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How To Ride World Class Resorts Without Breaking the Bank

Worried the world's best spots are beyond your budget? They can be cheaper than you think...

Legendary Swiss snowboarder Romain de Marchi launches a backside 5 over the heads of startled skiers in Avoriaz - a world class resort that needn't cost the earth to ride. Photo: Julien 'Perly' Petry
Legendary Swiss snowboarder Romain de Marchi launches a backside 5 over the heads of startled skiers in Avoriaz – a world class resort that needn’t cost the earth to ride. Photo: Julien ‘Perly’ Petry

There are plenty of articles out there already advising people how to get onto the slopes more cheaply.

All too often however the travel advice consists of variations on a single theme – go to Bulgaria, or Poland, or Romania or some other country where the booze is strong, the currency is weak and the liftpasses come cheap.

But the reason resorts like Bansko in Bulgaria, or Baisoara in Romania are less pricey to ride is that the lift systems are small, the pistes aren’t particularly well groomed (just this week World Cup racers were complaining about the state of the course in Bulgaria) and the parks are pretty much non-existent.

Standard travel advice is usually to go somewhere where the booze is strong, the currency is weak and the liftpasses are cheap.

If you’re a beginner or you want an out-there off piste adventure, then great. But for most skiers and snowboarders they’ll never match up to the massive lift-linked ski areas you’ll enjoy in France or Austria.

However, if you’re savvy a trip to one of these world class resorts doesn’t have to be insanely expensive, especially when you start looking at alternative accommodation options…


1) Morzine / Avoriaz – The Independent Hostel Option – Rude Lodge

Morzine Village. Photo: Morzine-Avoriaz tourist board
Morzine Village. Photo: Morzine-Avoriaz tourist board

If you want to ride the 650km of pistes that make up the Portes du Soleil but keep your costs reasonable then Morzine is your best option.

Accommodation and living costs in the area’s largest town tended to be the cheapest anyway, but this season the options became even cheaper with the opening of the Rude Lodge.

The Rude Lodge cafe interior. Photo: Rude Chalets
The Rude Lodge cafe interior. Photo: Rude Chalets

Set up by the people behind the snowboard friendly Rude Chalets, the lodge is basically a youth hostel in the Alps. As long as you don’t mind sharing with strangers, you can book a single bed instead of having to take a whole room.

This season the options became even cheaper with the opening of the Rude Lodge

You can stay as few as three nights instead of being locked in to a whole week and you can choose to opt in or out of food, depending on your budget – though given the quality of their cooking, we’d recommend opting in.

Dorm beds in the Rude Lodge. Photo: Rude Chalets
Dorm beds in the Rude Lodge. Photo: Rude Chalets

Best of all, you can still enjoy some of the perks that Rude Chalets’ guests get, like being able to rent brand new Burton snowboards for your stay.

Cost: From £28 per person per night or £195 per week


2) Courchevel / Val Thorens – The Self Catered Option – Pierre & Vacances

La Tania. Photo: Pierre et Vacances
La Tania. Photo: Pierre et Vacances

If there’s a group of you, self-catering is an obvious way to keep the costs down on a ski or snowboard trip.

French company Peirre & Vacances offer probably the largest range of self-catered apartments in the Alps.

Residence Le Britannia in La Tania. Photo: Pierre et Vacances
Residence Le Britannia in La Tania. Photo: Pierre et Vacances

But while cooking for yourself will help you save, you can save even more by choosing an apartment in one of the outlying resorts of a major ski area.

Both La Tania which sits between Courchevel and Meribel, and Les Menuieres, just below Val Thorens, are part of the Three Valleys lift system, but both are many times cheaper than their more famous neighbours.

