Ski Luxury for Less
Half term done? Check. Mudlets back at school? Check. No more schlepping around Legoland, Kidzania and endless trampoline parks? Double check. Now it’s time to put your feet up with a good book/box set of The Walking Dead/large G&T and start flicking through those travel websites. Immediately after a school holiday is the most popular time to book the next holiday (of course. In my imagination I’m permanently on a yacht in a white bikini with a bod like Angelina) and early November is THE top time to book a skiing jaunt.
Right then, it’s powder days and goggle tans, I’m gonna need a new ski jacket and let’s make sure the chalet has a hot tub and…whoa! Stop right there, lady. The euro has gone sky high and the measly pound’s gone to pot and my budget won’t buy me diddly squat, will it? And what about the disappearing snow, don’t I have to go super high up? Well no, you don’t actually. Your best friend Muddy is here with some very clever ways to make your money go further. We have picked the brains of the people in the know and they are here to show you just how to have that super-luxe holiday you want (no, you deserve) for less.
Having skied a few Christmases on grass (hay, even. That was an interesting experience) I was starting to think that many ski resorts aren’t worth skiing in the early season when prices are low. Tignes, Val Thorens, the bold-brash office blocks of Ishgl, even Whistler and Keystone, these were the only resorts that could guarantee snow, with their purpose-built smugness and tip-top prices and peaks well above 3000m. Although Ishgl is worth the trip for their famous start- and end-of-season Top of the Mountain concerts that attract an A-list of international stars – Elton John, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner et al – but that’s another story… But I was wrong. Turns out, with the issue of climate change lurking in the background, more and more lower resorts are making snow from the water in local lakes or reservoirs and, ta da!, white everywhere! Even in Colorado, around 98% of resorts are reliant on what can be created by machines.
Closer to home, the top resort in Europe for keeping the slopes open – and not purely by making snow, they also conserve the downfalls they have early in the season and manage the slopes carefully – is Portes du Soleil. Les Portes du Soleil encompasses thirteen resorts between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland, primarily Avoriaz, Morzine and Les Gets. A bumper bonus is that Morzine and Lets Gets are a mere 90 minute transfer from Geneva airport, so no long coach journeys up windy mountain roads with puking Mudlets. Plus, by making snow and keeping the runs open, we’re on for both early and late skiing, so you can get super-luxe winter hols without paying the prices of mid Feb. This means that the waaaaay less expensive weeks at the very beginning of the season (sometimes even Christmas week, depending when the big day itself falls) and all of April are serious contenders for a great week’s skiing.
Cool chalets for super-cool prices
Back to the weak pound. Ugh!, I hear you shout but hold fire, Muddys – precisely because of this there are some amazing ski deals out there this year, and now is the time to bag a bargain. I’m not talking cheap-as-chips 6-to-a-bed nonsense, I’m talking luxury here – high-end designed chalets, cow-skin rugs, floor-to-ceiling glass and posh smellies in the bathroom. You just need to be a bit clever when you start to look…
There are some great deals offering luxe for less through some of the larger ski operators – ski chalet specialists Ski Total have stays in La Tania so you can explore the leviathan that is the Three Valleys, and Skiline has offers in super-luxe Meribel-Mottaret – but travelling this way will primarily be package holidays and your flexibility can be limited. Our bet is to ditch the big brands and go straight to the chalets themselves for the best deals on luxury.
We have scoured what’s out there and have come up with a true gem – our top tip for luxe for less this winter is Reach4thealps, a growing chalet company offering catered and self-catering stays in Morzine, Lets Gets and Montriond, the perfect base to explore the massive ski area of Portes Du Soleil. If you have a snoop now, you can get up to 33% off New Year week and they might even chuck in some free lift passes if you’re lucky. Fancy Christmas in the Alps? You can get a whopping 25% off Christmas week luxury, which will also bag you a free Portes Du Soleil kid’s ski pass (worth €200!) with every adult pass bought. The first week of the season (starts 16 December this year) and April skiing will get you even better value, often with free transfers, so you’ve got more squids to spend on that Perfect Moment ski sweater I know you’ve got your eye on.
With one of their chalets ranked no 2 on Tripadvisor, if you’re after a super-luxe holiday – think chalets bang in the centre of town with your own dedicated mini-bus/driver combo to drive you to the slopes, then on to the bar and home in time for tea, grown-up chalet staff (no chucking spag-bol at you in a rush to get to the pub), delicious food and a 70% rate of repeat guests (beat that!) – Reach4thealps are properly ‘Muddy.’ Run by Scottish husband-and-wife team Gina and Marcus and their amazing staff, this is proper luxury without having to sell off the kids. In fact, your Muddy team are off to have a snoop for ourselves this December so we will report back with a mega Muddy review after Christmas, just in time for you to get booking for Easter. Although you might not recognise me after I scoff all this delicious food…
Pop home for lunch
Make it a weekend
So, you’d rather have a whole week but the budget doesn’t stretch that far? How about a weekend or short break instead? A 3-night stay means less time off work, less time for Granny to cope with the little cherubs and you can still get four full days skiing if you are clever with your timings. Reach4thealps offer a myriad of catered short breaks and, with transfers and ski passes included, they make for amazing value.
Kids go free
Keep a beady eye out for deals offering free accommodation for children. Inghams, Esprit Ski and Iglu Ski are all offering Kids Go Free deals. Reach4thealps offers free Portes du Soleil lift passes for children under 12 with the purchase of an adult pass this Easter, for weeks commencing 31 March and 7 April – bang in the middle of the hols! Some resorts offer completely free skiing to kids under 7, other have free children’s skiing during certain weeks. You can even find resorts where Granny and Grandpa get to ski for free.In Portes du Soleil, early booking on ski passes and family passes can save as much as 15% and if you’re planning on hanging out for more than a few weeks you can get ridiculously cheap prices on season passes (kids go free for the whole season when you buy an adult season pass). Even if you are skiing with a group of adults you can make huge savings – morzine-avoriaz.com has a myriad of ski pass combos to choose from.
Are you a boarder? Our fave snowboard school on the mountain is Real Snowboarding – fun, cool and serious about their boarding, these guys are the real deal. The main men, Barry and Dave, teach all levels of snowboarding but thrive on coaching freestyle boarding (they both coach the British Military freestyle snowboard teams and Barry coaches the British junior snowboard team, so they know their biscuits). They run lessons for all abilities but their snowboard camps are a must for all keen boarders (my son loves them), plus they are the only BASI snowboard trainers in the Portes du Soleil area so if you’re up there with the best and want to train as an instructor, these are your guys. Book now for their winter snowboarding camp 18-25 March, aimed at intermediate and above snowboarders looking to get into the snow park…details will be on their website soon so watch this space.
Activities and apres-ski
Don’t fancy the Alps this year? It doesn’t have to be hugely expensive to go further afield. Iglu Ski is offering family trips to Lapland this Christmas, with a three or four day break including festive activities such as sleigh rides, a visit to see the elves and of course the big man himself. Or chase the powder across the pond with deals in Mammoth with Ski Safari. Norway is the hot new luxe place to go – Voss Resort in the Norwegian fjords is the perfect skiing destination for powder, off-piste and ski-touring, with – big tick – uncrowded slopes. Or – don’t laugh – adventurers after a powder paradise are heading to the mountains of Iran. Snoworks is running a trip to Iran’s top resorts for British skiers in March, with tour operator Mountain Heaven.
Ready to book?
Watch this space and check out my review early in the New Year and if you haven’t booked by then, trust me, you’re going to! Who knows, a few more tips like these and you might even stretch your budget to two ski holidays this year…