When you think of skiing holidays, cheap and cheerful isn’t usually a phrase that springs to mind. But thankfully bagging a budget ski trip is possible, you just need to know where to look...
We know there's a lot to digest here but stick with it and do your research afterwards. The reward will be moments like these:
Early-season has long gone so wait for late-March or April 2017. When booking, make sure to check snow reports daily and if you can book right up to the wire: prices for this period are often best if booked just a few days before you go.
A like for like comparison on package deals flying from Gatwick to Chamonix - a pricey resort at the best of times - came up on average £50 cheaper per person when booked last minute for December vs. in advance for dates in early February. Ski passes were also nearly £50 cheaper for early and late season vs the rest of the season.
If you have the money now and don't need to save, January is also generally a cheaper month to go for - with shorter skiing days keeping costs in check.
Avoid UK February half term (which for most UK schools is 18 -26 Feb 2017) as it's busy and expensive. Cross-check school holiday dates in the country you’re visiting too. For instance, this year many French schools take a break on 1 March, driving up the prices of French resorts during that week.
If you're willing to swerve the 'big five' skiing countries (Switzerland, Austria, France, Italy, Germany) then there are plenty of lesser known satellite resorts that still pack a punch, but without the eye-watering prices.
For instance, Dienten am Hochkonig in Austria, despite being only an hour from Salzburg, is still relatively unheard of and so prices have remained low. It's also worth looking at mainland Europe and the Spanish resorts of the Pyrenees; blessed with plenty of snow and lots of sunshine are still out of the mainstream but score well for value.
For some of the most economical skiing in the world, Eastern Europe is where it’s at. The Jasna resort in Slovakia, for instance, has seen considerable investment over the last few years and is a solid choice for boarders. With accommodation as low as €20 a night and a pint of beer costing under a quid, it’s a seriously budget-friendly option.
A top tip when researching options in Eastern Europe is to look for resorts which host international competitions, as facilities and infrastructure are more likely to be top notch.
Clothes: If it's only your first or second time, ask friends to lend you clothing and accessories. It's the done thing – you're not expected to fork out hundreds of pounds as a beginner. If borrowing isn’t an option, then consider renting instead; there are a host of places dotted around the country offering ski clothes rental, starting from around a reasonable £40 for a jacket and salopettes.
Though if you think you might end up going more than once or twice, buying second-hand kit outright can be cheaper than hiring for a fortnight. And you never know when a ski jacket might come in handy with UK weather being what it is.
Equipment: When renting, look into pre-booking your skis and boots online, either as part of your package deal or separately. You’ll save on the baggage fees and get to demo the latest rides, if that’s your thing. Specialist websites such as skiset.com and snowrental.co.uk claim discounts of up to 40% if kit is booked in advance through them.
Package deal suppliers will often offer to sell you lift passes too, but it’s wise to do a bit of digging first to see if you can find them cheaper. Most resorts offer discounted ticket pricing at the beginning and end of the season as a way to encourage skiers and riders to visit when the slopes are less crowded.
Otherwise, pre-booking passes on sites such as www.liftopia.com can sometimes save you a fair chunk if your resort is represented. If all else fails, many resorts offer discounted lift tickets online. While the discounts aren't generally that great, they do represent a saving over the retail price.