Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Skiing In Europe: It's Cheaper Than You Think

I have a number of clients who are dedicated skiers and I’ve had experience planning group vacations for skiers too. I’ve discovered that one of the top misconceptions of skiers is that skiing in Europe is beyond their reach. What they don’t realize is that American ski resorts are the ones that can and do charge top dollar. After they’ve been to Park City, Steamboat Springs and Aspen they’re surprised to discover they can ski Innsbruck, St. Moritz and Méribel for less.

Air travel to Europe in the winter is generally the cheapest all year, European lift tickets are a great buy and European ski hotel packages include valuable extras not usually found in the U.S. To illustrate this, I priced a real-world vacation for two people shown in the graphic above. For this comparison, I chose luxury resort hotels that are acknowledged to be among the best in their areas.

In the Colorado example, I chose the Vail/Beaver Creek Ski Area; the hotel: The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch. The rate shown is for a standard lodge room and includes all taxes and fees and no meals. This gorgeous resort offers luxury accommodations and a true ski-in / ski-out experience. Six-day lift tickets for two allow unlimited skiing at Beaver Creek and Vail Mountain, the largest ski area in the United States. The car is a standard SUV from Hertz including all taxes and fees, but no additional insurance.

For my French example, I chose Courchevel, one of the villages in the Trois Vallées ski area, the largest in the world. My hotel choice is the Hôtel Byblos des Neiges in a standard room. The Byblos is a small luxury hotel with one of the best restaurants in the area. European ski hotels are usually smaller than their American counterparts and are sold with meal plans. The rate I used includes breakfast and dinner each day – this can be a substantial savings when compared to the U.S. Six day lift tickets offer unlimited skiing throughout the Trois Vallées and there is a less expensive ticket option that includes only the Courchevel Valley. The car I priced is a manual shift midsize car from Hertz. This type of car is in the middle of the price range for rental cars in Europe – an automatic shift will add substantially to the price.

Of course, you have to fly a little farther to get to Europe. I priced tickets on American Airlines from Raleigh-Durham to Vail/Eagle County (for Colorado) and from Raleigh-Durham to Grenoble, France. Grenoble is not the cheapest ski gateway to Europe to use. If price is a big concern flights to Zurich, Geneva and Munich can be substantially less, and they have great ski areas nearby. There are other options for reaching the French Alps too – fly to Paris and take the high speed train (TGV). During ski season there are special ski train express departures.

My example uses top-end hotels. More moderately priced hotels are available in Europe and the U.S. – just make sure you talk with an expert in making your plans. Consider Europe the next time you’re planning a ski vacation, it’s more affordable than you think.

1 comment:

Pam said...

Cross country skiers can cut the lift tix out of that budget and hey, for the hard core, you can stay right on the trails and/or lifts, eliminating the need for a car, too. Or, use the ski bus that a lot of places provide.

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