Ski resorts in Europe are rejoicing as the season starts without interruption for the first time in two years. Bad news for skiers this winter? Compared to last year, prices have risen across the board, according to the latest Postal Survey of European ski resorts.
The good news? Many of the increases are less than the current inflation rate. And one major destination in particular, Italy, seems particularly convenient.
The report was compiled with ski tour operator, Crystal Ski Holidays, and reveals that a shopping cart combining local costs – from the price of a six-day ski pass, kit hire and ski lessons to food and drink – has risen between 0.9 and 22 per cent since 2021/22.
The lowest increases are recorded in the Italian localities of Bardonecchia (0.9%) and Sauze d’Oulx (3.3%), and in La Plagne, France (2.4%). The highest (22%) is in Wengen, Switzerland.
The cheapest resorts in Europe
Overall, the cheapest resort for adult skiers (another survey looks at family costs – see below) was Borovets in Bulgaria. Here a shopping trolley including a six-day lift pass, ski hire, ski school and food and drink expenses, totals £506.03. This is despite the fact that prices here have increased by 12.8% compared to last year.
But for the majority of skiers it will be the excellent value for money offered by the six Italian resorts in the survey that will capture their attention. Five of them are ranked among the top ten destinations with the best value for money.
Most notable is Bardonecchia, on the French border about an hour west of Turin, which was second overall. His basket totaled £512.61 and he had the cheapest lift pass of all the resorts surveyed (see below). The other four Italian locations in the top ten are Sauze d’Oulx, Sestriere, La Thuile and Cervinia.
The most expensive resorts in Europe
The most expensive destinations are the three Swiss resorts covered by the survey: Wengen, Saas-Fee and Zermatt. They’re significantly more expensive than the others – with shopping trolleys clocking in at between £1,177 and £1,367 – well over double the cheapest destinations.
The rising strength of the Swiss franc also means that they have experienced some of the highest price increases. These range from 11% in Saas-Fee to 22% in Zermatt. It’s worth noting, however, that if you want to ski in Zermatt this season, you can always base yourself in the Italian resort of Cervinia, which is attached to the same domain and is a much cheaper place to stay.
While the data provides a fascinating insight, it needs to be interpreted carefully: the costs to people will depend on several factors. For example, in the survey, the overall price increase recorded for Tignes in France is 11.1%. But within that basket, lift passes are up more than 28% from last season and ski rentals are up 29%.
Ski school, however, costs less than three percent more. So if you don’t take classes and don’t have your own kit, the overall percentage increase is much higher than 11%.
The biggest expense for a white week
The most expensive item in the shopping cart is the six-day ski pass. In only four resorts (three in Italy and one in Finland) do they cost less than £200, and the best value is Bardonecchia which charges £150.24 for access to 110km of piste.
The Austrian resorts appear expensive (from £278 in Mayrhofen to £335 in Obergurgl), but again it’s Switzerland that comes out the most expensive, with Zermatt, Wengen and Saas-Fee hovering around £350.
On an individual basis, however, it’s always worth checking how many kilometers you get for your money and – in locations such as the Trois Vallées in France, where there are several individual stations with local areas – checking the cost of adding extra days to explore the wider ski area. It all depends on how adventurous and energetic a skier you are.
It’s also almost always worth paying for your ticket in advance and check the fare offered by your tour operator, changing exchange rates can mean it’s cheaper than buying it at the resort.
The best budget resorts for families
A separate report covering 26 destinations focuses on “family-friendly” resorts. There is some overlap with the main survey and the results are similar, with price increases ranging from 2.9 to 14.9 per cent over last year for a slightly different set of costs, this time for a family of two adults and two children aged six and eight.
One glimmer of optimism is Tignes in France, the only location in the entire survey where prices fell year-on-year – by 1.1 percent – for households. This was despite his lift pass being the most expensive of all for families (although it covers a huge area). Bansko (total basket: £1,548) is rated best value, followed by Bardonecchia (£1,749).
Once again it was Italy that shined overall. Along with Bardonecchia, the other four Italian ski resorts in the family survey – Passo Tonale (£1,766), Cervinia (£1,972), Sestriere £2,003) and La Thuile (£2,158) – occupy five of the top six spots – all rated excellent value for money for the 2022/23 season. The most expensive are Saas-Fee (£3,567.95) and Grindelwald (£3,632.51) in Switzerland.
How else to save money on a ski vacation
What the survey doesn’t cover is the basic cost of the holiday, including hotels, flights and packages. With these, it is much more difficult to make a meaningful comparison with last year, partly because prices are so fluid and strongly influenced by supply and demand, and partly because last season was still marred by the pandemic. I did some additional research to try and get more of a handle on this.
Starting with the flights, I found it easy to track down some very competitive fares for this season. You can still find great returns between London and Geneva, even on Saturdays (£60 on EasyJet from Luton, say, 14-21 January next year). Half term equivalent flights (11-18 Feb) were around £400, very high of course, but not out of line with normal expectations.
For package holidays, I looked at the prices collected for our online ski guides, which have just been updated from last year. Some have shown increases. The starting rate for a week at Villa Caryin, Sauze d’Oulx, Italy with Inghams has risen from £549 per person last season to £669 this year.
For others, prices have come down. The self-catering Résidence Le Hameau du Kashmir in Val Thorens (also with Inghams) drops from £869 to £799. Meanwhile, a Crystal Ski holiday at Hotel Tignes 2100, which cost £1,278 when booked in January 2022 departing on 2 April, has remained almost unchanged and is currently priced at £1,308 (departing 1 April 2023).
Variations in hotel rates also vary. For example, the cheapest night at Hotel Alex in Zermatt fell from £146 per person in 2022 to £153 in 2023. But the Lebenberg Schlosshotel in Kitzbühel fell from £104 to £64, while another hotel in Kitzbühel, the Tiefenbrunner, went from £125 to £139.
In short, as always, the lesson is just to hurry and book now if you have to travel on peak season dates. Otherwise, look at the snow reports, keep an eye out for prices in more than one destination, and for the best value, think of Italy this season.