It looks to be downhill all the way for prices in leading ski resorts this winter. The eighth Post Office Travel Money Ski Resort Report, compiled from research by leading tour operator Crystal Ski Holidays, reveals that prices have plunged in 24 of 27 resorts surveyed in Europe and North America. The biggest drop – 23 per cent - is in Soldeu (Andorra), one of 19 resorts where local price falls have compounded the benefit of a stronger UK pound.
This year’s Ski Resort Report compares costs in 21 European and six North American resorts. In addition to spotlighting the resorts rated best value in those two regions, the report assesses costs for families and those looking for world-class skiing facilities.
In Europe the increased need to attract business in a market that contracted by 3.6 per cent last season¹ may have been the catalyst for price cutting in many top resorts.
Bansko (Bulgaria) again emerges as cheapest for bargain hunters, although another Eastern European resort, Kranjska Gora (Slovenia) is closing the gap. However, both are under pressure from eurozone resorts where price falls have been greater. Aside from Soldeu, which has risen to fifth position in the European barometer table (see figure 1), costs for UK skiers are down 15 per cent in Ellmau (Austria), which moves into third place.
Elsewhere in Europe, there have been price falls of eight to 13 per cent for the French, Italian and Finnish resorts that make up the remainder of the best value top 10.
Among 10 world-class resorts surveyed (see page 6), there has been a surprising 16 per cent price fall in Courchevel (France), while the reverse has happened in Zermatt (Switzerland) - one of only two European resorts where prices have risen. Higher ski hire and lift price charges make Zermatt 16 per cent more expensive than last season, while costs are up 10 per cent in another Swiss resort, Saas Fee.
In North America, Tremblant has overtaken Winter Park, Colorado to clinch the top spot because prices have risen 15 per cent in the US resort but fallen nine per cent in Canada.
1. Source: Crystal Ski Industry Report 2014
Figure 1: Post Office Travel Money European Ski Resort Report Barometer 2014
Pricing survey covering a six-day ski pass and ski/boot hire for one person, together with ski school (five-six half days) and the cost of lunch on the slopes plus drinks including coffee, Coca Cola, wine and beer.
Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money, said: “Although skiing is still cheapest in Bulgaria and Slovenia, growing competition for business means there are great bargains to be struck in many of the most popular European resorts this season. What’s more, the continuing strength of sterling against European currencies provides the added bonus of more pounds in the pockets of UK skiers.”
What happened to the ski holiday market last season?
It all comes down to snow – or lack of it, according to the Crystal Ski Industry Report 2014. The northern Alps of France and Austria lost ground last season because of challenging snow conditions, while Italy reaped the benefit of record-breaking levels of snowfall. Fortunately, promising conditions in Europe augur well for the coming season. Transport links are another crucial factor in destination decision-making: Eurostar’s new Swiss service was a key factor in boosting demand for Switzerland, which put on growth for the second year running, while additional charter flights helped step-up demand for Andorra.
Figure 2: Ski destination market shares
Best Value Resorts
· Bansko remains the best value ski resort. However, while the cost of skiing, meals and drinks is still low, the World Heritage Site’s price fall of under five per cent overall is less marked than in most other resorts
· Runner-up Kranjska Gora has retained its position as best value in the eurozone and is closing the gap on Bansko, due mainly to low ski school prices
· However, skiers not needing ski tuition will find third and fourth-placed Ellmau and Soldeu cheaper bets than Kranjska Gora
· There are two new entrants to the 10 best value European ski resorts, thanks to a combination of sterling’s strength and lower local prices. Prices for UK skiers are down eight per cent in Selva Val Gardena and 10 per cent in Les Deux Alpes, enabling the Italian and French resorts to overtake Mayrhofen (Austria).
