Ski holidays have a reputation for being expensive, but there are loads to ways to keep costs down – from going in the cheapest weeks to making the most of offers on lift passes and equipment hire. Find out more about what you’ll need for your trip and our top tips for saving some cash.
How much does it cost to go skiing?
The average cost of a ski holiday is tricky to pin down because it varies hugely depending on things like where and when you go. You can do it for as little as £700 per person for a week away – that’s with everything included – or go all-out with no budget in sight.
Like any holiday, the main costs will be your flights, transfers to and from the airport, and accommodation, which are all included in a Crystal package. Plus, you’ll want some spending money for food, drinks and other activities while you’re away. Then for a ski trip, you’ll also need some winter sports clothing, a lift pass and equipment hire, and maybe some ski or snowboarding lessons if you’re just starting out.
Top tips for planning a budget ski holiday
When to go
Just like with summer breaks, weeks that are less popular are generally cheaper. For the lowest ski holiday prices, January is the sweet spot – and it also usually has the best snow and fewest crowds, so it’s a win all-round.
Going at the start or end of the season can also be really good value. In most resorts, the ski season kicks off in December, and you can snap up a good deal if you get away before the school holidays. And the resorts will be gearing up for Christmas, so you can look forward to a fun festive atmosphere with decorations, markets and special entertainment. Or wait until March and April to bag an end-of-season deal and you’ll also get to enjoy the warmer weather, bluebird days and après in the spring sunshine. Just remember to pick a high-altitude resort in any of these months to get the best snow conditions.
For families who have to go away when the kids are off, pick either the Christmas or Easter school holidays – the fact that they’re nearer the start and end of the season means they’re usually a bit cheaper than half-term.
Where to go
The most famous resorts tend to be the most popular, which also means they’re more expensive – so if you’re looking for value, pick a smaller place or one that’s less well-known. And a lot of the time, it’ll still be part of the same ski area as a big-name town. For example, if you really want to ski in the Three Valleys, stay in Les Menuires instead of Courchevel or Val Thorens – it’s one of the best unknown French resorts because it’s cheaper and quieter but still has access to all of the same slopes.
Bulgaria and Andorra are also top choices for bargain hunters. They’re known for being great value, so you can get top-notch accommodation and all your ski extras for a fraction of the cost in the Alps. And the prices in the resorts are lower too, so you can save on things like food and drinks. As for the experience, you won’t be missing anything – as well as good skiing, both countries have resorts with excellent ski schools and amazing après.
Where to stay: Half-board hotel or self-catering apartment?
Picking a half-board hotel means your breakfasts and evening meals are included in the upfront cost of the holiday, so you can spend less while you’re away. You’ll be spoilt for choice each morning, with buffet spreads that can include everything from eggs and bacon to pastries, fruit, pancakes and more.
Then in the evenings, you can look forward to multi-course meals that often include local specialities – think crispy schnitzel in Austria or cheesy fondue in France. Some hotels have free afternoon snacks too, so you can pop back and grab something to keep you going until dinner. And for lunch, there are options to suit everyone. Pick up a quick sandwich in a bakery or self-service café to save some money – and save more time for skiing – or stop in a restaurant to enjoy a proper sit-down meal.
Prefer to keep the upfront costs down? Stay in a self-catering apartment and get the flexibility to eat what and when you want. You can buy food in the local supermarket and whip up your own meals in the evenings, and still plan a couple of meals out if you like. Really, it all comes down to how you prefer to budget and whether you’re happy to cook while you’re on holiday or want to let someone else take care of it.
Hotel Tauernhof, Kaprun, Austria
What ski extras to book: Lift passes, equipment hire and ski school
Lift passes are the staple of every ski holiday – it’s literally your ticket to the mountain, giving you access to all of the drag lifts, chairlifts, cable cars and gondolas. So keep an eye out for offers like our 2-for-1 lift pass offer when you book your holiday, to bag some big savings.
Families can save extra in some resorts too, with free lift passes for children. The cut-off age is usually around 5 years old but some places, like Arinsal in Andorra, offer free passes for kids up to 15.
As for which lift pass to buy, you’ll sometimes have a choice been a local one (for the nearby slopes) and an area pass (for the wider ski area). If you’re new to skiing, stick to a local pass – it’ll be cheaper and you probably won’t be skiing the whole area on your first trip. You might not even need one at all for the first few days because some resorts have free lifts for beginners to use while you’re learning, like in Alpe d’Huez in France and St Johann in Austria. So check out all of your options before you book and the savings could soon add up.
Next, you’ll need to hire equipment, including skis or a snowboard, boots and a helmet. Choose entry-level skis or board if you’re new to the mountain – the intermediate and advanced ones are often more expensive, and you won’t notice any difference while you’re starting out.
If you’ve never skied before, our First-time ski or board bundles include all of your extras for the best price. You’ll get your lift pass, skis or snowboard, boots, helmet and lessons, and it works out cheaper than booking it all separately. Look out for them in many of our resorts that are marked as ‘best for beginners’.
What clothes to get
You’ll need some specific clothing to keep you warm and dry on the slopes. Our ultimate ski packing list has the full run-down, but the highlights are a ski jacket, salopettes (ski trousers), base layers (long-sleeved thermal tops, leggings and fleece jumpers), ski gloves and goggles to protect your eyes.
For your first trip, see if you can borrow any kit from snow-loving friends or family, so you don’t have to buy your own yet. Or if you’re buying it, look out for deals online and in high-street shops and supermarkets. Sports shops are a good call too, especially during the end-of-season sales when you can grab some bargains ahead of next winter. Or hit the second-hand shops to see if you can spot some pre-loved gear – maybe you’ll end up rocking a vintage all-in-one ski suit or some snazzy prints on the slopes.
What to do off the slopes: Après-ski and activities
Après-ski can mean anything from dancing on tables in your ski boots to unwinding in the hotel spa. And it doesn’t need to cost a lot. Look for places with free entertainment like live music and stage shows. Or head to bars away from the lift stations or town centre, where the drink prices are often cheaper and you can spend your time chatting to locals – and maybe pick up a few tips on where to ski tomorrow.
If bars aren’t your thing, there are lots of other free activities you can do. Set off for a winter walk through snowy scenery, watch resort-run shows and torchlit descents put on by the ski schools, or simply head back to your accommodation to take a dip in the pool, relax in the sauna or just spend the evening chatting, playing board games and watching films.
When to book
Booking early means you’ll only need to pay the deposit upfront, so you can spread the cost of your holiday. And remember to look out for early booking offers on things like lift passes and equipment. You’ll also get the best choice of resorts and accommodation if you book far in advance – especially if you’re looking at a popular time like the school holidays, which can fill up quickly.
If you can wait until just before the departure date to book – and can be more flexible about where you go – you can snap up an excellent last-minute deal.
Planning your first trip? Find out everything you need to know with our ultimate ski holiday guide for beginners. And check out our latest ski deals (and use the ‘best for beginners’ filter) to start looking for your bargain break.