Cutting your costs on the slopes

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Chalet I or chalet not? Chris Gill, co-editor of Where to Ski and Snowboard 2012, names the resorts where your pound will go further

A good way of avoiding the full impact of high resort restaurant prices is to go on a catered chalet holiday. With chalet holidays you get a filling breakfast and afternoon tea, as well as a substantial dinner, so your lunchtime needs can be minimised. Some tour ops offer ‘piste picnic’ packed lunches for a small extra charge. Crucially, in a chalet you get wine included with dinner – and you can organise your own aperitifs, or buy beer and mixers in the chalet at modest cost.

It’s no coincidence that in these difficult times the demand for chalet holidays is soaring, and that operators are expanding their programmes to meet that demand. Ski Total has 25 new chalets this year, for example, while Inghams’ programme has expanded from a modest 20 properties to an impressive 63 chalets and chalet hotels, across the Alps and in Finland.

Chalet holidays are not the only way to keep costs under control. A few tour operators such as Ski 2 offer ‘all inclusive deal’ options, quoting a price that includes half-board, vouchers for lunch at mountain restaurants, lift pass, and more. Club Med is a well-established operator of big hotels where everything is included (check out its full-page ad in our ‘Luxury chalets’ chapter). Crystal has introduced all-inclusive deals in half a dozen hotels and ten chalets, including not only packed lunches but unlimited après-ski beer, wine and soft drinks.

And of course there is self-catering. Now that it is so easy to find comfortable apartments with room to prepare meals and a dishwasher to deal with the aftermath – and with attached spas and pools of hotel standard, in many cases – self-catering is very attractive, especially for families.

The picture by country
Let’s start with the big problem for the British skier who has developed a taste for the best lunches and arguably the best views in the Alps: Swiss prices. Because of the strength of the franc, only three Swiss resorts are outside our high-cost group when you look at the overall RPI. All Swiss resorts are expensive for eating and drinking, with budget figures, even for our very modest ‘basket’, ranging from £180 to £260 – that is, £30 to over £40 a day. For lift passes, too, many resorts are pricey. For lessons and ski hire, the picture is much more mixed, with lots of resorts in the middle of the range for one or both items.

All resorts in North America fall in the pricey group overall, because of expensive lift passes and lessons (the latter particularly in the US). Ski hire costs are generally high, though there are a few resorts that fall outside the pricey bracket. But the picture is completely different when you come to look at your daily food and drink budget. Most places are positively cheap, and even swanky resorts like Aspen and Beaver Creek have budget figures of only £125 – roughly £21 a day, which is less than you will pay in many run-of-the-mill Alpine resorts. So if you don’t take lessons or hire skis, and can live with the lift pass prices (as well as the flight prices of course), North America is not going to feel expensive.

Although France doesn’t stand out from our overall RPI figures as expensive, out of the three main Alpine destinations it is way the most expensive for food and drink, with lots of resorts coming in with budget figures of £135 or more (£22.50 a day) and some in the pricey bracket, with figures of around £150 (£25 a day) or more – many of the most popular resorts on the UK market have figures around £170 (£28 a day) for very modest consumption.

Both Austria and Italy have more resorts where the costs overall are below average, and have plenty of resorts with below-average food and drink costs. We have put together some food and drink comparisons on the facing page.

The bigger resorts of Andorra are about average, with only 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.

CD-Traveller readers can buy Where to Ski and Snowboard 2012 – Britain’s only annual ski resort guidebook – for the very special price of £15.99. To purchase a copy, click here

For the low-down on the Dolomites’ top skiing spots, don’t forget to log onto the CD-Traveller website on Tuesday December 20


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