London, UK (BBN) – With winter on the horizon many dream of a holiday – not just in the sunshine but also on the ski slopes.
Here, The Mail on Sunday traverses the cost of this pricey but exciting sport to turn it into an affordable reality, reports Daily Mail.
CARVE OUT A BARGAIN TRIP
The secret to an affordable ski holiday is not just where you go – but also when.
Prices can double at Christmas and school holidays, including half-terms and the Easter break. But mid-January to February half-term can throw up bargains as can flying midweek rather than at the more popular weekends. Emma Coulthurst, of travel comparison website TravelSupermarket, believes Eastern European destinations offer some of the best value for money.
She says: ‘Resorts such as Bansko in Bulgaria and Vogel in Slovenia have some incredibly cheap deals.
‘You can get a week away including the flights, accommodation, lift and ski pass from between as little as £300 and £400. Eating out is also far cheaper than in France, Italy or Switzerland.’
Another alternative is the tiny principality of Andorra between Spain and France in the Pyrenees. Andorra breaks including flight, accommodation, lift pass and ski hire can be less than £400 a week.
In contrast, similar ski break deals in popular locations such as Verbier in Switzerland or Courchevel in France are likely to cost more than £500. Opt for a resort such as Whistler in Canada and you may see no change from £1,000.
When doing the calculations also look for the cost of extras, such as meals. It can often work out cheaper opting for a chalet with half-board so you only have to worry about lunch on the slopes. Self-catering is cheapest but not always convenient after a long day out on the pistes.
Some resorts and package deals encourage families with special offers, such as a free lift pass for children aged ten or under. With adults paying sometimes £250 a week for lift passes, always keep an eye out for them in special deals.
The internet is usually the place to find the best bargains and those who are flexible with dates, where they go and stay will bag the best deals.
Websites such as TravelSupermarket and Kayak can help while specialists to consider for ideas include Iglu Ski and Crystal Ski Holidays.
For do-it-yourself breaks, property rental websites such as Airbnb can find private self-catering apartments. Or if you opt for a chalet it might be worth seeing if you can share the accommodation with another family to split the cost.
GET INSURED FOR THE SLOPES
Cheapest is not always best when it comes to travel insurance – especially when a particularly nasty tumble can land you with a medical bill of £10,000 or more.
In the past five years, thousands of British skiers have been injured with more than a hundred ending up with an expensive stretch in hospital. At least 58 people have died from skiing accidents, according to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Rescue charges start at £400 for a ‘blood wagon’ to strap you up and take you back down a mountain on a sledge. But if a helicopter lift is required it will cost at least £1,500.
Getting home from Europe injured can cost £10,000 but from America £40,000 – double with a spinal injury. Despite the risks, one in four travellers sets off down a slope without adequate travel insurance. Many forget that standard holiday insurance does not cover skiing but often is an extra that costs more.
The Ski Club of Great Britain charges from £24.60 for a ‘silver’ insurance covering a single trip; up to £80 a year for ‘platinum’ cover that includes European multi-trip travel insurance, club membership with a four-times a year magazine and discounts on holidays and clothing. The latter includes £10 million emergency medical cover – which includes off-piste skiing and snowboarding without a guide – as well as £500 cover for lost ski passes and equipment and £6,000 cancellation cover if you cannot go on the trip.
The silver deal also covers for off-piste, plus £5 million emergency cover, £150 against lost passes and equipment and £1,000 cancellation cover.
Club spokesman Daniel Loots says: ‘Many winter sports policies do not cover off-piste skiing or only cover to the age of 65 – while we insure to age 75. These cheaper policies can end up worthless.’
Some insurers also demand policyholders take out a free European Health Insurance Card. This allows you to receive state medical treatment on the same terms as locals. The card does not cover rescue or repatriation costs or private treatment.
Comparison websites such as Comparethemarket and GoCompare can trawl the market on your behalf for a good deal. Be wary that the cheapest may have an excess of £200 or more.
Insurers are also unlikely to meet a claim if alcohol has been consumed before an accident, so keep that après-ski fun to evenings after a day on the slopes.
CONSIDER A LONG RUN TO THE RESORT
Travel is one of the biggest costs that it is easy to underestimate – whether you fly or drive to your resort.
Those planning on a holiday in the French Alps might be better off driving rather than taking a flight. Websites such as ViaMichelin can help plan that 12-hour drive across the Continent.
Even taking the cost of fuel, insurance, Eurotunnel and motorway tolls into consideration it can work out £120 each for a return road trip of four people visiting a popular resort such as Meribel in France from London. If you do not want to drive the entire journey – just to or from an airport – there are other ways to reduce the costs whether using your own vehicle or hiring one.
If you use your own car when flying out from Britain also consider booking well in advance.