Cost: From £203 per week for a 2 person studio in Les Menuieres (Residence Les Combes), or £420 per week for a 4 person apartment in La Tania (Residence Le Britannia)


3) Chamonix – The French Package Option – UCPA Argentiere

Chamonix's famous Aguille du Midi. Photo: Wikipedia
Chamonix’s famous Aguille du Midi. Photo: Wikipedia

UCPA, which stands for the National Union of Outdoor Sports Centres, is an organisation that was set up by the French government to provide cheap outdoor activity holidays to people who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

It’s little known outside of France, but if you’re aged 18-39, it can be a ridiculously cheap way to go on a skiing or snowboarding holiday.

If you’re aged 18-39 it can be a ridiculously cheap way to go skiing or snowboarding

Best of all, there are UCPA’s in many of the biggest resorts, including in Argentiere, Chamonix.

The UCPA in Argentiere. Photo: Travelblog.com
The UCPA in Argentiere. Photo: Travelblog.com

Accommodation is usually in dorms and the whole thing has a youth hostel vibe, but there are all sorts of perks like free rental gear and cheap lessons from highly qualified in-house instructors.

Cost: £208 per person for 4 days, including all meals. 


4) Les 2 Alpes / Alpe d’Huez – The Air BnB Option – Grenoble

Les 2 Alpes Photo: Wikipedia
Les 2 Alpes Photo: Wikipedia

Air BnB has revolutionised the accommodation so completely that if I was a hotel owner, I’d be shitting it.

But while the website works beautifully well in cities where there are lots of folk looking to rent out apartments, if you start searching in ski resorts it’s a different story.

Occasionally you will find some bargains (there are actually some great options in Les 2 Alpes for example) but often they’ll be the same apartments that are listed everywhere else online, with the same booking conditions – minimum 7 night stays from Saturday-to-Saturday for example.

You can score some truly incredible bargains by looking at cities near big resorts.

If you’re in a group though and are prepared to rent a car (or drive your own out), you can score some truly incredible bargains by looking at cities near big resorts.

Grenoble. Not just a pretty face, it's got a decent nightlife too.
Grenoble. Not just a pretty face, it’s got a decent nightlife too.

Grenoble is a case in point – it’s an easy drive from two world class resorts (just under an hour from the Vaujany base of Alpe d’Huez and 1hr 5m to Les Deux Alpes) and even closer to a plethora of quality smaller ones (20 minutes from Chamrousse, 40 from Les 7 Laux).

Plus you can rent a renovated period flat for four people for just over £10 per night!

Air BnB offers a plethora of ridiculously cheap options, especially for groups who can split the cost. Photo: Screenshot
Air BnB offers a plethora of ridiculously cheap options, especially for groups who can split the cost. Photo: Screenshot

Obviously additional costs like car rental need to be factored in but you’ll have a far better selection of reasonably-priced bars and restaurants, you’ll save on supermarket prices and, best of all, you can ride a different resort every day should you wish…

Cost: £45 per night for a 4 person flat.


5) Stubai / Kitzbuhel – The YHA Option – Innsbruck

Kitzbuhel. Photo: Markus Mitterer / Tourist board
Kitzbuhel. Photo: Markus Mitterer / Tourist board

OK so these two resorts aren’t actually linked, or even particularly close together. But they are part of a massive lift system with more than 500km of pistes that you can access on a single liftpass.

Introduced just recently, the Innsbruck Super Pass allows holders to ride at 11 separate resorts all within easy bus reach of the ‘capital of the Alps’. It also includes bus travel between the town and the resorts.

Kitzbuhel has one of the best snowparks in the Alps. Photo: Jan Zach / Tourist board
Kitzbuhel has one of the best snowparks in the Alps. Photo: Jan Zach / Tourist board

By staying down in the city you can of course take advantage of cheap food and drink prices.

You could always go for an Air BnB apartment but there’s also the option of the local YHA youth hostel, where beds start from just £16 per night.

Innsbruck's river front is really pretty. Photo: Wikipedia
Innsbruck’s river front is really pretty. Photo: Wikipedia

Plus, if you’re staying in Innsbruck, you can sample the delights of the local nightlife…

Cost: Dorm beds start from £16 per person per night. 

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