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How To Plan a Ski Trip on a Backpacker’s Budget

Traditionally, skiing and backpacking haven't been a likely combination, what with the cost of rentals and insurance, not to mention all those pricey restaurants and top-level mountain resorts.

But it's not always necessary to go with the Michelin-starred option. Considering alternative locations and travel options, you may find you can do a budget ski holiday after all.

Skiing at Montgenevre (photo: Michael Coiffard)
Skiing at Montgenevre (photo: Michael Coiffard)

The first thing to look at is your destination. You may have heard of the Three Valleys in France and the Tirol region in Austria, but if you delve further east, there are little-known gems in places like Romania and Bulgaria.

Slovenia shares the same Alpine good looks as neighboring Switzerland, but a holiday to Vogel can offer family-run hotels within walking distance of the slopes for much lower rates.

For Western Europe, Andorra has always offered a cheaper alternative to France, though recent years have seen redevelopment and raised prices.

However, resorts like Soldeu are still a good alternative for backpackers with their duty-free shopping and self-catering options.

Going for the underdog can make skiing much more affordable. Try the French Pyrenees instead of the Alps and enjoy the small, traditional villages around Avajan while you're at it.

Montgenevre (photo: Will Noakes)
Montgenevre (photo: Will Noakes)

Or avoid the obvious and stay in Montgenevre on the French-Italian border rather than Sestriere.

It's more family-oriented, but the savings and the relaxed, low-key vibe may be worth it.

Some general tips will still help when planning your ski holidays. Group travel can save you significantly if you split a chalet and share a hire car.

Another way around the budget is to stay within traveling distance of the good snow without paying the doorstep rates.

So access the Kitzbuheler ski area by Soll, situated in the middle of ten ski areas, with a doable 1 km journey to the slopes via the ski bus.

Bottom line: it's all about shopping around and getting your timing right.

The peak months of February and March are best avoided, and if you don't mind the less reliable snow forecasts, the time for deals is November or April.

Gear costs can also be controlled by looking for sales in advance or searching online. For example, if you check out the best freestyle snowboards during the off-season, you'll likely get at least 10-25% off the price.

The good news is that ski holidays on a shoestring are perfectly possible, so long as you're prepared to sacrifice a little convenience and do some bargain-hunting.


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Richard Crest

Monday 4th of March 2013

Skiing is an exciting sport, It would be fun to include Three Valleys in France in my itinerary this year. When is the best time to travel there?


Wednesday 20th of February 2013

Great tips... There's a lot of students studying abroad who want to take advantage of the winter months but can't afford to spend 200 euro for two days of skiing or snowboarding in super-pricey Interlaken.

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