You can knock 60 per cent off the price using a ‘meet and greet’ service where a valet is waiting at the airport and will take the vehicle to a nearby car park and return it when you call them on your return.
Comparison websites such as Airport Parking Shop can help you find the deals for specific airports.
Booking a rental vehicle in advance can be a third cheaper than just turning up at a check-in desk when abroad.
Consider comparison websites such as Carrentals and Skyscanner for the best deals.
Be aware of tricks that include pushing additional insurance at the check-in desk for you to avoid an excess charge of £500 or more. Rental firms can charge more than £100 a week for this extra cover but before you go you can buy your own separately for just £25.
Insurance comparison websites such as MoneyMaxim can help, with competitive providers including iCarhireinsurance and Insurance4carhire.
Also be wary of ‘free’ additional driver deals that actually might be costing more – and remember snow tyres or chains can add a further £20 a day.
Sat-nav and child car seats will also add to the bill. It may work out cheaper bringing your own.
Countries such as Austria insist you use winter tyres during the ski season and if you are caught without them you can be fined more than £4,000.
When returning a hire car make sure it is clean and full of fuel. Otherwise, the rental company may hit you with extortionate bills for doing it for you.
AVOID PAYING TOO MUCH FOR APRES-SKI
Since Britain voted to leave the European Union almost 17 months ago, the value of the pound against the euro has fallen more than 10 per cent.
This means most skiing trips have become more expensive so the need to be shrewd about how to spend your pounds is increasingly important. The biggest mistake is to get your foreign money at the airport or a border terminal as this can cost 15 per cent more than exchanging in advance.
LET YOUR SKI MONEY GO FURTHER
Websites such as MyTravelMoney and TravelMoneyMax trawl the market in search of the best exchange rates you can find. These may be offered by online dealers such as Travel FX, Moneycorp, Ice and Travelex. You might also contact these traders directly and ask them to email when an exchange for a chosen currency improves.
Also consider a pre-paid currency card, such as offered by FairFX and Caxton FX, to lock into a favourable rate before jetting off on holiday. When splashing the cash with a credit card your own bank is rarely the most competitive. Instead, consider taking out a new card just for holidays, such as the Halifax Clarity card, where there are no nasty usage fees when spending or taking cash out of an overseas hole-in-the-wall.
Also, remember that when out enjoying apres-ski and using a credit or debit card for payment, always opt to pay in the local currency and not in sterling. The exchange rates shops offer might add 5 per cent to the bill.
SLASH THE BILL OF SKI GEAR
There is a lot of costly clothing and equipment you need before hitting the ski slopes – and sorting it out now will save you a small fortune.
Beg, borrow or steal (with permission) essential clothing from family and friends. As a sport that includes personalised and expensive equipment, you can also expect to dip into your own pocket.
Libby de Rougemont owns the family-run Ski de Rouge clothing and accessories shop from her four-storey home in Clapham, South West London.
She believes with careful preparation and a checklist you can slash the bill in half – though you may still need a minimum budget of perhaps £300.
Libby says: ‘Most importantly you must be safe. In the last few years everyone has started wearing helmets. They are now stylish and light and can keep you warm just like a traditional woolly hat – but budget perhaps £60. Although they can be rented there is no substitute to having your own fitted.’
Then there is vision. Double lens, anti-fog goggles are a must if you want to see properly what is going on – and stay safe – and cost at least £25. Keeping warm makes all the difference between feeling happy and cosy or miserable and cold.
Libby says: ‘Consider quality second-hand – especially when shopping for children who are always growing out of outfits. This way you pay the same for a top brand you might otherwise spend on new inferior clothes. For example, children’s North Face and Spyder jackets second-hand may cost from £50 but £200 new.’ Her shop sells both second-hand and new. Also consider trading websites such as eBay and Preloved for older clothing.
For new bargains, consider last-season stock that offers the same quality without the latest go-faster-stripes. Check out websites for sales of old stock and visit specialists such as TK Maxx. Snow-proof ski trousers – salopettes – are another essential for which you must budget a further £50.
The secret of staying warm underneath the jacket is lots of thin layers rather than one big thick woolly jumper. This is when that thermal underwear found at the back of the wardrobe becomes useful – and can save on further expense.
Finally, remember the extremities. Libby says: ‘You never regret a nice, warm pair of socks, mittens or gloves – there is nothing worse than losing the feeling in your fingers and toes when it is freezing. Good gloves might cost from £30 but are a wise investment you will not regret sitting on the ski lift.’
Although you may wish to purchase your own boots – professionally fitted they can cost £200 – ski hire at a resort can often work out good value and cut out the hassle of lugging your own equipment around. Taking your own skis on a plane can cost £100. A rental package for boots, skis and poles might be £150 for the week. Websites such as Intersport offer discounts if you book in advance.