Weekend ski trip on a shoestring
This trip is all about the skiing: Chamonix is arguably one of the world’s best ski resorts for off-piste and the snow has finally started to dump it down. I want to spend every possible moment on the mountain, but I’m looking to save as much money as possible on everything else.
I don’t have time for this trip to be a full week so it has to just be a long weekend (is that a tiny violin I hear?). I was hoping this would make things cheaper but sadly it turns out that booking a weekend ski break is easier said than done.
The whole tour operator system is designed around weekly bookings and all the cheap last-minute deals seem to be Saturday to Saturday. As a result it actually works out more expensive (per day) than going for a full week, so my cheap weekend is up against it from the start.
But, if like me, a weekend trip is your only option, that means you’ll need to seek out bargains and build your own holiday. Finding cheap independent accommodation for a few nights can still be tricky, and on top of that some of the small airports that serve the Alpine resorts are only open on weekends, but it can be done.
The essential ski holiday building blocks
There are five building blocks needed to assemble a cheap weekend ski break:
- Airport transfer vs. hire car
- Ski hire
- Lift passes
If you’re trying to keep your budget down then you’ll need to cost up all five variables before making your decision. It’s kinda geeky, but mapping these out in an excel spreadsheet can really help.
The cheapest flights we could find were with Ryanair to Turin airport for €53.50 (£46.50) return. This was about half the price of flying into Geneva on the same dates and also helped limit the number of resorts we had to choose from.
This is where you can save some serious money. If you’re prepared to go basic you can find some amazing deals. We managed to get four nights in a budget one-room apartment right in the centre of Chamonix for €227 (£200). Technically this place could sleep four people, which would bring the cost down even more if you were prepared to share with friends.
As this accommodation is self-catered, I’m not going to include food in the budget: you’d still need to eat back at home.
Airport transfer vs. hire car
The Chamonix/Mont Blanc resort is spread out all along the valley, and Chamonix is around two hours from Turin Airport. This meant that a hire car was by far the best option for us. This was just €65 (£57) booked via the airline.
Make sure that snow chains are included in your booking (and that you know how to fit them). Also be aware that you may have to pay motorway tolls. The Mont Blanc tunnel alone is €55 (£48) return.
I found a voucher code online so this came to €54 (£47) for skis, poles, and a helmet for three days with Sport2000.
You’d think this wouldn’t differ much between resorts, but at one point I was considering visiting Grindelwald in Switzerland, where I couldn’t find anything for less than €50/day.
Whilst the full Mont Blanc unlimited pass does include a large number of ski areas, none of these areas are connected. So you’re unlikely to be skiing in more than one area per day.
This actually means that unless you’re buying the full six day pass (which qualifies for a discount) it’s a better idea to wait and see the weather forecast before buying a day pass for whichever area takes your fancy.
The only caveat is that you would need the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass to travel to the top of the Aiguille du Midi (to Ski the Vallée Blache) or to go to the very top of the Grand Montets.
Current Chamonix/Mont blanc day prices are:
- Mont Blanc Unlimited – €62
- Chamonix – €50.50
- Les Houches – €43
- Megève – €46
There are definitely much cheaper resorts we could’ve gone to, but I was drawn to the Mont Blanc region by its altitude. Until quite recently Europe had seen very little snow this season and I hoped this would be a safe bet.
I’m using all the same equipment I bought for my first trip – as can be seen in more detail in my packing list blog – but as this trip is all about value for money, I just want to give a mention to Decathlon, where I bought most of my equipment.
I never buy outdoor equipment just because it’s cheap; it’s a false economy if you have to replace it, and can be downright dangerous if something you’re relying on isn’t up to the job. All the decathlon equipment was excellent on a technical level and great value for money.
I had been tempted to use my down jacket and goretex hardshell to ski in but particularly pleased that I bought the Wed’Ze ski jacket in the end. It’s warm, technical, and hardwearing. It kept me dry through numerous falls, and despite skiing in a snow cloud for most of our first day in Morzine, and I’m certain I’ll value the snow-skirt even more once we get out on some of Chamonix’s famous off-piste.
This trip is costing €430pp for four nights, with three full days skiing
I’ll be following up with a review of the trip, and a comparison of Chamonix with the Porte du Soleil, so subscribe to my FREE newsletter to receive those updates.