How to ski on a budget

Skiing is notoriously expensive, but there are a few ways you can bring down the cost of a ski holiday:

Book flights way in advance but accommodation last minute

It is normal behaviour to sit down and try to sort out every aspect of your ski holiday at the same time. But if you want to ski on a budget, this is not the best way to go about it.

Flights with low cost airlines such as easyjet are cheaper the further in advance you book, and then get more and more expensive the closer you get to your departure date, so you need to get your flights booked as soon as possible.

Accommodation, however, works the other way round. No hotel or chalet wants to have empty beds because it is a total waste. Ski seasons are short and so accommodation owners want the highest possible occupancy rate. You are therefore likely to find great last minute deals on places to stay.

Choose a resort you have never heard of (or at least are not sure where it is…)

What is so good about the big, famous resorts anyway? So they might have massive ski areas, and loads and loads of bars and restaurants, but chances are they are run by enormous corporations who want to make as much money as possible. Not only that, but purpose built mega resorts are often dead outside the ski season so local businesses have to charge exorbitant prices to make enough money for the whole year (or they have to move house every 6 months).

If you choose a ski resort you have never heard of then it is likely that the price of everything will be lower. All you need for a great ski trip is snow and a few friends or family!

You might have a smaller ski domain to explore but the lift pass will be a lot cheaper. The hotels might not be 4 or 5 star but they won’t be very far from the lifts. The ski shop might not have a choice of 100 different ski brands but it will be 1/10th the price of a platinum luxury package in Courchevel 1850.

There are just a couple of things to look out for before you go ahead with this plan:

1) Locate the ski resort you like the look of on a map and check you can get there from an airport. Some resorts are not very accessible and you could end up saving lots of money on everything else but then an epic journey turns out to cost loads.

2) Check that the resort you are considering fits your definition of a ski resort. In France, I have seen a drag lift in a field referred to as a “station de ski”, which might be technically correct, but it would make for a pretty rubbish week long holiday.

The chances of you choosing a resort you don’t know are zero, so I better give you a couple of ideas. How about Valloire or Montgenevre in France?

Get a last minute package deal

Love them or loathe them, tour operators are big players in the ski industry. They commit to huge numbers of beds and charter flights every season and they want them to be as full as possible. For this reason, you often see some great last minute deals that include flights, transfers and catered accommodation for around £300 per person, as the tour operator would rather take peanuts for the places than have them empty.

Another word of warning here: check up on the resort you are heading to on a late deal. If it is to a mega resort, you could get a shock when your lift pass and ski hire costs more than your flights, transfers and accommodation combined!

Do not eat on the mountain

Mountain restaurants always look so tempting but they were not built to keep the budget conscious skier going until afternoon tea. Resist the temptation to get out of the cold as it could cost you a fortune. I remember about 6 years ago, I heard a chef in a mountain restaurant in Méribel curse because he had slightly burnt a massive tray of lasagne. That is not to say it didn’t go out on the self service with a price tag of €17 per portion. I thought at the time, its a good job he didn’t drop it because it was worth about 300€ !

If you don’t have the option of making yourself a packed lunch, then ski back down to resort when you are hungry and grab something from a supermarket. This can be a nice way of exploring nearby resorts, but be careful, in certain places (France) the shop selling food could be shut at lunch…

Get insurance

I’m sure everyone reading this always has good insurance, but one way to stop a ski trip costing 10 times more than you budgeted is to get the correct winter sports insurance policy. If you have a yearly travel policy, make sure it covers you for skiing.

If your idea of fun is skiing through trees, or in to trees, or hitting the park, then you might want to get extra insurance for any equipment you hire. I have seen people take recked skis and boards back to a ski shop and it is not pretty. The ski shop are never going to let you just pay the cost price that they pick them up for at a wholesaler, they will take you for all they can!

