The Guide

How To Book A Budget Ski Weekend

We are experts in booking cheap ski holidays. We have been skiing for decades. As kids, we learned on tiny dry ski slopes in the rainy North West of England. We were lucky enough to visit France, Italy, Austria and Bulgaria with our parents and schools.

For the past decade we have skied exclusively in France, and the majority of that time has been spent in the glorious Portes du Soleil ski area in Haute-Savoie.

The years of experience in planning cheap ski trips is something we are passionate about sharing.
“We believe that snow sports should be within reach of even the humblest budget, and that the majesty of the mountains should benefit everyone.”

This guide makes a few assumptions, for simplicity’s sake:

  •     Everyone in the party can already ski.
  •     Everyone in the party is old enough to look after themselves.
        (i.e. no childcare is required).
  •     You are happy to hire a car rather than getting a resort transfer.
        (this is VERY important and opens up most of the cost-saving opportunities in this guide).

Cheap Ski Holiday Priorities

In the mountains, safety is the number one priority. By continuing to follow this guide you agree to place your safety and comfort first. We are not responsible for any issues arising as a result of our advice.

With that in mind, the other main priority of this cheap ski holiday guide is to get as much slope time for as little money as possible. If we can maximise the amount of slope time per days of annual leave used, even better!

Now Is The Time!

They say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second best time is now. Ideally you should start planning your trip in the spring, just as the ski season draws to a close. We tend to book flights and car hire in April, when Easyjet’s winter schedule comes out and there are bargains to be had.

However, if you’ve missed this point in the year, you can still use our flight search above to find yourself a cheap ski holiday.

4... is the magic number

Ok, 3 at a push. But 4 really is the ideal number of skiers or snowboarders for our guide. You can fit 4 people nicely into a hire car, and into a small apartment. You can do 8 in 2 cars or 12 in 3 cars if you like, but the base of all those multiples should be 4.

All the working out below is based on 4 people.

Speaking of numbers

Before we book anything, it’s time to create a spreadsheet. You can use Excel, Google Docs, LibreOffice or even paper (if you must – but you’ll also need a calculator and a good maths brain).

Keeping track of the figures is the only way to ensure you’re getting the best value for money. You can do that by creating a spreadsheet that looks similar to the one shown here.

This spreadsheet gives you a good idea of the things you need for a cheap ski holiday, but before that….

Total Cost Per Person
Flights
Accommodation
Hire Car
Lift Pass
Ski Hire
Fuel & Tolls
Airport Parking
Total

Are you insured?


Winter Sports Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is best purchased before you book anything. That way, you’re covered for any issues with your flights before you take off, such as cancellation.

Ensure that your insurance covers Winter Sports (and Off Piste skiing if you intend to venture out of bounds).

Once you’re covered, it’s time to start planning…

Research, research, research

Hold your horses, we’re not booking anything yet. The first thing we need to do is get an idea of the costs and dates. For this guide I will be booking a long weekend, which generally works out best in both slope time/cost and slope time/days off work.

Flights

Using our flight search tool is the best way to check for the cheapest flight. For extra slope time, try to find an outbound flight arriving as early as possible in the day and a return flight leaving as late as possible in the evening. This can get you an extra day and a half on the pistes if you time it right. Our flight from Liverpool arrives in Geneva at 09:55 on a Friday, which means we can be on the slopes at lunchtime for an afternoon’s skiing. Our flight home leaves at 21:30 on a Monday, giving us over 5 hours to get to (and through) the airport once the lifts stop turning.
This will give us 3.5 days of skiing for 2 days annual leave – not bad at all! With the early start, you may need to spend some of your savings on coffee to get you through that first day though. As you look for flights on different dates, make a note of the costs in a spreadsheet for later. Don’t forget to include the cost of baggage – for our long weekend away we’re sharing 2 hold bags between 4 people.  

Car hire

Generally, the earlier you book car hire, the cheaper it is. So ideally you want to be booking it just after your flights. Once you’ve got a date in mind, check on our car hire search tool to see if you can find a bargain. With hire cars, it’s important to remember that most ski areas require snow chains to be carried in the car, and winter tyres are a godsend if you get caught in the varied snow conditions of the mountains. Be safe, and always check the local driving laws – especially in terms of snow equipment.
Hiring a car opens up the so many cost-saving opportunities. You are not ‘held captive’ in a resort and forced to pay for over-priced food and services. You can take advantage of cheaper ski hire and lift pass offers in nearby resorts. It is the key to really hammering down the price of a ski holiday. With that in mind, we would advise getting the largest car you can afford. An estate (also known as a sportswagon) is the ideal size for 4 people, luggage and ski equipment, but we have managed to squeeze 3 people into a tiny hatchback in the past!

Accommodation

Our accommodation search tool can help find some of the best self-catering accommodation in and around ski resorts. We have found that staying either in smaller resorts, or just outside larger resorts, can save a small fortune – or get you a little more luxury for the same cost. This is the first of many reasons why it’s good to have a hire car. Most alpine accommodation is designed to fit in as many people as possible. The coin montagne is the secret behind this – a set of bunk beds in the hallway provide beds for the two smallest members of your party. Nearly every accommodation also has a double sofa bed, which is how you can get a studio apartment for four people, or a one bedroom apartment that sleeps six.

Ski hire

Hiring skis from a smaller resort has a couple of advantages. It’s not just cheaper, but the shops are quieter so you’re served quicker. We’ve also found the staff to be much friendlier.

Booking early can net you a bargain, with some ski shops offering up to 60% off for early bookings. There are also group discounts available.

Don’t forget to hire a helmet!

Lift passes

Lift passes are an often-overlooked cost during the planning of a cheap ski holiday. In the larger resorts this can add several hundred euros per person onto the cost of the holiday. Because of this, we include looking for lift pass offers in the primary part of planning the holiday.

When we stay in a smaller resort, we tend to ski there on the first and last day of the long weekend (i.e. the first afternoon and the last day). We then look to take advantage of Weekend lift pass deals in larger resorts on the Saturday and Sunday.

TLDR / Summary

Thanks for reading this far, and/or skimming through to find the summary. You should now be set up to book a cheap ski holiday, and enjoy the same pistes as everyone else for less.

We’ve condensed the golden rules below as a quick reference guide:

Get an extra day and a half on the slopes by flying early out, late back. Search for flights here.
The most important part of the cost saving exercise is provided by having your own wheels and filling all the spaces. Search for a car here.
You can get a cheap accommodation with day or two’s skiing in a small resort, and everyone is so friendly! Search for accommodation here.

Use the car to find cheaper ski hire, lift pass offers in larger resorts, and supermarket food.

We have been following this ethos successfully for several years, and have managed to ski a long weekend of 3.5 days slope time for between £350 and £400 per person including lift passes.

This guide has been thoroughly tested on the french side of the Portes du Soleil ski area, as frequent flights to Geneva and short transfer times allow for the early out, late back approach to work. There are several small resorts on the outskirts (St-Jean-d’Aulps, Abondance etc) with cheap accommodation and lift passes, and the main resorts (Avoriaz, Morzine/Les Gets, Chatel) offer great deals on Weekend lift passes.

Please drop us a line and let us know how you get on!

All smiles on a cheap snowsaver.com guide ski holiday