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How to book a budget Swiss ski trip

  • By Shauna Daly
  • 27 January 2023
People dream of skiing the Swiss Alps a bucket-list trip, if you will. But something always gets in the way: Covid, inflation, and now an energy crisis. Why not ‘carpe diem’ and book that Swiss ski trip? The Swiss Times’ resident travel writer, Shauna Daly, will show you how it can be done, even on a budget.
How to book a budget Swiss ski trip

Book a trip for March or April, and, of course, take the train instead of renting a car.

Budget Switzerland: Does it exist?

While Switzerland may be renowned for many things (cue staggering mountains, fairy-tale villages, world-class cuisine), ‘budget-friendly’ isn’t exactly a word that comes to mind with this country, especially when you throw the expensive hobby of skiing into the mix.

Despite this, Switzerland makes for a dream winter-holiday destination, mainly due to its wonderfully wintery atmosphere, from twinkling Christmas markets and snow-topped forests to gooey raclette and warm mugs of glühwein. And in terms of skiing, there really is nothing like Switzerland for quality and quantity of ski resorts. The glistening pistes of the Swiss Alps are unparalleled and known as one of Europe’s most stylish (and, unfortunately, most expensive) ski destinations.

But The Swiss Times can show you how that Swiss ski-trip can be done on a budget.

Because while things are a bit pricier here, Switzerland is a more attractive option for many reasons. Everything (including those ski slopes) is within easy reach due to numerous airports and an excellent public transport system that drop you right on the slopes. Switzerland’s resorts have an authenticity that other resorts often lack as they are mostly based in centuries-old mountain villages with storybook charm that is only strengthened by traditional architecture and thriving cultural practices. So, how to enjoy the best of Switzerland’s ski season on a budget? Let’s break it down.

How to book a budget Swiss ski trip

Not ready for black diamonds? Try snow shoeing, cross country skiing, ice skating, sledding or snow hiking.

Go During Low Season

The Swiss ski season lasts from late December to mid-April, with peak times (no pun intended) resulting in skyrocketing prices, especially around Christmas and school holidays. So, go during low season to enjoy lower prices. Prices are more affordable in January (apart from the New Year period). Try to avoid February to mid-March, as this is when most schools are on holidays, but the second half of March is less expensive, right through to the end of the season in mid-April. Remember that most cantons in Switzerland have different school holidays, so it’s worth checking the specific canton you intend to ski in first.

How to book a budget Swiss ski trip

Swiss spring skiing offers sunshine and postcard views.

Book Online and in Advance

There are lots of offers to avail of, so book as far in advance as possible to get great discounts. Some resorts give you 20% off ski passes when booking up to two weeks in advance, and buying your ticket online this means avoiding long queues. Chäserrugg in St. Gallen has launched the Best Time Ticket, allowing you to choose the cheapest and least-crowded days to book your ski passes, while resorts including Portes du Soleil, Verbier, and the Aletsch Arena all offer attractive savings when booking online and in advance. It’s also best to keep an eye out for pre-season sales (usually October and November), as well as start- and end-of-season discounts.

How to book a budget Swiss ski trip

Titlis (above) is a family-friendly resort — as beautiful as the big name resorts, but half the price.

Choose Affordable Resorts

While the glitzy slopes of St. Mortiz and Zermatt may be world-famous, they are also pricier. So choose the most affordable ski resorts. In this regard, it’s also best to keep in mind your abilities: If you’re a beginner, the epic slopes of Davos might be lost on you, whereas a more mid-sized resort, where day passes cost 50–65 chf, will be more suitable. Some of the best budget options include Titlis (52 chf); Elm (53 chf); and the Aletsch Arena, where you can avail of their ‘Ski for Free’ offer and get a free one-day ski pass every Saturday.

How to book a budget Swiss ski trip

You don’t need a five-star hotel to have the Swiss experience. Find a self-catering apartment on a local website instead of Airbnb.

Choose Affordable Accommodation

Saving money on accommodation is a great way to keep costs down, and self-catering apartments, hostels, and mountain huts are the best budget options.

Self-catering accommodation means you can cook your own meals and bring your lunch to the slopes, with some resorts providing designated picnic areas. With dinners in Switzerland costing around 40 chf, those home-cooked meals only become tastier!

The Swiss Youth Hostels are near many ski resorts, and all are incredibly family-friendly, affordable, and of excellent quality. With most hostels serving three-course evening meals for 19.50 chf, you can’t find a better price. Some also have ski-and-sleep deals and local guest cards that provide discounts on public transport and ski equipment rental. You do not have to be a student to enjoy these accommodations. Gstaad’s stylish Youth Hostel has lodging beginning at 39 chf a night.

The mountain huts of the Swiss Alpine Club are also great budget options, and many are near the slopes. They boast some of the highest lodgings in Switzerland. Half board with dinner and breakfast costs between 60–90 chf. However, these huts are simply furnished, without Wi-Fi, and showers a rarity. But for an authentic Swiss experience, there’s nothing like them for atmosphere and charm.

How to book a budget Swiss ski trip

Buying a half pass will save you on trains, gondolas, lift tickets and even, sometimes, ski rentals.

Find the Best-Value Ski Gear

How to best avail of budget ski-gear depends on the type of skier you are: If a beginner, better to rent your gear until you get used to the slopes know what will suit you. For gear rental, avoid the on-site rental shops at the resorts, and choose sports shops instead. At MigrosSportXX and Ochsner Sport, prices are always cheaper, and you can reserve gear online up to ten days in advance. For children, it’s best to always rent, regardless of their skill level, as they will quickly outgrow anything you buy.

If you are more experienced and want to buy, then choosing second-hand is best. Online marketplaces like Ricardo and Tutti, and even the Swiss Brocki, are great for affordable gear. For both buying and renting, the best time is before the season starts, and after the Christmas sales in January.

How to book a budget Swiss ski trip

Student passes, senior passes, family passes, saver weekends: If you are buying a Swiss lift ticket without a deal, you’re doing it wrong.

Get the Saver Passes

Getting saver passes is an excellent way to ensure a budget ski trip. SBB Snow’n’Rail offers reductions of up to 20% on ski passes, a 15% reduction on equipment rental from Intersport Rent, and reductions on travel.

Snow25 is also a great money-saver: If you’re under 25 and want to hit the slopes on a budget, then use SBB’s Snow25 deal. From December 1st, SBB will release a quota of Snow25 tickets at the beginning of every month. The tickets start from just 25 chf, sell out fast, and are valid until April 2nd.

Migros Ski Day is a great option for families: For 110 Swiss francs, the family receives day passes for their chosen ski resort, lunch, race participation, a souvenir medal, a family gift, and lots of fun and games. The participating resorts are located throughout Switzerland, and tickets sell out fast, with waiting lists already in place for some destinations. Migros Ski Days take place from December 17th to April 2nd.

Discounted family passes and multi-day passes are another way to save. Most kids under six will ski for free in Switzerland, and Zermatt offers a family pass where kids under nine ski for free every day, while Corvatsch has a family pass where first and second kids ski at a discounted rate, with remaining kids skiing for free. A multi-day ski pass will also save money, as the more days you buy, the more you will save.

Stop dreaming about a Swiss ski trip and finally make it a reality in 2023!

This article may be freely shared and re-printed, provided that it prominently links back to the original article.

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