Do a ski season and make friends with people who live there permanently

This quite often works for us! Staying in a friends spare room or on their sofa can considerably reduce the price of your ski trip.


These are just a few ideas to save you a few quid. If you have any other good ideas please do let us know and we will add them to the article.


Full area lift pass or local lift pass?

There really is so much to think about when planning a ski trip!

You probably thought that deciding on dates, resort, accommodation and flights was the difficult bit but now you have a few more decisions to make…

Should you buy a full area lift pass or local lift pass?

There are two factors that will help you decide: your budget and your level of ability.

Your budget

Full area lift passes obviously cost more than local area lift passes. The difference in price depends on the ski resort you are going to visit. In some areas the price difference is not too big, whereas in some ski areas the price difference is considerable.

A good way to look at it is to work out the difference in price between the two lift passes. Then divide that by the number of days you will be skiing. The difference will normally be less than €10 / day so if you have one less cup of coffee on the mountain and one less beer in the evening then you can enjoy skiing a much larger area!

Your ability

If you are a complete beginner then this is a no-brainer. You will not need a full area lift pass. You might even find that the resort you are going to offers some sort of “mini pass” that allows you to use a small selection of lifts on the beginner areas.

If you are going to be having ski lessons during your holiday (which is an absolute must for beginners) then it is a good idea to contact the ski school you are using and ask them which lift pass they would recommend for your level.

For intermediate skiers, the decision of whether to buy a full area lift pass vs a local area lift pass is a bit more difficult. While you will normally have plenty of skiing to keep you occupied in your local area, you will have the ability to explore a bit further afield. Skiing the full area might help you decide if you would like to visit a neighbouring resort on your next holiday. Or there might be a really nice restaurant on the pistes of the next valley that you can only reach with the full area pass… If you are a confident skier then it is really down to personal preference.

Don’t get stuck in a different resort

Our last piece of advice on this subject is that if you decide to buy a full area lift pass, then make sure you are aware of what time the last lift is and how long it will take you to get back. It can be an extremely expensive mistake if you get stuck on the wrong side of a mountain when the lifts stop as you will have to ski down to the nearest resort and take a taxi home, which can cost a fortune as they will have to take the long way round the mountain.

What else do we have to decide on?

Is deciding which lift pass to buy your last big decision? Have you bought your ski outfit yet? Goggles or sunglasses? (Goggles) Hat or helmet? (Helmet)…

What about airport transfers? You should have this sorted by now if you are looking at lift passes but if you haven’t then don’t worry. This is where we can help. Just visit and get great prices for your ski transfers from local companies. You can then just choose the quote that is right for you!

Have a great time!

How long in advance should you book ski transfers?

If you think that you can relax after booking your flights and accommodation for your upcoming ski trip, think again. How are you going to get from the airport to your hotel, chalet or apartment?

As we have discussed in another article, ski transfers are not very straight forward because you can’t build airports near ski resorts!

So to answer your question of how far in advance you should book ski transfers, our advice is to do it as soon as possible. This is especially true if you are travelling on a Saturday, and is even more important if you are travelling on a Saturday in school holidays. It is more important still if you want to book your ski transfers with a reliable and reputable local company!

I am writing this article in the middle of October and we have already had some disappointed FindTransfers users who left it too late to book their ski transfers with their preferred company. For the Christmas and New Year holidays it is not unheard of for companies to be fully booked in September. The February half term Saturdays are also very popular and some companies will be booked up well before Christmas.

Organising a ski holiday can be stressful enough so you don’t want to be panicking about your transfers at the last minute. As soon as you have booked your flights and accommodation then put a request through FindTransfers and you can take your pick of companies.

Having said all of that, if you are leaving it late to book your ski transfers we will definitely be able to find you something. There is even a chance that at the last minute we could find you a bargain with a company who would otherwise have an empty vehicle.

The best place to start looking for your ski transfers, whether you are booking a year in advance or at the last minute, is at

Have a great ski trip!