Ski resorts in Europe are rejoicing as the season begins without disruption for the first time two years. The bad news for skiers this winter? According to the latest Post Office survey of European ski resorts, compared with last year, prices have risen across the board.
The good news? Many of the increases are less than the current rate of inflation. And one major destination in particular – Italy – is looking particularly good value.
The report was compiled with ski tour operator, Crystal Ski Holidays, and reveals that a shopping basket combining local costs – from the price of a six-day lift pass, kit hire and ski lessons to food and drink – has gone up between 0.9 and 22 per cent since 2021/22.
The lowest rises are in the Italian resorts of Bardonecchia (0.9 per cent) and Sauze d’Oulx (3.3 per cent), and in La Plagne, France (2.4 per cent). The highest (22 per cent) is in Wengen, Switzerland.
The cheapest resorts in Europe
Overall, the cheapest resort for adult skiers (a different survey covers family costs – see below) was Borovets in Bulgaria. Here a shopping basket including a six-day lift pass, ski hire, ski school and the costs of eating and drinking, totals £506.03. This is despite the fact that prices here have risen 12.8 percent compared with last year.
But for most skiers, it will be the excellent value offered by the six Italian resorts in the survey which catches the eye. Five of them are rated among the top ten best-value destinations.
Most notable is Bardonecchia, on the border with France about an hour west of Turin, which was second overall. Its basket totalled £512.61 and it had the cheapest ski pass of all the resorts surveyed (see below). The other four other Italian resorts in the top ten were 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 are far more costly than the rest – with shopping baskets registering totals between £1,177 and £1,367 – well over double the cheapest destinations.
The increasing strength of the Swiss Franc also means that they recorded some of the highest price rises. These range from 11 per cent in Saas-Fee, to 22 per cent in Zermatt. It’s worth noting, however, that if you want to ski in Zermatt this season, you could always base yourself in the Italian resort of Cervinia – which is linked to the same domain and is a much much cheaper place to stay.
While the data provide a fascinating overview, you do have to interpret it carefully – costs for individuals will depend on different factors. For example, in the survey, the overall price rise registered for Tignes in France is 11.1 percent. But within that basket, the lift pass has gone up more than 28 per cent since last season and ski hire is up 29 per cent.
Ski school however is less than three per cent more expensive. So if you don’t take lessons, and you don’t have your own kit, the overall percentage rise is much higher than 11 per cent.
The biggest expense on a ski holiday
The most expensive item in the shopping basket is the six-day lift pass. In only four resorts (three in Italy and one in Finland) do they cost less than £200, and the best value by a very long way is Bardonecchia which charges £150.24 for access to 110km of pistes.
Austrian resorts look expensive (from £278 in Mayrhofen to £335 in Obergurgl), but once again it is Switzerland that comes out as the most costly, with Zermatt, Wengen and Saas-Fee all charging around £350.
On an individual basis, however, it’s always worth checking how many kilometers you will get for your money, and – in resorts like 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 domain. It all depends on how adventurous and energetic a skier you are.
It is also nearly always worth paying for your ticket in advance – and check the rate being offered by your tour operator, changing exchange rates may mean that it is better value than buying it in the resort.
The top budget-friendly resorts for families
A separate report covering 26 destinations focusses on ‘family-friendly’ resorts. There is some overlap with the main survey and the results are similar, with price rises of between 2.9 an 14.9 percent over last year for a slightly different basket 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 resort in the whole survey where prices have fallen year on year – by 1.1 per cent – for families. This is despite the fact that its ski pass was the most expensive of all for families (though it covers a huge area). Bansko (total basket: £1,548) is rated best value, followed by Bardonecchia (£1,749).
Again it was Italy that shines 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) – fill five of the top six places – all rated excellent value for the 2022/23 season. Most expensive are Saas-Fee (£3,567.95) and Grindelwald (£3,632.51) in Switzerland.
How else to save money on a ski holiday
What the survey doesn’t cover, is the base cost of the holiday – including the hotels, flights and packages. With these, it’s much harder to make a meaningful comparison with last year, partly because prices are so fluid and so hugely affected by supply and demand, and partly because last season was still blighted by the pandemic. I did some additional research to try to get more of a handle on this.
Starting with flights, I found it easy to track down some very competitive fares for this season. You can still find excellent value returns between London and Geneva – even on Saturdays (£60 with EasyJet from Luton, for example, from January 14-21 next year). The equivalent flights at half term (February 11-18) were around £400 – very high obviously, but not out of line with usual expectations.
For package holidays, I looked at the prices gathered for our online ski guides, which have just been updated from last year. Some showed rises. The starting rate for a week in Villa Caryin, Sauze d'Oulx, in Italy with Inghams has gone up 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) falls from £869 to £799. Meanwhile, a Crystal Ski holiday to the Hotel Tignes 2100, which cost £1,278 when booked in January 2022 for a departure on April 2, has hardly changed and is currently priced at £1,308 (departing on April 1, 2023).
Changes in hotel rates also vary. As examples, the cheapest night at the Hotel Alex in Zermatt rose from £146 per person in 2022 to £153 in 2023. But the Lebenberg Schlosshotel in Kitzbühel dropped from £104 to £64, while another hotel in Kitzbühel – the Tiefenbrunner – went up from £125 to £139.
In short, as always, the lesson is only to rush into booking now if you have to travel on peak season dates. Otherwise, watch the snow reports, keep an eye on prices in more than one destination and, for the best value, think about Italy this season.