxury. Flights in Switzerland usually start around CHF440/€370 a head, but in Italy’s Livigno (over the border from swanky Swiss resort St Moritz), you can book a flight with Carosello3000 for €180pp. Cervinia (which shares a ski area with Zermatt) has trips with Heliski Cervinia for €220pp. In Spain’s Bacqueira Beret (where the Spanish royal family ski) Pyrenees Heliski charge €190pp. These prices are based on four people splitting the fee for the helicopter flight and guide, which is the most cost-effective way to heliski.

heli skiing in Andorra

Heli-skiing in the Pyrenees can be half the price of Switzerland

Wallet-friendly wellness

If touring takes its toll on those limbs and pampering’s essential, a 5-star Bulgarian or Slovenian spa hotel can be similar in price to a self-catered apartment in France. Let saunas and whirlpools ease aches and pains, and indulge in massages for a fraction of what you’d pay in hotels of the same rating elsewhere.

Go all inclusive

The cost may seem steep at first, but when you see what’s included (usually flights, transfers, all food and drink, ski pass, sometimes lessons/guiding too) and consider the price of booking everything separately, all-inclusive can be incredible value. Not sparing a second thought for your budget is a luxury for starters, and you also have spas, speciality restaurants and bottomless drinks to help you enjoy the high life.

DIY Lux

There is some fabulous self-catering ski accommodation out there, hundreds of pounds cheaper than catered chalets and half board hotels but still a treat to stay in with perks like saunas and outdoor hot tubs. Chalets, log cabins and apartments come in all shapes and sizes – fill all beds (to avoid underoccupancy charges) with friends and family (preferably foodies) and take turns cooking for a week of dinner parties. Scour the local farmers market, get groceries delivered or drive them from home, stopping at Calais to stock up on wine and making the most of cheaper hypermarkets before you reach resort.

Save on small things

Often it’s the little things that slowly but surely hike up holiday costs. You might only be saving a tenner a go here, but the money you save can go towards making your time in resort more luxurious: room upgrade, spa treatment, Michelin-starred meal, that heli-skiing trip…

  • Flights at ungodly hours might leave you a bit bleary eyed, but can be considerably cheaper
  • Don’t pay extra for seat selection, speedy boarding or more hold luggage than you need
  • Book things like airport parking and equipment hire in advance online to get discounts
  • Bring your own food on the plane and take an empty water bottle through security to fill up from a water fountain when airside (most of the bigger UK airports have them)
  • Drink tap water rather than mineral. Most ski resorts have wonderful mountain spring water, and it’s free!
  • Pack lunches – there’s nothing luxurious about lukewarm lunch in a rammed self-service restaurant. A freshly made baguette in a quiet, scenic spot however… A DIY sarnie and packet of crisps will set you back less than a glass of Coke in most mountain restaurants. At this stage of the day, you might just want to refuel and get back on the slopes and a packed lunch will do just that, without charging €20+ a head.

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