Make the best deals
Early December where the snow is risky, the cold depths of January and the sunny end of April are almost always the cheapest times to go.
Be informed of offers by signing up for newsletters from ski companies, such as Skiworld. A recent flash sale included seven nights half-board at the chic Chalet Valluga, sleeping six in St Anton, Austria, for around £745 pp, leaving in mid-December for a driving holiday including a Eurotunnel ticket.
The January bargains with Ski Weekends included four nights half board at Les Fleurs Hotel in Morzine, with transfers from Geneva airport (linked to the train station) for £330pp.
Even the fanciest places can offer good value for money at the end of the year. In La Plagne, in France’s Paradiski ski area, we spied seven nights self catering at the White Pearl Lodge and Spa, with indoor pool, gym and spa, from £1,037 pp including train London to Moutiers, transfers and lift pass in March with Ski World, a good £600 pp cheaper than New Years.
All-inclusive deals that include ski hire, lessons and lift passes are often excellent value for money. Getmetothealps.com was offering seven nights half-board at Les Balcons de Val Thorens from £750 pp all season, including a six-day ski pass (additional £50 for the wider Three Valleys pass) and rental of material.
If you’re not fussy about a stylish stay, browse bargain sites like Igluski.com, which has a page on train travel packages. We found seven nights rental at Residence Cybèle in Brides Les Bains – part of the Three Valleys and linked to Méribel and Courchevel – for £639 pp in January or £682 pp in March, including Eurostar from London , transfers and six-day ski pass. .
Other sites allow you to search for hosting and package combos, such as weski.co.uk and sunweb.co.uk. We’ve found bargains such as four days B&B at the Bel Horizon Hotel in Val Thorens at high altitude from £199 pp including lift pass, departing mid-November.
Smaller, lesser-known resorts are generally cheaper, and many are a paradise for freeriders or beginners, simply unknown to the Brits.
Even expensive Switzerland has nuggets, like Bettmeralp, a car-free resort in the Aletsch Arena ski area, easily accessible by train, with a gondola to the resort from Betten station. The resort’s website lists good-value accommodation (as many other resorts do – another great tip) like Chalet Bärgsunna, where we found seven nights’ rental for four people for less than £550 in mid-December; a six-day ski pass costs between £188 and £233.
In France’s Haute Maurienne valley, a six-day ski pass for Les Sybelles, with six resorts and 136 pistes, costs €209 pp (£183 pp), and seven nights on hire at Le Corbier, in smart apartments Etoile des Sybelles with indoor and outdoor pools and spa, from £1,049 for four, including Eurotunnel crossing.
The Pays de Gex, a low mountain area culminating at 900 meters between Lake Geneva and the Jura, has four small gentle ski areas suitable for beginners and families (6-day pass €172). Seven nights half-board at the three-star Hotel Bois Joly in Crozet from £431 pp.
Italy and Austria tend to be cheaper than France and Switzerland. The Austrian SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental (six-day pass €280) is one of the largest resorts in Europe, with 270 km of pistes and 80 mountain huts and inns. In the village of Going, Gatterhof is a farmhouse hotel with rooms from €50 a night.
Swap the Alps for the Pyrenees
Val d’Isere, Chamonix and the Four Valleys might be great resorts, but when six-day ski passes cost over €350 (£307) you might want to consider alternatives. The other mountain range in France is not lacking in thrills, with 23 resorts and summits culminating at 2,877 m on the Pic du Midi, whose 1,000 m drop constitutes one of the best courses among the 100 km of slopes of the Grand Tourmalet ski area (six day ski pass €261). The tourist office website (n-py.com) offers basic apartments from €300 for seven nights in a gite for seven people at Résidence Mongie Tourmalet in La Mongie, a resort linked to the spa town of Barèges . Lourdes TGV station is 48 km away.
With low VAT and no sales tax, Andorra is also a good bet for snow-capped peaks. A discounted package to Arinsal with Snowboard Coach offers seven nights half board from £599 pp, including the Valnord package, transfers (from Barcelona or Toulouse) and local discounts. It is a 12 hour drive from Calais and can be reached by train to Barcelona or Toulouse.
Eastern Europe… and beyond
Bansko in Bulgaria has been the go-to alternative for a budget snow break for decades, but Slovenia is the classier option, where the resort town of Kranjska Gora has 18 runs. On Airbnb we found an apartment for four next to the ski slopes from £672 in March (take the train to Salzburg or Ljubljana).
If you’re up for a cultural adventure (and a long train journey), consider an offbeat ski destination like Parnassos in Greece (lift pass €20 a day, ), 2.5 hours drive from Athens and close to Delphi , with 17 lifts, 23 runs and enough skiing fun to satisfy the craving. There is also interest in Bosnia, where a package with Ski Sarajevo, including six nights half-board at Jahorina mountain resort and one night in a B&B in Sarajevo, costs from €649 pp, departing 11 February, including a five-day lift-pass and transfers from Dubrovnik.
How to hack school holidays
Those with children will find that the cheapest ski vacation time is almost always Easter, when the warmer weather and longer days also make it more conducive to enjoyable learning.
The UCPA, created to make winter sports accessible to young French people, offers budget packages including meals, equipment hire, lessons, lift passes and basic accommodation in its own major centres. It offers themed weeks, from initiation to ski touring to a new stay for 18-30 year olds. You have to make your own bed and help tidy up, but the atmosphere is very friendly. Family weeks during the school holidays are excellent value for money – a week in Flaine from 8 April costs between £506 and £660 for children depending on age and £815 for adults; or Festive Weeks in Les Contamines cost £716pp from 24th or 31st December.
Look for resorts with offers such as free ski passes for children: in Samoëns and Tignes in France, these are free for children under eight. A week from December 24 in an apartment for four people at Résidence Val Claret in Tignes (with a nearby train station in Bourg St Maurice) costs £1,060 (.
If you have to go mid-term in February, choose a seaside resort or unusual accommodation such as the hinterland huts listed on the Austrian Almliesl huts site, an Italian rifugio or a mountain agriturismo; these are often cheaper than a normal chalet or hotel.
Travelers can save by choosing lesser-known airports (like Memmingen in Germany as an alternative to Innsbruck or Munich), but those more committed to saving carbon should consider Eurotunnel fees, fuel, toll roads and any overnight stays.
The cheapest Eurostar fares are found by booking well in advance (there are still evening departures for February mid-term from £49.50 each way – see seat61.com for directions to the mountains by train). The cheapest Eurotunnel crossings are usually very early or late in the day; and compare ferry prices at directferries.co.uk.
Self-driving drivers should avoid refueling on highways and toll roads – use satellite navigation to divert to cheaper pumps in villages. Snow Express offers overnight coach transfers to 40 French resorts from London and Folkestone for £199 return, including luggage and skis, departing Friday evening and arriving the following day.
RV or RV owners might consider arranging their route for a winter trip to save on accommodation. To hire one, Go Boony offers comfortable campervans from around £85 a day, sleeping four. Spaceships Rentals, specialists in winterized vans, charges from £69 per day for a vehicle that seats seven, drive.spaceshipsrentals.co.uk).
Prices correct at time of publication