How to bag a bargain European ski trip

Still need your winter sports fix even with the pound in a slump? Here are our top tips for skiing on a budget, including when, where and how to go

Bag the best deals

Snow-risky early December, the cold depths of January and the sunny end of April are almost always the cheapest times to go.

Get a heads-up on deals by signing up to newslettters from ski companies, such as Skiworld. A recent flash sale had seven nights half-board at posh Chalet Valluga, sleeping six in St Anton, Austria, for about £745pp, departing mid-Decemberon a self-drive holiday including a Eurotunnel ticket.

January bargains with Ski Weekends included four nights half-board at Hotel les Fleurs in Morzine, with transfers from Geneva airport (connected to the railway station) for £330pp.

Even the fancier places can offer good value at the slushier end of the year. In La Plagne in France’s Paradiski ski area, we spied seven nights self-catering at White Pearl Lodge and Spa, with indoor pool, gym and spa, from £1,037pp, including train from London to Moutiers, transfers and lift pass in March with Ski World, a good £600pp cheaper than at new year.

Inclusive deals that throw in ski hire, lessons and lift passes are often great value. had seven nights half-board at Les Balcons de Val Thorens from £750pp all season, including a six-day lift pass (£50pp extra for the wider Trois Vallées pass) and equipment hire.

fairytale snowy slopes
St Anton, Austria, has some good half-board deals. Photograph: St Anton

If you’re not fussy about a stylish stay, trawl bargain sites such as, which has a page on rail travel packages. We found seven nights self-catering at Residence Cybele in Brides Les Bains – part of Trois Vallées and linked to Méribel and Courchevel – for £639pp in January, or £682pp in March, including Eurostar from London, transfers and six-day lift pass.

Other sites let you search for accommodation and lift-pass combos, such as and We found bargains such as four days B&B at Hotel Bel Horizon in high-altitude Val Thorens from £199pp, including lift pass, departing mid-November.

Off-radar resorts

View of ski resort
Lesser-known Les Sybelles has affordable apartments and cheaper ski passes Photograph: Tiphaine Buccino

Smaller, lesser-known resorts are typically cheaper, and many are paradise for freeriders or beginners, just unfamiliar to Brits.

Even pricey Switzerland has bargain gems, such as Bettmeralp, a car-free resort in the Aletsch Arena ski area, easily accessed by rail, with a gondola to the resort from the Betten station. The resort website lists good-value accommodation (as do many other resorts’ – another top tip) such as chalet Bärgsunna, where we found seven nights self-catering for four for less than £550 in mid-December; a six-day lift pass costs from £188-£233.

In France’s Haute Maurienne valley, a six-day lift pass for Les Sybelles, with six resorts and 136 pistes, is €209pp (£183pp), and seven nights self-catering in Le Corbier, at the smart Etoile des Sybelles apartments with indoor and outdoor pools and spa, costs from £1,049 for four including Eurotunnel crossing.

Pays de Gex, a lower mountain area topping out at 900 metres between Lake Geneva and the Jura, has four small, mellow ski areas suitable for beginners and families (six-day lift pass €172). Seven nights half-board at three-star Bois Joly Hotel in Crozet costs from £431pp.

Italy and Austria tend to be cheaper than France and Switzerland. Austria’s SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental (six-day pass €280) is one of Europe’s largest resorts, with 168 miles of slopes and 80 mountain huts and inns. In the village of Going, Gatterhof is a farmhouse hotel with rooms from €50 a night.

Swap the Alps for the Pyrenees

A cable car in La Mongie, in the Pyrenees.
A cable car in La Mongie, in the Pyrenees. Photograph: Sergi Reboredo/Alamy

Val d’Isère, Chamonix and the Quatre Vallées may be superb resorts but when six-day lift-passes cost in excess of €350 (£307), you might want to consider alternatives. France’s other mountain range is not short of thrills, with 23 resorts and high peaks topping out at 2,877m on the Pic du Midi, where a 1,000m descent is one of the best runs among 100km of pistes in the Grand Tourmalet ski area (six-day lift pass €261). The tourist board website ( offers basic apartments from €300 for seven nights self-catering sleeping seven at the Mongie Tourmalet Residence in La Mongie, a resort connected to spa town Barèges. Lourdes TGV station is 30 miles away.

