sliding scale



sliding scale
resh mountain air, crystalline Alpine peaks, children
perked up by a fondue alongside a roaring fire after a
happy day’s sledging… ahh, the joys of a snowy break
are unbeatable.
However, a snowy break is not just the preserve of the
super-wealthy. In spite of skiing’s star credentials, this
can be a holiday option that’s easy on the pocket. With
some savvy planning, readers of all budgets (right up to
those with the glitziest tastes) can hit the slopes...
Luckily for us Brits, the pound currently offers more
bang for your buck against the Euro. We all know that to
keep costs down it’s best to avoid the big resorts during
school holidays and New Year, when accommodation and
flight prices rocket. The week before Christmas is always
cheaper and January tends to be quieter, when ‘deals’ are
easier to come across.
For bargain-hunters, hostels are popping up in some of
the top resorts, meaning those traveling on a limited
budget now have a greater choice. I’ve stayed in many
a motorway hotel, and these have tended to be rather
miserable affairs. However, these hotels have recently
upped their game and there are a few fantastic options
on the way down to Geneva, such as Premier Classe built
a couple of years ago, just off the motorway at Bourg
en Bresse where family rooms start at 30€ a night. (Top
tip: just around the corner you’ll find a fantastic alpine
restaurant; Le Petrin in Montagnat.) Another great little
The magic of the mountains
is calling! Seasoned skier
(and apres ski fan) Lisa
Juffkins shares her tips
for peak value.
hotel, just off the motorway at Geneva is the Inter-Hotel
Porte de Geneve.
Whatever your destination, self-catering apartments are
a great way to keep costs down. The cool kids swear by
Airbnb, Owners Direct and other rental sites – owners
renting out their homes are far more likely to offer you
a discount than a high-end hotel. Hostels are a great
option and mean a five-bedroom chalet with sauna
and wifi in Chamonix can be within your budget (visit and check out the Awa Chalet Pele!).
Saas Fee in Switzerland boasts Hostel 4000 – a modern,
sustainable dream with a supercool wellness centre and
fantastic bar and restaurant (
Purpose-built resorts such as Flaine in the Haut Savoie
region – one of the closest to Geneva and one of the
closest drives from Calais – may not be chocolate-box
cute, but millions have been invested in infrastructure,
Skiing <<
lifts and fantastic facilities for families and first-time
skiers. Flaine also boasts a magic carpet on the nursery
slope, which is ideal, especially for first-timers (skiing
with kids is hard enough without having to manoeuvre
old button lifts). We booked a fantastic apartment for six,
New Year’s Eve week in Flaine last year for 600€ in total
– it had everything we needed, including faux fur blankets
for cosying up on the patio. Visit and
you’ll find a list of property owners who are happy to
deal direct. Be aware: most of them are French and you
might have to use Google translate! Flaine allows you
to park outside your apartment for one hour to unload
before parking out of town and has one of the best snow
records in the Alps. It is part of the linked Grand Massif
region, linked to other ski resorts such as Samoens, Les
Carroz and Sixt-Fer-A-Cheval. It has 250km of pistes and
caters for beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers.
New this year is ‘Le Panoramic apartments’ in Flaine
Foret, in the best position in town, right at the bottom
of the nursery slopes. It’s a ski-in-ski-out property with
fantastic facilities, including indoor pool, sauna and boot
room and prices for the week start at 530€.
Avoriaz, which has some of the prettiest Alpine views,
is a completely car-free, purpose-built resort – you park
on the outskirts of town and travel by horse-drawn
carriage to your accommodation. There are a wide
choice of routes and varied terrains and is linked by
gondola to Morzine. It is popular with French families
for good reason – be sure to eat at the charming Le Petit
Lindaret for a lovely welcome and great daily specials.
A word of warning, though, readers: apartments tend
to be the typical French type: basic. If the blurb on the
hotel website says that the accommodation sleeps six,
this normally means one bedroom, a bunk bed in the
hallway and a sofabed. For a more comfortable stay,
book a bigger apartment – is worth
a visit. The resort has a few Pierre Vacances residences of
various star ratings – book direct to save money.
