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How to save money on a ski holiday: Book early, travel late and six other expert tips

Travel Helpdesk: Skiing getaways aren’t cheap, but they don’t have to be wildly expensive either

A skiing holiday is not cheap, but it doesn’t have to be wildly expensive either. Here are some tips and tricks to help reduce the cost.

Book early

Ski pass prices are pretty inflexible but booking flights, accommodation and gear gets pricier as the ski season nears. So as soon as you make the decision to go skiing, make the bookings and don’t be holding out for last-minute deals which will not materialise.

Beg and borrow (but perhaps not steal) the gear

See if you can get what you need from friends or family – style should not come into the picture on the slopes – and as long as the clothes fit and keep you warm, they’ll be grand. Keep an eye on the middle aisles in Lidl and Aldi for ski gear in the weeks and months ahead, and if you have stuff to buy, buy it late in the season when it’s on sale.

Travel late in the season

The snow is much better in the dead of winter, but the value to be found is much worse and you will still be able to knock a lot of craic out of a ski holiday in March. And at the risk of stating the obvious, pay close attention the school holidays and mid-terms, at home and in other countries. You don’t want to go skiing when children from here, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands or anywhere else are on their holliers.

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Cast a wide net

France, Austria and Italy are obviously the holy trinity for skiing and snowboarding, but Slovakia, Bulgaria and Andorra are much cheaper. Even in the dear places, there are price discrepancies to be exploited. You can easily get from Bride Les Bain in France’s Three Valleys to Mirebel on a cable car, but accommodation in the former is considerably cheaper.

DIY might be your friend

We were able to find accommodation in Bansko in Bulgaria for a week in January for not much more than €200, while a ski pass costs €40 a day. The skis, boots and helmet for the week is another hundred, while return flights from Dublin to Plovdiv, 150km away, cost €200. Food and drink is very, very cheap there too. Adding up the numbers, two adults going it alone next January could get a week on the slopes for €600 per person.

Make a sandwich

While the idea of a packed lunch on the slopes might seem like a penny pinch too far, a hastily thrown together ham roll and a bag of Tayto – or the Alpine equivalent – eaten al fresco each day for seven days will easily save you the guts of €100. And it’s not like the lunchtime restaurants are amazing.

Consider a hostel

Yes, you might have fantasies of living your best Last Christmas life in a fully catered chalet, but if your aim is to ski – and maybe party – sleeping is largely consequential and hostels can cost as little as 30 quid a night.

Don’t forget ski operators

A half-board or even full-board package deal that includes passes and transfers takes a lot of the hassle out of what can be a complex holiday, and can be excellent value for money. It also brings the peace of mind that comes with knowing your holiday investment is better protected, should the world of international travel go pear-shaped again.

Have a question or topic you would like Conor Pope to cover? Email travelhelpdesk@irishtimes.com

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor