Tuesday, 17 March 2015

How to Ski on a Budget Because Ski Holidays are Amazing

There are these amazing things in my life, which go by the name of mountains! Whether it's summer or winter, I love being in the Alps, but crying while too scared to go downhill on a mountain bike is no way near as fun as that thrill I get when I click in to my bindings and head off down the slopes.
Skiing off a ledge

So what did I get up to last week? I went skiing, of course! I gate crashed my sister's ski holiday, so last Saturday. The three of us hopped on a plane 'all' the way to Geneva, where we were greeted by snow capped mountains and adverts for expensive watches.

Expensive is normally the word you hear when you talk about skiing. Yes, it can set you back a bit (or a lot, depending on how you go about it. So, how can you afford it without breaking the bank too much?

Plan ahead and do your research. Yes, this is obvious, but unless you are very spontaneous and book a last minute holiday at a greatly reduced price, you may find yourself disappointed if you hang around waiting for an offer and it never comes. (And don't go during school holidays... if you can avoid it!) This is how we went ahead with our trip to Chamonix.
Dynastar Neva 74 Skiing in Chamonix Mont Blanc
Skis & Mont Blanc
Accommodation. State the obvious, but you need somewhere to sleep! We stayed in Pierre & Vacances Résidence La Rivière, which came up multiple times on Google, and was very highly ranked on Booking.com. We also had a look at Airbnb, but the studio accommodation was a better offer for what we needed. Remember, you're out skiing in the day, coming home, eating cake, having dinner and going to bed. Some people might go out before bed as well, but your priority is somewhere to rest your tired body. You don't need all of the extras and something simple will do if all you want to do is get out on the mountain.

Lift Passes. Probably the most expensive part of your ski holiday... But look online at the prices and you may find some offers for buying online instead of just buying them from the lift pass office when you get there. We got 5 days for the price of 6, an online offer which was valid for those booking passes more than 3 days in advance, hence planning ahead is worn it! If you haven't skied the area before, you will have to pay for the actual card that is charged up as your lift pass, which will cost around €3 but then you can recharge these online when you go the next time!
Also, think about the pass you're buying. Do you need the Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass in Cham if you're not going up the Aiguille du Midi or off the black at the top of Grands Montets? Will you just stick to Méribel or explore the whole of the Three Valleys? Portes du Soleil or just Morzine-Avoriaz. Think carefully about how far you will actually be skiing.
Lunchtime on piste at La Chavanne, Brevent-Flegere Chamonix

Ski Hire. We normally hire skis with InterSport, but it's always good to have a look around and see what each resort offers. For our week, we used Twinner, and actually chose the top level skis for about €90, or €70 in my case as I have my own boots. (Best investment ever if you know you'll be going a lot, they are so much comfier). Also, the people who work in hire shops are generally very friendly and can recommend plenty of places to go, what the skiing is like... From my experience, the ski hire people know everyone and everything!!
Drinks on the piste in the sunshine
Rosé season started piste-side
Getting there. Flight prices to a ski area won't be that cheap. Midweek will be less expensive, and on a Saturday or Sunday they are cheaper if you arrive in the evening and leave in the morning, you just need to be ready to be up early to get going on your first morning and spend your last evening making sure you have everything packed to go home. Taking ski kit on a flight can be a bit bulky, but you don't need a suitcase each (ski boots fit in a cabin case, hello hand luggage!), but you can use extra space to take food and cake so that you don't have to spend loads of money on food in resort or going out for dinner the evening you arrive. Pasta and pesto is fine when you check in to your accom at 9pm, and you need lots of cake to refuel after a hard day of skiing.
Obviously once you make it to the airport, you need to get to resort. We used AlpyBus who seem to offer the cheapest transfers to Chamonix (and other resorts!), and given you're just sat in a van for just over an hour, you don't really need anything more. They pick you up from the airport, take you to your door, text you the day before you leave to confirm your pickup time and do another door to door service back to the airport.
EasyJet flight Luton to Geneva
In-flight entertainment
Food. Go self catered rather than a hotel so that you don't have to eat out every night. Cook simple meals yourself, and carbs are great fun when you know you have been burning calories all day. Bring a few staples in your suitcase, pasta, pesto, cereal bars, dried fruit, cake... Whatever you can fit in on the weight limit! Pick up baguettes in the morning, fill them with ham and cheese and there's your lunch on the slopes plus chocolate and anything else you think you might need to keep going. Those restaurants on the mountains can set you back quite a bit for a sandwich you could make at home and bring in your backpack. But do go out for dinner one night and eat all the cheese please, for me!! And make the most of happy hours for après - remember those ski hire guys? They should be able to tell you where to go!
Quatre Fromages Pizza at Le Pitz Chamonix
All the cheese!
Ski clothes. If you haven't been before, you can always beg, borrow and steal from your friends. If they haven't been either, TK Maxx has brilliantly priced ski stuff, I had to stop myself from buying some Spyder trousers for less than half price, I really don't need to pairs of white trousers (she says - it's addictive!) But if you're not skiing all the time, you don't need to be wearing all of the top expensive brands that you'll find in Snow & Rock, you just need to be comfy and warm! (But if you do want something good that will last... go to Snow & Rock!) Also, don't overpack... I always take far too much and given how warm it was for me last week, barely touched all of my layers so keep an eye on the forecast too!
Skiing in Le Tour, Domaine du Balme Chamonix Month Blanc
Happy Skiers!

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