For first-timers and students looking for a modest break, a ski holiday can seem daunting – dangerous slopes, bitter cold and breakneck speeds, not to mention the infamous ‘après-ski’. There are some tips that the uninitiated should know before heading up the mountain.
Winter’s around the corner. For a lot of Irish people this means one thing; a sun holiday. For others of a more adrenaline-fueled disposition though, winter means an action packed trip to the Alps. With all the travel, accommodation and gear required for a ski trip, the cost can be quite steep; particularly at the more famous resorts. However there are a lot of ways to save money, without slumming it.
- You don’t have to book through a travel agent.
Irish and U.K. travel agencies have been making a killing in recent years with their ‘all-inclusive packages’. These packages are designed to get as much money out of the customer with as little work done. Most packages include flights, accommodation, transfers, and ski rental, however the package can be impractical – they rarely include lift-passes, bus connections or on-piste advice. Accommodation can be a long way from the slopes. ‘I’ve been booking my ski holidays myself, without a travel agent for years now and I’ve saved a lot of money’, says Niall O’Loughlin, who lives in Berlin and skis every weekend in winter. ‘When it comes down to it, all flights, accommodation, passes, and gear can be booked separately online. The package deal is basically just a coach transfer- which can take hours. A train is faster and cheaper.’
Before planning your trip, have a look at what train/bus services connecting the resort to the airport are available. Study the timetable for your arrival/return dates. Travel agents will try to pressure you into booking a package deal because you may be unfamiliar with getting around in a foreign country and may not speak the language.
Modern resorts are very well connected and are easily accessible, you just have to trust in your ability to read a timetable- plus European train drivers speak about five languages each, so you’ll have no problem getting around.
Package deals also try to force you to go during ‘peak season’ i.e. when the resorts are busiest as the kids are on holiday (Christmas fortnight, Easter, Mid-term break). This can raise the price of the trip about 15%.
- Hotels are nice, but chalets are better.
More important than the snow on the ground, the skis on your feet, or the beer in your hand is where you lay your head. Hotels are a great option for couples and families who like their breakfast’s continental and their evening’s quiet. They’re generally located centrally, offering complimentary ski depots and shuttle services. You will pay for it though; four star hotels can cost as much as €300 per night during peak season. A much better option is either apartment/chalet rental or a pension (B&B).
Apartments offer more space, a bigger number of guests and are self-catered, so a trip to the super marché at the beginning of the week can cut expenses down drastically. Just remember to make sure you know how far the distance from your chalet to the lifts is- walking distance is ideal, even a couple of stops on the shuttle will do. Remember, you will be carrying your gear A LOT. It can get quite heavy and cumbersome.
The best advice is to plan your trip early. If you can figure out how to get to the mountain yourself, you can save a lot of cash – which you can then blow on the aprés-ski! Prost!