Mini ski-trips to La Tania last December and to Courchevel the previous December each gave the editorial team three excellent days on the slopes. Whether you travel independently or as part of a package (we’ve done both), short-stay trips are easier to arrange now; the choice of airlines, destination airports and onward transfers is wider than ever. Midweek trips can be even better than weekends: cheaper deals and, in some resorts, quieter slopes.
With just a few days, you’ll need to plan your short break carefully; but that’s all part of the fun. We sum up the options here, with a few handy tips to help you to maximize your slope time.
WHERE SHALL WE GO?
Resorts closest to your arrival airport may seem the obvious starting point, but travelling a bit further can avoid any weekend crowds. You could also try smaller resorts that you might not normally bother with for a week’s holiday.
Geneva is the classic gateway to the western Alps, with Chamonix just over an hour away, and other major French resorts such as Megève, Flaine and Morzine close by. Allow extra time for the Trois Vallées and the Tarentaise resorts. You could also head into Switzerland and visit Villars, Verbier or Crans-Montana.
In Italy, Turin is an underused alternative approach to the Aosta Valley, with Courmayeur, Champoluc and La Thuile conveniently reached; Sauze d’Oulx and Montgenèvre in the Milky Way are even nearer.
Further east, in Switzerland, Engelberg and Andermatt are popular options easily accessible from Zürich. So are the Austrian resorts of the Voralberg – such as Bregenzerwald and Alpenregion Bludenz (for a quiet, family-oriented time) – and the upmarket Lech and Zürs, with St Anton nearby. Also in Austria, Innsbruck provides a fantastic opportunity to combine a city break with doorstep skiing. There are lots of resorts surrounding the city, and the Stubai Valley with its reliable glacier is nearby too. Similarly Salzburg has lots of resorts within an hour or two.
The Pyrenees offer short-break opportunities too: flights into Pau (where we flew to for two days’ skiing last season) and Lourdes put you close to Cauterets, Barèges-La Mongie and St-Lary-Soulan. And for a budget break, you could explore Slovenia very cheaply with flights to Ljubljana – the nearest ski area is just 8km from the airport.
WHERE TO STAY
be limited in some major resorts – places such as Chamonix, Crans-Montana and Morzine, with big summer or conference business, are easier. From Salzburg or Innsbruck you could take the daily shuttles to different resorts. If you have a rental car, valley towns such as Chur, Sion and Interlaken in Switzerland, Aosta in Italy, Moûtiers and Bourg-St-Maurice in France and Radstadt in Austria are cheaper bases from which you can visit different resorts nearby.
PRICING THE OPTIONS
Costs vary enormously. Tour operators have special deals with hotels and can organize the essentials to save you time.
Around 50% of Ski 2’s business is short breaks to Champoluc (at one end of Italy’s Monterosa ski area). Three nights’ B&B in a 3-star hotel, private transfers from any of six airports within striking distance (meeting any flight), a three-day lift pass, first-day guiding and lunches costs from £485 (£500 for a half-board package); you book your own flights.
Stanford Skiing offers three- and four-night stays in catered chalets or self-catered apartments in Megève starting on Sunday, Wednesday or Thursday; prices for a catered chalet are from £275 excluding flights and transfers. Skiweekends.com features major resorts in France, Italy and Switzerland, and offers overnight coach travel or flight options. A four-night half-board coach package to Brides-les-Bains (for Méribel) – two nights on the coach, two nights in the hotel, three days of skiing – costs from £249 per person. Momentum offers flights, car hire and three nights’ B&B in a 3-star hotel from £429 in Courmayeur. Momentum, STC and Alpine Weekends will tailor-make short breaks for you.
TIPS FOR THE TRIP
Unless booking at short notice, avoid low resorts – where snow may be unreliable – and high, treeless resorts – where slopes may close in bad weather. Go for early or late flights to get the most slope-time, but note that Sunday evening traffic can be horrendous with locals going home. Book a transfer or rental car in advance; it’s often cheaper and saves time on arrival. And choosing a different car hire company from the one your airline promotes can avoid queuing with others from your flight too. Taxis are generally very expensive, and public transport times between airports and resorts are rarely convenient (though Switzerland has good rail links). Rather than taking your own equipment, consider renting: most airlines impose hefty fees for ski/board carriage.