How to ski France on a budget. A small budget.
As I wrote about upon my return from a ski holiday in Austria last year, winter sports are synonymous with expense. It’s undeniable that ski holidays are indeed expensive in many cases, but as I’ve proven for a second time round with my recent ski trip to France, spending a week skiing and snowboarding in Europe (if you already live in Europe, that is…) does not have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, it’s possible to spend a week flying down a mountain for as much as it would cost you on a package summer holiday, and dependent upon where you’re going, even less in some cases.
Okay, so my trip was made substantially cheaper by the fact that it’s my parent’s holiday place and we weren’t charged for our room, but regardless of this slight cheat on the cheap ski holiday in France, I still managed to have a great week of indulgence and fantastic skiing without managing to bankrupt myself. In fact, the whole experience cost less than €400 – including flights, insurance, equipment hire, beer and lots of delicious, delicious food. As seen in the following typically instagrammed food pictures. #Sorrynotsorry
So what’s the big secret behind not spending €1,000,000 on a ski holiday? Well, it’s four little secrets, really, and in hindsight, they seem like common sense. Ready?
Golden rule number 1:
Do not buy into a package deal (unless it’s a really, really, REALLY good deal)
Package deals always look on the outside like they’re a good deal. Flights and transfers in addition to a week in a nice chalet or hotel with breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner AND a limitless supply of wine every night? Wowzers. Surely this is the way to save money… right? Wrong. It’s expensive, and it’s expensive because it’s so goddamn convenient and great. But if you are willing to sacrifice convenient and great for less impressive adjectives, then there is money to be saved. And a lot of it.
Whilst scouring Booking.com, Tripadvisor and HostelWorld to find your own cheap self catered chalet or apartment is often long and painful, when skiing in popular areas in France, Switzerland and Austria, it is SO worth it. The same goes with your flights and transfers if you’ve decided not to drive. Book in advance, and your flight could be as little as €75 return.
Golden rule number 2:
Set yourself a budget.
Sounds obvious, and it is, but when on a holiday, most people are in holiday mode – the largely pleasant break from the realities of your life back at home in which it’s okay to drink all day every day, to eat whatever the hell you want and who CARES if it’s not good for you, and fritter away your money as though you were part of the rich and famous elite. By budgeting what we were going to spend every day, we still managed to eat and drink on the mountain most days, and went out for some the best French Alpine meals I have ever tasted. The hardest part to a ski holiday budget is the drinking… Scope out the apres happy hours beforehand, and bar hop if money is that tight.
Even tighter than that? Sneak your own in. We stocked up on mini bottles of Jägermeister before commencing apres in Austria, and could not have been happier to do so. Now you too can be the shot-shot-shotzzzzz!!!!! person without worrying about whether that last round cost more than your month’s rent…
Golden rule number 3:
Obviously this is location dependent… but from most European countries, a road trip is a fantastic way to get to a ski resort. If you’re heading to the Alps, then you can save hundreds of Euros on flights, baggage costs, transfers, and it enables you to stay on the outskirts of an expensive resort without sacrificing being able to actually get anywhere. When in France, we also used the car to save us a substantial amount of money on our ski passes by driving to smaller, local resorts nearby when the weather wasn’t so great, and bagging €17 day long ski passes. Perfect.
Plus you get views like this en route.
Golden rule number 4:
Research when undertaking any kind of travel is essential if you want to save money and do it on the cheap. Thankfully for me, my dad has spent a lot of time in Chatel, and so he knew a few tricks of the area that would have taken me many hours of research to understand – though in hindsight they seem pretty simple. Check the ski areas website before you go for deals. We skied in the Port du Soleil area for €25 a day due to a promotion online – saving us €50 each ski pass. We also managed to get a couple of other great deals, as well as drive to cheaper areas, meaning we spent around €120 on our passes instead of the pretty standard €250 – all from my dad’s knowledge and research.
So, the combination of all three obvious, common sensical golden rules = an easy to manage price tag on your ski holiday. As I’ve proven twice in the past two years, if a perpetual pauper that spends all of her leftover money on travel and food and nice things can do it, anyone (with a job) can.
P.S. If you’re heading to Eastern Europe for your ski stint, then the prices are so cheap in comparison anyway that if it’s more than a 12 hour drive away… it’s probably better to fly, and your budgeting will probably be obsolete due to the awesomely priced everything. It’s all about research and location – but it’s not hard to figure out!