With low VAT and no sales tax, Andorra is also a bargain bet for snowy peaks. A discount package to Arinsal with Snowboard Coach offers seven nights half-board from £599pp including Valnord lift pass, transfers (from Barcelona or Toulouse) and local discounts. It’s a 12-hour drive from Calais, and reachable by train to Barcelona or Toulouse.

Eastern Europe … and beyond

Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. Photograph: Arhiv Turizem

Bansko in Bulgaria has been the go-to alternative for a budget snow break for decades, but, in central Europe, Slovenia is the classier option, where top resort Kranjska Gora has 18 runs. On Airbnb we found an apartment sleeping four next to the ski slopes from £672 in March (take the train to Salzburg or Ljubljana).

If you’re up for a cultural adventure (and a long train journey), consider an offbeat ski destination such as Parnassos in Greece (lift pass €20 a day, ), 2½ hours’ drive from Athens and close to Delphi, with 17 lifts, 23 runs and enough fun skiing to satisfy the urge. There is also interest building in Bosnia, where a package with Ski Sarajevo, including six nights half-board at the Jahorina mountain resort and one night at a B&B in Sarajevo, costs from €649pp, departing 11 February, including a five-day lift-pass and transfers from Dubrovnik.

How to hack the school holidays

Dad and child in ski gear
Families with school-age children should wait for Easter rather than February Photograph: Vincent Colin/UCPA

Those with kids will find the cheapest ski holiday period is almost always Easter, when warmer weather and longer days also make it more conducive to enjoyable learning.

The UCPA, set up to make winter sports accessible to French youngsters, offers budget packages that include meals, equipment hire, lessons, lift passes and basic accommodation in its own large-scale centres. It offers themed weeks, from introductions to ski touring to a new trips for 18-30s. You have to make your own bed and help tidy up, but there’s a very sociable atmosphere. Great value are its family weeks in school holidays – a week in Flaine departing 8 April costs £506 to £660 for children depending on age, and £815 for adults; or festive weeks in Les Contamines cost £716pp starting 24 or 31 December.

Look out for resorts with deals such as free lift passes for kids: in Samoëns and Tignes in France they’re free for under-eights. A week from 24 December in an apartment sleeping four at Residence Val Claret in Tignes (with a station nearby at Bourg St Maurice) is £1,060 (.

If you have to go in February half-term, choose an off-radar resort or unusual accommodation such as backcountry cabins listed on Austria’s Almliesl cabins website, an Italian rifugio or mountain agriturismo; these are often cheaper than a normal chalet or hotel.

Getting there

Flyers can save by choosing lesser-known airports (such as Memmingen in Germany as an alternative to Innsbruck or Munich), but those more committed to saving carbon must factor in Eurotunnel fees, fuel, toll roads and any overnight stays.

The cheapest Eurostar fares are found by booking far in advance (there are still some evening departures for February half-term from £49.50 each way – see for how to get to the mountains by rail). The cheapest Eurotunnel crossings are usually very early or late in the day; and compare ferry prices at

Self-drivers should avoid refuelling on motorways and toll roads – use the satnav to divert off to cheaper pumps in villages. Snow Express offers overnight coach transfers to 40 French resorts from London and Folkestone for £199pp return, including luggage and skis, departing Friday evening and arriving the next day.

Owners of campervans or motorhomes could consider cosying their ride for a winter trip to save on accommodation. To hire one, Go Boony has comfortable motorhomes from about £85 a day, sleeping four. Winterised van specialist Spaceships Rentals charges from £69 a day for a vehicle sleeping seven,

Prices correct at time of publication

• This article was amended on 3 November 2022 to clarify that Slovenia is not in Eastern Europe.


Gemma Bowes

The GuardianTramp

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