I’ve been skiing since I was about nine years old, and so I know by now that’s there no way around it completely: skiing just ain’t cheap. That said, if you’re wily, there are ways you can book an awesome ski holiday on a more limited budget. If you’re a family and you’re careful, you can self cater in an apartment with the kids of a sofa bed, for example — but this isn’t always feasible if you’re travelling in a non-family group.
In January, six of us decided we were really determined to book a skiing holiday this year. Cash was a problem, but as experienced snow bunnies, we also didn’t want to compromise and go to some bargain-basement Bulgarian resort. Similarly we didn’t want the hassle of self-catering and wanted to be in accommodation where it was still easy to socialise.
It took some work to find the right solution, but eventually we found it. We ended up in a catered chalet in Morzine, which included breakfast, afternoon tea, three-course dinners with canapés, cheese boards and unlimited wine, and transfers for Geneva. AND all that was well within our limited budget.
Here’s how we did it:
Choosing the right resort is a seriously tricky business, particularly on a budget. Not only do you have to find somewhere that provides enough variety to keep skiers and boarders of all levels in your group happy, but depending on the time of year you want to travel you have to look at school holidays (national and international) and altitude (for snow conditions).
Many of the French ski areas suit groups, because the resorts are often very well linked providing excellent variety. Keeping a couple of resorts in Italy and Austria in mind, we decided to mainly look at France. We knew we wanted to go away in the first week of March, which is outside UK school holidays, but still falls within some French school holidays, meaning it was going to be the cheapest week in the season. As long as you aren’t too low, snow conditions should still just about be decent at this time of year (they were for us!), so that wasn’t so much of a factor. During our holiday hunt, we discovered that many of the package deals, while designed for convenience, were astronomically out of our price range.
Guessing that we would have to put the whole thing together ourselves, we decided to start browsing for chalets and apartments. If you’re not part of a package deal, there are two other factors to keep in mind that will also drastically affect the cost of your holiday: transfers and lift passes
Basic resort passes for Chamonix (where we found some interesting options), for example, are 230 euros for six days, whereas the basic pass for Morzine and Les Gets (where we ended up going) only cost 172 euros. Full area passes for the full Mont Blanc and Three Valleys areas are close to 300 euros, whereas for the massive Portes du Soleil area, they’re much closer to 200 euros.
Similarly, it’s all very well getting cheap flights, but if you’ve got a four-hour transfer at the other end, that could cost you more than the price of your return Easyjet fare. Morzine and Les Gets are both just over an hour from Geneva, and because a significant proportion of people staying in the Portes du Soleil area have independently rented chalets and apartments, or indeed own their own lodgings, there are a massive number of transfer services vying for business and keeping prices low. If you’re lucky like we were, your accommodation might even throw in your transfers for free.
Thanks to a site called Much Better Adventures, which sends you tailored offers from companies depending on your very exact requirements, we stumbled upon Peak Action Chalets in Morzine. The company provides budget chalet holidays and has only been going a year. Currently it only has one chalet on offer, but it will opening a further two for the 2014/2015 season.
Chalet Bourgignon, which can sleep up to 16, is not exactly no frills — we were greeted with bubbly on arrival — it just offers a slightly less luxury for a lot less money. The quirks for example are that the chalet is quite creaky, the rooms are not all ensuite and the communal areas can get a bit cramped when the chalet is full. It’s a little way out of town — as are many more luxurious offerings — but there are lifts to and from the slopes on offer at specific times of day, and it’s right next to the free ski bus stop anyway.
Cooked breakfasts, tartiflette and, perhaps not surprisingly, beef bourguignon to die for were all on the menu, and there was endless cake, fresh bread and juice on tap. Wine wasn’t the finest, but was plentiful and quaffable and the atmosphere in the chalet was jovial and sociable.
We had a fabulous trip and would use Peak Action again in a heartbeat.
Here is a breakdown of all the costs of our trip (per person, excluding spending money):
– Flights with Swiss Air to Geneva (departing Gatwick, arriving Heathrow, including 23kg baggage): £120
– Fully catered chalet accommodation and transfers: £350
– Ski, boot and helmet hire with SkiSet: £130
– Lift Pass: £140
Grand total: £740
Have you found a better deal anywhere else? Stick any bargains you know of in the comments!