Looking for a swish ski holiday on a budget? Check out our top tips for luxe 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.
View of the Pleney, Morzine
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.
Morzine in winter
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.
- Chalet Hibou dining room
- Chalet Les Gets
- Bedroom, Chalet Hibou
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.
- Dining room, Chalet Chouette
- Lounge, Chalet Chouette
- Lounge, Chalet Machermo
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…
- The fully catered experience with Reach4thealps
You might not think self-catering fits into your luxury ski holiday vision but I promise you, it can. Self-catering no longer means shabby, purpose-built flats in the midst of a bleak James-Bond-style block. Oh no, smart apartments of slate and glass are within reach, my friend! Reach4thealps
have eight self-catered chalets, just as glossy and lovely as their catered ones. A little birdy just told me that La Ferme
(both sleeping 15/16 with hot tubs, gardens and saunas, no less) have just gone live on the website, are 2 mins walk from the central ski lift and…wait for it…will have fab prices as they are new to the Reach4thealps fold. There you go! Luxury for less. Don’t ever say we at Muddy aren’t right in the thick of it with the in-the-know juicy stuff.
If you don’t fancy cooking, get a chef over. Chez Toi
and Chalet Kitchen
, both based in Morzine, will deliver any or all of your meals at the click of a finger (well, they might need a little more notice) so it’s bye bye cheese on toast and hello lovely home-cooked meals for a fraction of the price of a mountain restaurant. It’s a great way to keep costs down but still get you that dream ski holiday.
Right, accommodation sorted, we picked the brains of Gina, owner of Reach4thealps, to give us her top tips of how else to rein in the cash.
Pop home for lunch
OK, OK, it sounds boring and I’d much rather lounge about draped in fur in some mega-mountain gaff glugging rosé by the magnum and waiting for the shots to start coming my way. But I’ve got kids in tow and one of them eats more than me and then they demand pud and when the bill comes I fall off my chair. Luckily, Morzine is a small enough resort, with runs right down into the village centre, to make lunch at home or at one of the local bakeries easy-peasy and way less spenny. Leaving much more dosh for the toffee vodkas at the end of the day, thank you very much.
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.
The view from Chalets Hibou and Chouette
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.
Skiing down the Pleney
Chalet companies will often offer huge discounts if you rent skis and boots from their preferred partners – as much as 40% off. However, it’s worth remembering when hiring equipment that not all ski hire is created equal – choose a company that genuinely use top of the range equipment (even if you’re a beginner) and not just one that says they do. It can make a massive difference to your skiing. Might even change you from beginner to expert-whizz dropping out of a helicopter within a week… Francois Baud
in the centre of Morzine (quite frankly the best possible location to hire your skis from. Mere metres from the lifts and only a short stumble back from the bar at the end of the day) offer fab discounts on top-of-the-range brand-new ski equipment, plus they will keep your ski and boots nice and toasty overnight for you in heated storage lockers. You can tell the high standard of gear here not just by looking, but from staff who know what they are talking about and the equipment you can see in the back room used to maintain it all.
A bit like ski hire – shop around. Then shop around some more. Ski lessons are not a natural place for massive discounts but you might wangle a sibling discount out of them. This is the one area I wouldn’t scrimp on, however. There is a huge difference between a small, locally-run ski school where the instructor speaks good English, doesn’t ditch your kid when they’re throwing a wobbly and there are less than forty-five kids in a class, compared to some of the huge French national schools (kids get lost. They do. They just don’t tell you. Trust me, I’ve heard stories). I’m plumping for the lovely Jaz from British Alpine Ski School
for excellent lessons – they have a tip-top reputation and actually take the time to listen to you during the lesson – they are all about developing the individual rather than just teaching a group lesson. No screaming at me to get my lazy butt up off the snow then… Plus, they have a huge range of courses, all the instructors are Brits so they’ll get my shocking sense of humour and maximum group sizes are only 6.
As one of the original and best British ski schools in Morzine, these guys are in high demand through the bulk of the season – so book early – but they do offer packages for beginners during the early season and quiet January weeks, that include discounted lift passes.
Don’t fly! This has been my major revelation in the past few years – obviously for short breaks you need to fly but otherwise, seriously think about driving. Morzine is one of the closest resorts to the UK mainland, the drive is perfectly do-able from Calais and you’ll knock out the whole journey, including super-speedy Euro Tunnel
and all tolls, for well under £700. That’s in total, not per person. No fanny-ing around the airport (spending money!), no hanging around for transfers and, especially in peak weeks, no £500-a-head flights. Might want to invest in iPads and headphones for the Mudlets though or the journey might seriously test your sanity…
Ah, now we’re talking the fun stuff. No, I don’t mean dancing on the tables in ski boots with a bottle of schnapps in hand, although now you mention it…There are other ways to save a bit of cash and still go luxe. Book the kids into all-day ski school and save the mountain fondue feasts just for yourself. You’ll save a fortune on their lunches and they’ll be more than happy with a bowl of pasta with their mates.
Not so much money-saving but more having-a-fab-holiday…don’t forget to indulge in the fun stuff to do outside of skiing. morzine-avoriaz.com
has loads of cool things to do from biathlon (no, I’m not joking) to paragliding, heli-skiing, nordic walking, snowmobiling, ice diving (!!) and night-sledging, which is truly awesome. Heard of ski Joëring? Nope, me neither but it looks like it involves a horse and skis and might be a lot of fun. With a lot of gin in my system first.
- Night sledging in Morzine
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.
Need any more convincing? Doubt it, my lovely Muddlies. Get going and book now for the best luxury deals out there, and check out for yourself what Morzine has to offer.
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…
Chalets Hibou and Chouette in the centre of Morzine