Dear Impact Travel, I would like to take my friends and girlfriend on their first skiing holiday this Easter. However, we don’t have pots of cash to spend. Where can you recommend we go for an introductory skiing trip that won’t cost us a fortune?
Skiing during February half-term can be thoroughly more expensive than off-peak dates, combined with the issue of availability; this can often deter budget conscious skiers. Resorts such as Val d’isere, Courchevel and Zermatt are often seen as unnecessarily expensive, but if you are prepared to do some shopping around you can find yourself a great deal within your budget.
Before looking to Eastern Europe and lesser known resorts, it is definitely worth hunting out deals in these resorts as the skiing quality tends to be more variable in others.
The cheapest way to get to the premier resorts is by hiring out a self catered apartment for the week. In the French resort of Courchevel, Holiday Rentals (holiday-rentals.co.uk) offers a wide range of self-catering apartments starting at £324 for a cosy room to sleep 4. Ski lessons are available for a wide range of abilities, the Supreme Ski School (01479 81 08 00; supremeski.com) in Courchevel offer family skiing lessons from £179 for 12 hours including an English speaking instructor. One Week Ski passes are available from €170 (£166). The Resort has a very good snow record and is particularly good for beginners, do be budget conscious though, you could find yourself paying upwards of £50 for lunch at resort restaurants. Taking packed lunches and drinks in lightweight bags is a good alternative- watching the sun trace the snow overhead is hardly a compromise!
If your other half is feeling particularly adventurous, take a ride on the specially made luge track, head down to Kalico in Courchevel 1850 and the track will take you to the bottom of Courchevel 1550, where a crepe from the La Normandise Creperie will not disappoint.
Easyjet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com) fly from London to Geneva starting at £30 each way including taxes. If you have a large car, take advantage of the low fuel prices and drive from Calais. Taking about 10 hours, it is best advised to invest in a Western Europe satellite navigation aid. Most will guide you away from toll roads, and some will tailor your route through Luxembourg and Switzerland, where fuel tends to be cheaper. Another money saving tip is to make a trip to TK Maxx prior to your holiday and kit yourself out with discontinued bargain ski wear, recommended by the Ski Club of Great Britain.
The French resort of Les Arcs has recently undergone a major re-investment project, now regarded as a renewed global player; skiers from all around are flocking here during the peak season. New skiers will feel at home at ARC 1800 with a very simple lift layout, basic terrain and 12 nursery areas. As skills progress, a large number of blue runs in the middle valley will offer variety for those who aren’t quite ready for the 66 red and 106 black runs. Introductory lessons are available at Ski School Arc 1950 (spirit1950.com) from €160 (£156) for 2.5 hours every morning, which would allow the afternoons for some freestyle skiing, much welcome I’m sure.
There are still some advance deals around, but you may have to wait for the extreme last minute deals to get the best value for money. Chalet Arc En Ciel in Arc 2000 is a short walk from the du Varet and St Jacques gondolas; currently there is availability during the half term week for £758 per person including flights and full board catering. Arc En Ciel has the advantage of a swimming pool and steam room, a welcome way to chill out after a hard days skiing. If you can travel in January, take advantage of the same deal for £665 and be around for the Columbia Speed Flying Pro competition and watch on in awe as world class speed flyers descend upon Les Arcs, for more info visit http://www.speedflyingpro.com/.
Les Arcs is also linked to the valley town of Bourg St Maurice, otherwise known as Les Arcs 1600, via a funicular railway and regular bus service. Consider staying at Bourg St Maurice where the Chalet Beguin (00 33 4 79 07 02 92; location-appartement-les-arcs.com) is offering the February half term dates from €597 (£583) per adult, half board. The nearest airport is Chambery, at about 1 hour drive. Snowjet (020 8652 1222; snowjet.co.uk) offer flights from Bristol starting at £30 inclusive of all taxes, do however expect to pay more for the half term week.
For those on a serious budget, avoiding France may be preferable along with other eurozone countries when considering the current exchange rates. Lest they change, the following Andorran resorts offer real value for money.
Soldeu is where beginners will feel right at home with a friendly atmosphere, good quality restaurants and hotels, all at reasonable prices. The place to head in Soldeu for the beginners is Grandvalira. With motorway style runs and long, flat paths it is almost perfect for those just about mastering the snow-plough. Worth a visit is the Disney themed run where you can ski past pictures of your favorite childhood characters!
Further activities are run at the Hotel Grau Roig (00376 75 55 56; hotelgrauroig.com) including, igloo building, avalanche rescue courses and husky sled trips. I wouldn’t recommend staying at the hotel on a budget as prices start at €105 per person, per night. Instead, Crystal Ski (crystalski.co.uk) have some good deals available which will make more financial sense than organising everything yourself. For example, stay at the hotel Bruxelles as a ‘family’ of four, for £400 per person, full board including flights. Other crystal deals include the Hotel Micolau in Arinsal currently offering an accommodation (half-board) and flights for £592.
Many leave the booking of their skiing holiday until the very last minute. There are definitely some fantastic holidays to be obtained this way, but for piece of mind, book well in advance. Always be on the look out for ways you can save money, after all, regardless of how much you blow on your holiday, it’s still the same powder.
Follow Impact Travel on Twitter
Image by Trysil via Flickr