Four of the best budget ski safaris

Desperate for powder? There’s no better way than hitting the road. And it doesn’t have to be expensive if you take the bus

Moving around resorts is fun.  It can make an action-packed week feel more like a month (in a good way), you get that wonderful sensation of constantly moving, and best of all you’re flexible; you can chase a mountain range, state or even a country’s best storms. Here are four of Fall-Line’s favourite cheap itineraries.


Denver to Winter Park to Steamboat to Park City

I stumbled across this amazing – and until five years ago, mothballed – bus route when researching how I could get between planned trips to Utah and Colorado a couple of seasons ago.

I had a week in between, was in no rush and wanted to do the 500-odd miles as cheaply as possible. In the end, I had to come back to the UK for work, but if I was doing it again I’d definitely try this daily Greyhound highway 40 service.

Three world-class resorts, just hop off when the bus gets to each one! I’ve no idea why more people don’t know about it or use it. And it’s just $20 one-way from Winter Park (ace bumps/steeps) to Steamboat (fantastic trees/snow record); then if you want to carry on to Park City (slick resort, brilliant ski town) pay $40 more.

The only downers are journey time (three and seven hours respectively) and flights. I couldn’t find a cheap option to enter via Denver and exit via Salt Lake. So you might have to do the route both ways. Which sounds fine to me.


Chitose to Niseko to Rusutsu to Furano

If you want pow, and cheap buses, you’ve come to the right place. Yes, to get to Hokkaido will cost you £550 even if you book smart (i.e. six months ahead) but the transfers are a fraction of European prices.

For example, New Chitose airport (Sapporo) to 600-plus-inches pow heaven Niseko is under £15. For a two-and-a-half hour drive! No need to book either. Just take your pick in the departures hall, with a load of companies and hourly services.

Niseko to almost-as-snowy and superb-for-trees Rusutsu (on the other side of enormous Mt Yotei, the north island’s answer to Fuji) is just as easy. And the one-hour journey cost me £6.50 last February!

Furano is more of a stretch, at three hours from Chitose, but worth it, thanks to trails like the mega-memorable dam run (see FL122 for details).

You have to go back via the airport, so it’s over five hours in total, but who cares when the entire journey is sub-£30? (I did the same route by train last winter too. Wonderfully spartan coastal scenery, but double the effort/cost.)


Calgary to Banff to Lake Louise to Jasper

More bloody buses! But they avoid expensive National Park permits (of which there are plenty in this part of the world) and best of all, if you get a tri-area pass for Sunshine, Norquay and Lake Louise resorts, free shuttles between them all are included.

The former mountain is big, has an excellent snow record, and Delirium Dive has some of the Rockies’ best steeps. Nearby Little Norquay has night skiing (and is worth ticking off), while my favourite of the three, Lake Louise, is so much more than just a World Cup racing spot, thanks to great hike-to terrain and bowls.

Get a cheap flight into Calgary, stay in Banff, explore their combined 8000 acres, then take the Sun Dog tours bus up the Icefield Parkway to little-visited but brilliant Marmot Basin. We’re more into its excellent chutes, and bowls like Charlie’s, but you can’t help but notice that it’s rather pretty too, with the Athabasca glacier almost at the roadside. Which hopefully will cushion the blow of you having to do the $99 journey twice unless you’ve sorted a flight out of Edmonton.


Geneva to Les Gets to Morzine/Avoriaz to Chatel

For this one, airport transfer excepted, you don’t even need a bus. Or certainly not to get in one.

When I did this in 2010, with added stops like Champery in Switzerland, a van simply moved our gear to whichever hotel or pension we were staying in that evening. Given the Scrooge-like slant of this article, I’d say forget the courier service and just backpack it. Jeans, Converse, T-shirt, cash – what more do you need? Well, possibly a passport as you’re racing over and back across the Franco-Swiss border between as many as nine resorts (we couldn’t fit Les Crosets, Champoussin, Morgins and Torgon in the initial sell for this article, but skied them!).

Highlights include La Chavanette, the Swiss Wall. Icy, huge moguls, 50° in parts, and rated… orange! (Oh yes, this legendary run is off the usual chart. But is do-able and not stupid, stupid.) You will smile lots as you blast round a minimum of 24 lifts, 30-odd trails, and over 90 kilometres of piste.

Yes, you can do it in a madly-rushed day, but we’d recommend starting at pretty Les Gets, with overnights in Champery and Chatel, so you can explore the world’s biggest linked ski area to the full.