For those with a little more cash to splash, but still
looking for value, Austria seems to have it all. In fact,
some holidaymakers also say that once you ski in Austria,
you will never want to ski anywhere else. The country
is not necessarily the cheapest option because you
need to fly (into Innsbruck), but it combines the best of
modern Austrian design with traditional Alpine charm.
Solden (where some of the scenes for the latest Bond
film Spectre were filmed, no less!) has lively après ski,
just down the mountain from the famous ski resort
of Obergurgel. Snow is reliable, with a great network
of slopes and lifts, access to two glaciers for the more
advanced skier as well as the delights of tobogganing,
horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating and hiking. Hotel
Valentin is a great hotel right next to the main gondola
and slightly removed from the party strip which was
recently renovated and offers a great spot for sipping
mugs of gluhwein while the DJ plays. The hotel has a
ski hire shop in the basement, so you don’t have to trek
back through town with your equipment – convenience is
priceless with kids in tow.
Alternatively why not look to Italy? Madonna di
Campiglio in the Dolomites is famous for its high life. This
beautiful town offers great skiing and fantastic Italian
food (very little English is spoken here, so brush up on
your Italian if possible!). It became a very glamorous
resort in the 1800s, full of Austrian and European royalty
and is becoming more and more popular, with 150km of
connected pistes, 45 blue runs, 37 reds and 18 blacks.
Don’t miss the DoloMitica; the longest ski run, with the
greatest descent (5,750m long, with a vertical drop of
1,248m), the steepest downhill (70% gradient). Ursus
Snow Park is one of the top-five snowboard parks in
the Alps and the Pinzolo-Campiglio Express gondola lift
offers one of the best panoramic views in the Dolomites.
If you are lucky enough to afford a ski holiday in total
luxury, your options are endless! Tradtionally Switzerland
is the place to be. A favourite of the British Royal family
is Klosters, the summit of cool. This fantastically chic
resort combines traditional Swiss architecture with
ultra-modern facilities, attracting thousands for its fine
food and après ski. Check out The Oxford Ski Company
for stunning chalets that have been handpicked to offer
guests luxury, tailor-made ski holidays. Chalet Eugenia
is an elegant choice with 300km of world-class pistes
and impressively long, wide intermediate runs as well as
exciting off-piste skiing.
fly your private jets into Courchevel’s very own airport.
Situated in one of the largest ski areas in the world, The
Three Valleys is an exceptional, internationally renowned
ski resort, geared towards all levels of skiing. For
beginners, the Zen area is a brilliant space for you to learn
and build your confidence. For the more experienced,
red slopes don’t get much better! If food is of utmost
importance, this is the place: the town has more
Michelin-star restaurants than any other ski resort. For
après ski, head to the bar at the Denali (where you can
sit outside, wrapped in fur blankets sipping champagne...
bliss). Hotel les Airelles is heaven in the Alps, in an
incredibly charming setting. Chalet Tahoe sleeps 16 and
boasts an indoor pool.
Wherever you slope off to, savvy planning will help make
it affordable – see you in the bar!
France’s Courchevel is a playground for the extremely
rich and famous (including the Russian super-rich).
Getting there is even easier for those with deep pockets
– no messing around with flights and transfers, you can
• You can spend your Tesco clubcard points on
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle
• Fill plastic vacuum bags full of ski clothing to help
maximise space when packing
• Stock up at the supermarket at the bottom of the
mountain. Supermarkets in resort are very expensive,
even for essentials such as milk and toiletries.
• If your children are just learning to ski, they won’t
need a ski pass for your first week (nursery slopes and
lifts are free) at least, and probably only a half-day
pass as a morning’s skiing is tiring and they’ll want to
go in by lunchtime.
• If you have more than one child look at the price for
private lessons which can, in fact be cheaper than
group lessons. If you have young children, make the
most of your holiday setting by taking a day off to
enjoy free activities such as sledging, building a
snowman, walking and snuggling up with a hot
chocolate and a DVD together.
• It used to be that the cost of your ski gear was close
to the cost of the holiday, but now there’s an
affordable range out there. The kids will have grown
out of it the following year, so put it on Ebay and get
some money back.