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How to save money on your ski holidays in Switzerland

Updated on December 29, 2014
Typical Swiss winter scene: Fog in the valley, sun in the mountains
Typical Swiss winter scene: Fog in the valley, sun in the mountains | Source

Hot deal: Ski passes for only 35 Bucks in Switzerland's top resorts

Probably the hottest Winter deal is offered by one of the world's top ski regions, the Engadine. If you stay for a minimum of 2 nights at one of over participating 100 hotels and holiday flats, you can get your ski pass for 35 CHF a day. This deal also includes free public transportation in the entire region.

How to ski with the rich and famous without going broke

Switzerland has some of the world’s finest ski resorts. Places like Klosters, Davos, St. Moritz, Zermatt, Verbier or the Jungfrau Region attract the high-society and royals from around the globe. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a fur coat to ski in Switzerland or that your pockets have to be lined with gold. Obviously a holiday in one of these fancy resorts will cost you more but there is always potential for great savings when in comes to accommodation. You can rub shoulders on the St. Moritz ski slopes with the rich and famous who sleep in style at the Kempinsky Grand Hotel, where a single room with breakfast will set them back close to a thousand bucks. You on the other hand can stay a couple of hundred metres down the road with the Plebs at the Youth Hotel for under a hundred bucks (breakfast and dinner included). The food there is usually good and plentiful and I forgot to mention that they even offer double rooms, some with their own bathroom. Despite its misleading name, the Youth Hostel welcomes people of all ages and membership is not necessary. However, non-members pay a small surcharge, which is probably less than the tip you would be expected to leave at the Kempinsky for a cup of coffee. The only downside is that you will definitely not bump into Paris Hilton in the Youth Hostel lobby.If you are not into hostelling, Switzerland offers a whole range of other reasonable hotels.

Other ways to save money on your Swiss winter holiday:

  • Rent a holiday apartment and cook your own dinner. For the price of one restaurant meal incl. beverages, you can probably eat, drink and be merry in your own flat for a whole week.
  • Find accommodation outside the famous resorts. The little villages dotted around the big resorts are often a lot cheaper and public transportation is included in most ski passes.
  • Eat lunch on the ski slope rather than having dinner at a fancy restaurant. Try filling local dishes like Gulasch Soup (a stewlike soup) or Käserösti (hash browns with a melted cheese topping).
  • Low season/off season rates are always a lot cheaper. You should get bargain deals during the weeks leading up to Christmas, in early to mid January or towards the end of the season. The downfall is that the snow is not always the best before Christmas, it’s often freezing in January and the white stuff can be melting fast in March and April.
  • Avoid the Christmas season as well as all other school holidays, which mean huge crowds as well as higher prices. Refer to the Swiss school holiday list below:

http://www.edk.ch/dyn/15213.php

  • Tip: High season up in the mountains might mean low season in the city. City hotels are considerably cheaper in Winter (their peak season is Summer). So if you are a city slicker at night and a “Skihäsli” during the day, why not combine the two. The medieval town of Lucerne is ideally situated with several smaller ski resorts at the doorstep. All resorts can be reached by public transportation (railway, bus or even by ferry and cable car). Tickets are available at the railway station.

http://www.centralswitzerland.ch/en/aktivitaeten/alpin.php

http://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/day-trips/snownrail.html

  • Beware: If you hate noise and crowds, avoid Lucerne at all cost during the Carnival (February 12 - 17, 2015). If you are a bit of a party animal, this unique street party that lasts for almost a week (day and night) will blow your mind.

http://www.carnifest.com/carnivals/Lucerne-Carnival-Lozarner-Fasnacht.asp

  • Choose the resort according to your ability. If you are a beginner it doesn’t make sense to pay for a ski pass that offers 450 kilometres of ski runs. After all, you will probably spend the first few days sitting on your bum, surrounded by a bunch of toddlers giving you advice how not to fall off the pony lift. A cheap, family friendly resort is good enough for this and it will definitely save you from humiliation and expensive court cases. Bumping into Kate and Williams in Klosters might sound exciting, but it certainly isn’t if you are sliding down a ski slope backwards at high speed.
  • If you travel with children, choose a family friendly resort. Many offer free or reduced ski passes for children or family tickets. Link to family friendly resorts below. PS: If you don’t travel with children and you hate the little buggers this list will probably save your life.

http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/suggestions/wintervacation/family-day-passes-and-family-friendly-ski-pass.html

