How to bring Switzerland’s best ski resorts within your reach this winter

From Zermatt to Verbier, it’s easy to assume that Switzerland’s resorts are out of reach for all but the super wealthy. With these money saving hacks, however, even the country’s ritziest resorts will be well within your grasp.Friday, 8 November 2019

Valais has 47 mountains over 4,000 metres high and the highest-altitude ski regions in Switzerland with a guarantee of snow on around 1,250 miles of pistes in winter.
Valais has 47 mountains over 4,000 metres high and the highest-altitude ski regions in Switzerland with a guarantee of snow on around 1,250 miles of pistes in winter.
photo by Getty

With some of the world's most iconic mountains, the most peaks in Europe over 13,000ft, and glaciers aplenty for year-round skiing, Switzerland has long had the hearts of ski aficionados. But while the high price tag that comes with it can be off-putting, there are plenty of ways to make the most of the pistes on a budget.

1. Get there for less
While many no-frills airlines charge close to £100 for a bag plus your skis and boots, you don’t have to blow your budget on ski carriage. If you own your ski gear, you’ll get the most bang for your buck with SWISS, which has regular, competitively priced, flexible flights to Geneva from convenient airports like London City, Heathrow and Gatwick (seasonal only). SWISS will transport your first set of skis/snowboard, boots, poles and helmet free of charge in addition to your free standard baggage allowance (and that’s an impressive 23kg in Economy Class). For the cheapest fares, book your ticket well in advance and plan your resort transfer. There’s a train station at Geneva Airport, which means a hassle-free connection and, as Swiss trains run like clockwork, you won’t be waiting around. The Swiss Federal Railway network and Postbus serve most ski resorts with supersaver tickets and the Swiss Travel Pass Flex, offering competitive deals alongside minivan and bus transfers.

2. Affordable rooms
On the border between France, Switzerland and Germany, Geneva is a convenient jumping-off point for many ski resorts, including Chamonix, Megève and La Clusaz in France, with just a two-three-hour transfer to Valais’ top ski resorts of Verbier, Zermatt, Saas Fee and Crans-Montana in Switzerland. For budget-friendly resorts, Champéry is a sure bet, but don’t assume that the rest of the country’s resorts will blow your budget. Crans-Montana and Saas Fee have plenty of self-catered apartments on the outskirts, which means you can cook evening meals and prepare a packed lunch for the slopes. Some Swiss hotels also issue a tourist card giving discounts at local stores, restaurants and attractions. Meanwhile, the Swiss Youth Hostels Association has some stunning lodging in the centre of some of the country’s most upmarket resorts, including Zermatt, where a bunk bed in shared room with breakfast costs as little as £32 a night in January.

January offers some of the lowest prices for a ski trip and is often the month with the best snow conditions.
January offers some of the lowest prices for a ski trip and is often the month with the best snow conditions.
photo by Getty

3. Timing is everything
January offers some of the lowest prices for a ski trip and is often the month with the best snow conditions, although it tends to be a little chilly. Prices are also lower in December (excluding the Christmas-New Year period) and in late April, when the spring sun can make some low, south-facing slopes a little slushy in the late afternoon and it’s important to choose a high-altitude Valais resort. Canny planning can also cut the price of a ski pass. Save up to 30% by booking via SwissPasses.com — in some resorts it will deliver directly to your hotel, which means no queuing and more time skiing. Clever timing can also cut the cost of your apres ski. Start in the late afternoon, when happy hour tends to run from 4-5pm and live music provides free entertainment while you relax in the sun. Just remember in the morning to take a water bottle on the slopes. There are free fountains everywhere — and Swiss tap water tastes good, especially with a hangover.  

Three resorts to try

For all the family: If you’re not fussed about apres ski, try Grimentz-Zinal, a quiet alpine village, around 100 miles east of Geneva with uncrowded pistes and dramatic mountain scenery. 

For dawn-to-dusk skiing: Any one of the three Jungfrau ski resorts of Grindelwald, Wengen and Murren are ideal for all those determined to be on the first ski lift, and out on the slopes all day. The area has 128 miles of slopes, offering everything from beginner and intermediate skiing to challenging off-piste options.

For those looking to party: While the drinks don’t come cheap, the party scene in Verbier is second to none. Start on the mountain at Bar 1936, which is cheaper than most before ending in Farm Club, a veritable Verbier institution and one of the most famous nightclubs in the alps.

Swiss has regular, competitively priced, flexible flights to Geneva from convenient airports like London City or Heathrow.
Swiss has regular, competitively priced, flexible flights to Geneva from convenient airports like London City or Heathrow.
photo by SWISS

Essentials

Getting there
SWISS operates over 170 weekly flights to Zürich and Geneva from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Dublin. Over February half term, the airline also operates flights from London to Sion. Fares from £82 one-way including ski carriage are subject to availability.

For more information go to swiss.com

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