REALITY CHECK HITS SKI RESORTS: PRICES SLIDE DOWNHILL AS SKI SEASON GETS UNDERWAY

Prices plunge in 24 of 27 ski resorts surveyed for the annual Post Office® Travel Money Ski Resort Report (www.postoffice.co.uk/skireport2014)
• Biggest fall of 23 per cent in Soldeu, Andorra
• Bansko, Bulgaria remains cheapest but eurozone favourites are closing the gap
• Winter sports extras grow in popularity but could add to the cost of a ski trip

As the ski season gets underway in Europe this weekend, encouraging reports of heavy snowfall are not the only good news for UK ski enthusiasts. Bargain-hunting skiers can also look forward to paying less this winter as the eighth annual Post Office Travel Money Ski Resort Report¹ reveals that prices have slid downhill since last year in 24 of 27 resorts.

The most dramatic price fall has been in Soldeu, according to the report, which is compiled from resort research by ski-holiday operator Crystal Ski Holidays. A comparison of costs for ski equipment, lift passes, ski school, meals and drinks across 21 ski resorts in Europe and seven in North America, shows that prices have plunged 23 per cent to £331 in Andorra’s top ski resort. As a result Soldeu has moved up to fifth place in the best value top 10.

The strength of sterling – currently worth over six per cent more year-on-year against the euro² – is a major factor in the better value available. However, the evidence suggests that the need to attract back UK skiers after the market contracted 3.6 per cent last season³ may have been a catalyst for price cuts in top resorts. The Ski Resort Report found local price falls in 19 of the resorts surveyed, helping to compound the benefit of a stronger UK pound.

As a result, while Bansko (Bulgaria) remains the cheapest ski resort with a barometer total of £261, around four per cent less than a year ago, another Eastern European resort, Kranjska Gora (Slovenia), is closing the gap (£300, down eight per cent year-on-year). Furthermore, both are under pressure from eurozone competitors where the combined impact of the UK pound and local price cuts has resulted in far bigger cost reductions for UK skiers.

For example, a 15 per cent plunge in costs to £311 has helped Austria’s Ellmau resort move up to third position in the barometer table, while a fall of almost 10 per cent in Les Deux Alpes (£420) has enabled the French favourite to rise from 14th place to 10th this season.

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 their pockets for UK skiers.”

Among 10 World-Class Resorts surveyed, prices are down 13 per cent in Sestriere to £354, making the Italian resort best value in this category for the second year running. There has also been a 16 per cent fall in Courchevel (France) to £503, although the reverse has proved true in Zermatt (£687). High ski hire and lift price charges will make the Swiss resort 16 per cent more expensive than last year and highest-priced overall in Europe.

In the Best for Families category, Bansko (£872) remains the cheapest skiing for a family of four. However, Kranjska Gora (£1,110) has lost its runner up position because of a significant 18 per cent price fall in both Soldeu (£982) and Ellmau (£985).

Andrew Brown 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.”

After the Sochi Winter Olympics spotlighted the growing number of winter sports now available and Crystal Ski Holidays confirmed mounting demand for these, the report includes prices for activities ranging 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 and can add hundreds of pounds to the cost of a skiing holiday.4

Andrew Brown said: “Enthusiasts can now try out a wide range of winter sports activities but these extras come 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 après ski events as well as extra ski equipment hire.”

In North America, Tremblant (£566) emerges as best value of six Transatlantic Ski Resorts surveyed for this year’s Post Office Travel Money Ski Resort 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. By contrast, prices in Winter Park, last year’s best value tip, have risen 15 per cent to £607. Rising rates for ski equipment, lift passes and tuition account for the increase. Elsewhere in Colorado prices have plunged 17 per cent in Breckenridge (£682), mostly as a result of a fall in ski-related charges, and almost eight per cent in Vail (£751).

A full breakdown of barometer costs for the 27 resorts surveyed can be found by visiting postoffice.co.uk/skireport2014.

Tamsin Todd, Crystal Ski Holidays managing director, said: “We’ve seen that Britain’s successes in the Olympics and Paralympics have renewed interest in snow sports with people looking for fun and active holidays. Now that ski resorts are open for the season, we can’t wait to get back to the mountains and are ready with our digital and mobile advances to help make customer experiences better than ever.”

Skiers can purchase euro over the counter at more than 10,000 Post Office branches. Currencies for other Ski Resort Report destinations, including the Swiss franc, Canadian dollar and Bulgarian lev, are available on demand at over 1,600 branches while an additional 2,600 stock US dollars. More than 70 currencies can be pre-ordered at over 11,500 Post Office branches or online at postoffice.co.uk for next day branch or home delivery, where a range of travel insurance policies suitable for ski trips are also available.

Ends

Notes to editors:
¹ The Post Office Ski Resort Report was compiled using prices for 27 resorts in Europe and North America, provided by Crystal Ski Holidays (crystalski.co.uk). Costs are based on mid-season pricing and entry level skis and boots. Ski school daily hours vary depending on the resort. Lunch prices are based on two courses (main course and dessert) excluding drinks. A full breakdown of prices and an analysis of this is published in the separate Post Office Ski Resort Report. All prices are based on the Post Office exchange rates in mid-November 2014.

² Post Office Travel Money exchange rate comparisons between 2014 and 2103:

Currency % +/- 2014 v 2013 Nov 2014 Nov 2013
Canadian dollar 7.5 1.7318 1.6111
US dollar -0.9 1.5390 1.5530
Bulgarian lev 6.4 2.3468 2.2050
Euro 6.7 1.2320 1.1550
Swiss franc 4.5 1.4842 1.4200

³ Source: Crystal Ski Industry Report 2014

4 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:

• Curling: from £25 for a group of four in St Anton
• Husky sledge rides: from £100 in Soldeu or £113 in Kitzbühel
• 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

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