Ski holidays are expensive for most people on an average income. Ski resorts argue that building new lifts, adding snowmaking and then grooming the slopes every night and paying wages and insurance are expensive too, so the lift ticket prices keep going up.
But skiers can find a ‘middle way’ sometimes by benefiting from the fact that while most people want to travel in peak season, the ski resorts still have to spend on running their operations in low season when there are fewer people around. The result, thanks to the economics of “supply and demand”, is that some resorts offer skiing free of charge on certain dates … so long as you book a stay there. This can be quite a saving when, at the most expensive resorts in the Alps and the Rockies, a couple can expect to pay around £500 for their 6-day lift passes – sometimes not much less than the travel and accommodation costs.
You do of course have to be savvy and do your maths homework. You need to calculate whether the complete price you pay is really significantly lower than what you’d pay with a regular package.
Many of the best offers come in at the start of the season, before Christmas, or at the end from mid-March and into April, although others do last all winter.
The first of these have now been published for 2014–15.
> Ski For Free In Davos Or Andermatt
Davos Klosters is running a ‘free lift pass’ offer to try to encourage more people to visit during the 5 weeks it is open from 14 November to Christmas week.
To qualify you need to book a stay in the long list of participating residences in the resort. Prices start at CHF80 (about £53) for an overnight B&B stay, or in a 3★ hotel from CHF88 (about £58). A 1-day lift pass normally costs up to CHF69 (£46).
Although not fully open until December, Davos Klosters covers 320km of piste, the highest of which is at 2844m and 80% of which is located above 2000m.
At the rather more expensive, luxurious end of the market, travel agency Ski Solutions is offering a free lift pass all season at the new 5★ Chedi, Andermatt, so long as bookings are made by 14 November, saving up to £250pp. Package prices including flights and rail transfers are from £1,795pp.
> Free Lift Passes For Children
Many ski areas offer free lift passes for children, particularly in the Easter holiday period, but the huge French accommodation provider Pierre et Vacances is also offering free lift passes in the busier Christmas period for Les Arcs, La Plagne, Val d’Isère and Valmorel for departures on 20 December.
The terms vary with children up to age 11, 12 or 13 covered and up to one or two adult passes needing to be purchased to qualify, depending on the resort, but savings of up to €222.50 per child are achievable.
Similar deals are offered at a longer list of resorts over the Easter holidays, and tour operator Inghams are offering a free child’s pass when an adult pre-books theirs at any of their properties in Austria’s Saalbach Hinterglemm for departures between 15 March and 11 April, 2015.
> Free Lift Passes In Tour Operator Packages
Currently Ski World have a buy-one-get-one-free offer on holidays to La Rosiere departing on 13 December 2014, saving €198 with holidays costing from £489pp, while Alpine Elements have free lift pass offers at a number of their chalets in Tignes and Val d’Isère on low-season dates, typically in mid-December.
Crystal offers free lift passes all season at the French resorts of Chamrousse and La Clusaz as well as Sestriere in Italy and Geilo, Beitostølen and Hemsedal in Norway. There are also buy-one-get-one-free lift pass deals (limited availability) for Les Deux Alpes and La Rosière in France and Bulgaria’s Pamporovo and Borovets.
“Due to the excellent relationships with overseas suppliers we are able to offer great value holidays for British skiers across each element of the holiday, and we offer free lift passes to help customers to keep the costs down,” says the company’s Marion Telsnig.