  • Generally, multi-day or week passes are a lot cheaper than day passes. However, depending on the weather and snow conditions, you might opt to stay in your ski chalet rather than playing blind cow on a mountain top in a blizzard. Therefore it is wise to check the local weather conditions for the next few days, before making a huge investment. Ski passes can usually be purchased locally within a matter of minutes, so it doesn’t make sense to purchase them over the internet months in advance when you can't check the snow condition. Remember, the weather is something we cannot artificially interfere with, yet. Snow making machines can only make snow when it’s cold enough. Therefore, it’s advisable to pick a resort at high altitude in early or late winter.

http://www.weatheronline.co.uk/Switzerland.htm

http://snow.myswitzerland.com/snow_reports?lang=en#

x-country skiing is a good way to escape the crowds
x-country skiing is a good way to escape the crowds | Source
Winter wonderland
Winter wonderland | Source

Cross-country skiing

Undoubtedly the most popular winter sports are skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing. But unfortunately nothing comes cheap and the ski slopes can get pretty crowded, especially during weekends or school holidays. No wonder, x-country skiing is growing in popularity every year. A Swiss-wide x-country skiing pass costs CHF 120 a season and covers a network of 5’500 kilometres of well-groomed trails. Cheaper day passes or regional tickets are also available for people who don't get out often. All passes are available at the ski resorts.

For more information about the different x-country ski trails as well as the snow conditions, refer to the following webpage:

http://www.langlauf.ch/areas/info.html?L=1

The snow is melting fast in Spring.
The snow is melting fast in Spring. | Source

Winter hiking and snowshoeing

Switzerland has a huge network of groomed winter hiking & snowshoe trails. The use of the trails is free of charge and snowshoes can be rented at the main ski resorts for a fee. Warning: Don’t ever leave the marked trails. The weather conditions could change suddenly and you might get lost, or even worse, end up in an avalanche.

http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-ca/via/ausgabe-dezember/adventure-sports-winter/winter-walking.html


Tobogganing

There are plenty of tobogganing trails to choose from. Some resorts offer toboggan passes which include transportation up to the mountain top by cable car or railway. If you are sporty, why not combine winter hiking with tobogganing for some free fun. Toboggans can be rented on location but don’t underestimate the dangers of this exciting adventure.


Beware: Road tolls and high parking fees

If you travel to Switzerland by car you will have to get a Swiss Highway Sticker (Vignette) to use the Swiss Freeways. The cost is 40 CHF and entitles you to unlimited road use for up to 1 calendar year. This toll fee can be avoided, if you only use secondary roads. Don't be tempted though, using the Swiss freeways without a valid Highway Sticker results in fines of 200 CHF!

Parking fees in Switzerland can be very high. Before you book your accommodation, make sure that parking fees are included in the price.

Travel logistics

Another important consideration is the trip to the ski resort. Many ski resorts are at high altitude and in remote locations. Especially if you fly into Switzerland, make sure that you choose the right airport. Zurich is closest to Central, Northern and Eastern Switzerland, while Geneva is the right choice for Western and South Western Switzerland. If you can afford to stay at the Kempinsky in St. Moritz, you can land your private jet at the local airport in Samedan.

If you travel by car, check out the road conditions first. Beware, most mountain passes are closed during the winter months. So don’t ever follow the instructions of your GPS blindly, otherwise you might end up doing a 200 kilometre detour. Modern day technology is amazing but it is not clever, and it cannot distinguish between summer and winter. Winter tires are an absolute must at high altitude, where the roads are frequently snow covered. The snow clearing in Switzerland is top-notch, therefore snow chains are very rarely used.

http://www.truckinfo.ch/index.php5

In case of mountain pass closure, don’t despair. Since the Swiss think of virtually everything, the Railways offer you a number of piggyback trains that transport your car including the passengers safely through the mountain railway tunnels.

http://www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/car-bike/car-trains.html

Switzerland offers an excellent public transportation network, probably one of the best world-wide (but unfortunately it doesn’t come cheap). If you are worried about driving in snow conditions, you are better advised to take a relaxing railway, bus, or ferry trip.

Snow’n Rail offers combining the trip to the ski resort as well as the ski pass and reduced ski rental are an interesting option.

http://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/day-trips/snownrail.html

I hope this article will give you a few helpful tips for an enjoyable winter holiday.Give my regards to William and Kate should you meet them. Who knows, with the british austerity measures you might even bump into them at the Youth Hostel.

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