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Top tips for great value ski holidays
Our resident skiing Expert Nicky Holford gives us her tips for getting more ski pass, après-ski and chalets on your skiing holidays – 2011 looks set to be a bumper season!
When to go
If you’re busy planning your ski holidays, 2011 should offer plenty of bargains, particularly if you time it right. If you can, avoid the February half term and opt for off peak periods such as after the Christmas break. Low season weeks are early December and January and there are often good deals just after the February half term. Easter is late this year (April 22-25th) so there should be good prices in March. If you are limited to school holidays try to go during the Easter holidays.
The trick to getting the best value accommodation for winter holidays is almost always to stay in a self-catering apartment or an all-inclusive chalet. Most chalets include breakfast, tea and dinner with wine so you only have to think about lunch and après ski costs as extras. With self-catering, you can stock up at the supermarket before you get to the resort and not have to pay resort prices on many essentials. Pierre et Vacances have a huge choice of apartments in ski resorts with many special offers over Christmas and during January. Apartment holidays used to be a budget option but now there is a whole range of choice to suit, even if luxury ski holidays are more your thing.
And, choose a resort that is not going to cost as much for everyday items and lunch on the mountain as the big international resorts do. Instead go to the satellite stations such as St. Martin de Belleville for the Three Valleys, or choose resorts that are better value such as Les Carroz, Flaine, La Thuile and Alpe d’Huez in France. Many resorts in Italy and Austria are good value for money and worth the extra driving time.
Book in advance
You can save anywhere between 25-50% off the cost of ski equipment if you book in advance and online. Ski Republic rentals is currently offering a two for one rental deal on skis and snowboards. Lift passes and lessons are a big expenditure, especially if you are a family. Book these in advance or online. If you are going to a large ski area it often works out cheaper to buy a local pass and a day’s extension for the whole area. New for this season in several resorts such as Meribel you can buy a 3 or 4 hour lift pass. Compare lift pass prices in resorts and look for family and child discounts as they vary from resort to resort.
If you book in advance monitor the exchange rate which can make a big difference to the cost of your ski holiday. Check out the commission rates on currency exchange and credit cards on www.moneysavingexpert.com. Shop around for winter sports insurance and pay attention to what it includes (such as loss of mobile phone). Make sure you have adequate medical insurance too, many policies don’t cover off piste or dangerous sports.
Check with your mobile phone provider for calls abroad and if necessary take out an “add on” package that includes cheap international calls. Most operators now offer them, particularly for European destinations.
In the resort
One of your highest ski holiday costs is going to be après ski. Most bars will have a Happy Hour, so find out where and when. Stick to cheaper drinks such as draught beer or house wine and avoid pricey cocktails. If dinner is not included in your accommodation make lunch the main meal of the day. There are often good value fixed price menus or lunchtime specials that work out much cheaper than dinner in the evening.
Tip for drivers
Rent a roof box from Edge2Edge (www.edge2edge.co.uk). Ski clothes, equipment snow chains also available for hire.
Thinking about the journey? Read Nicky’s handy guides to driving to the alps.