Cutting your costs on a ski holiday

28th September 2015, by Chris Gill

Eurozone countries are now much better value for money than in recent years

Eurozone countries are now much better value for money than in recent years

Our Resort Price Index (RPI) figures are now an established feature of Where to Ski and Snowboard – our response, launched six years ago, to the weakened pound and resulting high cost of staying in a top ski resort. Despite the huge improvement in the euro exchange rate since then, we reckon holidaymakers still need a simple way to see which resorts are affordable, and which are not. That’s what our RPI provides.

At the start, we based our figures on the cost of food and drink, but for some years now we have also taken into account the costs of lift passes, ski hire and lessons too. The food and drink element of the RPI, as in earlier years, is based partly on prices noted by our faithful readers. Our thanks to those who sent in prices.

In January 2009, when we were first inspired to embark on this price survey caper, it was possible at a UK airport to pay almost a pound for a euro. Parity between the currencies certainly made it easy to know what a round of drinks was costing you, but also made that cost painfully high.

Since then, the published tourist exchange rates (a bit higher than the rates at an airport bureau de change counter) have fluctuated mainly between 1.1 and 1.2 euro to the pound. A year ago, after a dip in 2013, the pound was back up to 1.2. When we prepared our RPI figures in June 2015, the rate was a giddy 1.35 euro, and still rising. We’re not loading our currency cards just yet.

We have stuck to our recently adopted policy of basing our index figures on comparisons with the average cost in the main eurozone destinations – Andorra, Austria, France and Italy. These days, Swiss and North American prices are in a different league.

The picture by country

The improvement in the value of the pound against the euro means that countries using other currencies automatically have higher RPI figures, regardless of movements in their own exchange rates.

The pound is down against the Swiss franc compared with a year ago, so Swiss prices are about 4% higher than last year to British holidaymakers, pushing Swiss resort RPI figures even higher. Last year, four Swiss resorts fell into our “roughly average” category. Now, even the cheapest Swiss resort is in the most pricey category. All Swiss resorts are expensive for eating and drinking, with budget figures about £30 to £40 a day. You could easily spend £100 a day. For lift passes, too, many Swiss resorts are pricey. For lessons and ski hire, the picture is much more mixed.

The pound is down about 9% against the US$ compared with a year ago. All resorts in North America now fall well inside the pricey group, but the pound is up 4% against the Canadian $, with the result that Canada now compares well with the USA – even the priciest Canadian resort, Whistler, is on a par with the cheapest American resort. North American figures are hugely influenced by high prices for lift passes and lessons. For food and drink, a mid-market US resort is still about on the same level as major French resorts.

In the eurozone, each of the Alpine countries has resorts offering relatively modest prices, although Austria and Italy are better represented at the bottom of the price league, while big French resorts tend to be a bit more expensive. But it’s worth looking beyond the headline RPI figures. Compared with Austria and Italy, France is appreciably more expensive in one key respect: food and drink.

In Andorra, Soldeu comes in slightly above average, with Arinsal below. Spain costs less than average, and Slovenia appreciably less. But Bulgaria and Romania retain a firm grip on the real budget end of the market.

Ways to keep holiday costs under control

A good way of avoiding the full impact of high resort restaurant prices is to go on a catered chalet holiday. You get afternoon tea as part of the deal, so your lunchtime needs can be minimised; some tour ops offer ‘piste picnic’ packed lunches at low cost; crucially, you get wine included with dinner – and you can organise your own aperitifs, or buy beer and mixers in the chalet at modest cost.

All-inclusive deals cut out spending on expensive extras. Ski 2 offers ‘all-inclusive deal’ options, quoting a price that includes half-board, vouchers for lunch, lift pass, and more. Club Med is a well-established operator of its own big hotels where everything is included. There are deals offered by mainstream operators, too. Inghams’ Ski Inclusive offers, available in all lodgings in a couple of resorts and some lodgings in four others, includes the lift pass and equipment hire plus lunch and bar vouchers. Crystal’s Ski Plus deal, also in selected resorts, includes ski/board hire and lift pass.

An obvious option is self-catering: it’s now easy to find comfortable apartments with ample room to prepare meals and a dishwasher to deal with the aftermath – and with swanky spas and pools attached, in many cases. Just make sure you don’t weaken and eat in restaurants every night.

Finally, think about cutting the holiday price by getting some mates together to take advantage of group discounts. Many operators offer ‘1 in X goes free’ deals. And EurekaSKI in Serre-Chevalier is putting together special packages for groups of nine or more including special deals on lift passes, equipment hire and airport transfers.


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