Figure 3: Best value resorts
Best For Families
· Family skiing remains cheapest in Bansko, where prices are over £100 lower for ski equipment, ski school and meals and drinks than in second-placed Soldeu
· Prices are down significantly in Soldeu and Ellmau. Falls of almost 18 per cent in both resorts moved them into 2nd and 3rd places in the family skiing table, ahead of Kranjska Gora
· Despite the undoubted value of Bansko and Kranjska Gora, family ski costs have fallen only marginally in these two Eastern European ski resorts – compared with much higher price reductions in eurozone competitors. Barometer costs are down 13 per cent in Sestriere (Italy), nine per cent in Ruka (Finland) and eight per cent in Morzine (France)
· A word of caution: Not every resort is cheaper. Prices have risen five per cent in Mayrhofen and almost eight per cent in Saas Fee. This means family skiers can expect to pay over twice as much in the Swiss resort as they would in Bansko
Best for Families
Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money said: “It’s great news that families can look forward to lower prices in most ski resorts this season. However, it is important for them to check all the resort costs they will face and add these to the package price before deciding on a ski destination so they have a true picture of what their holiday is likely to cost them.”
Winter Sports Extras
The Sochi Winter Olympics drew attention like never before to the wide range of winter sports now available in ski resorts. Crystal Ski Holidays confirms that demand for activities to complement downhill skiing has been mounting steadily and expects this to reach new heights in the coming season. Options range from tobogganing, snowmobiling and ice skating to high adrenaline sports like snow tubing, ice climbing, paragliding and husky sledging.
In almost all cases the charges for these are payable once holidaymakers reach their resort, which means they will either need to carry extra cash or pay on plastic.
Winter sports extras: what they cost*:
· Curling: from £25 for a group of four in St Anton
· Husky sledge rides: from £100 in Soldeu or £113 in Kitzbuhel
· Ice climbing: from £53 in Kranjska Gora and £85 in Saas Fee
· Ice skating: from £13.50 for a family of four in Kaprun
· Paragliding: prices vary between £90-£110 in Austrian ski resorts
· Snowmobiling: from £68 for one hour in Bansko
· Snow shoeing to see the Northern Lights: from £53 in Ruka
· Snow tubing: from £4 for five runs in Ellmau or £25 an hour in Vail
· Tobogganing: from £30 for a family of four in Mayrhofen
* Source: Crystal Ski Holidays: All prices are per person unless otherwise stated and are the approximate sterling equivalent of local prices at current exchange rates
Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money said: “Enthusiasts can now try out a wide range of snow and ice-based winter sports activities to supplement skiing and the evidence suggests they are relishing that opportunity. However, everything comes at a price and careful budgeting is needed to make sure the ski budget does not go ‘off piste’. Paying on plastic can incur transaction charges and so too can using an ATM abroad.
“Other items will cost skiers extra as well – not least the cost of airport transfers if you don’t book with a ski operator, which can add at least £50 per person for the return trip. Plan ahead and allow enough money to cover transfers and apres ski events as well as extra ski equipment hire.”
· Bargain hunters will find Eastern Canada’s Tremblant cheapest of six North American ski resorts surveyed for this year’s report. A nine per cent price fall – mostly the result of a weaker Canadian dollar – has compounded the impact of last season’s 21 per cent drop and enabled Tremblant to claim the best value spot from Winter Park
· By contrast, prices in Winter Park have risen by 15 per cent, bringing the Colorado resort back in line with the cost of skiing reported there in 2012 following last season’s 20 per cent fall. Rising rates for ski equipment, lift passes and tuition account for the increase
· Ski costs in another Colorado resort, Breckenridge, have plunged by 17 per cent, mostly as a result of a fall in ski-related charges. Prices have also fallen in Vail by almost eight per cent.
Figure 5: Post Office Travel Money Transatlantic Ski Resort Barometer 2014
Pricing survey covering a six-day ski pass and ski/boot hire for one person, together with ski school (three of four days depending on resort) and the cost of lunch on the slopes plus drinks including coffee, Coca Cola, wine and beer.
Figure 6: Best Value Transatlantic Ski Resorts
· For the third year running Sestriere rates as the biggest bargain among 10 world-class resorts surveyed. Ski and living costs in the Italian resort are virtually half those in Zermatt, where a 16 per cent price hike this season has made it the most expensive surveyed in Europe. Another Italian resort, Selva, has taken the runner-up slot
· Sizeable price reductions in Courchevel (-16 per cent) and Val d’Isere (-10 per cent) have helped the two French resorts to pull well head of their Austrian rivals, Kitzbuhel and St Anton
· Despite lower barometer costs in Whistler and Vail, they again emerge as most expensive of 10 world-class resorts surveyed.
Figure 7: World-Class Resorts