- Bansko, Bulgaria is best value of 20 European ski resorts for the seventh year running
- Local price freeze makes Italian resorts cheapest in Europe’s ‘Big Four’ ski countries
- Canada’s Banff trounces its competitors in the USA for transatlantic ski value
Cash-conscious skiers can avoid the slippery slope of higher prices for their annual downhill trip by heading to ski resorts in Eastern Europe. Bansko in Bulgaria and Kranjska Gora in Slovenia again rate as best value for bargain-hunting skiers in the 10th annual Post Office Travel Money Ski Resort Report¹ (www.postoffice.co.uk/skireport2016), produced by the UK’s leading foreign currency provider in partnership with Crystal Ski Holidays.
At just £270.77 for ski holiday staples including equipment hire, lift passes and ski tuition for six days plus a meal and drinks on the slopes, Bansko has retained its position as the cheapest destination for UK skiers for the seventh consecutive year, out of 20 European resorts surveyed. Prices there have risen just four per cent year-on-year, despite the weaker pound.
As a result, the Bulgarian ski resort has pulled further ahead of long term runner-up Kranjska Gora (£337.62), where local price rises have compounded the impact of the weaker sterling exchange rate. This has made Kranjska Gora almost 20 per cent more expensive than last season and 25 per cent pricier than Bansko.
But if the Eastern European value rating comes as little surprise, prices researched by Crystal Ski Holidays in the traditional ‘Big Four’ ski destinations – Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland – are more of a revelation. This is because local prices in the four Italian resorts surveyed have either fallen or stayed on par with last season to make them far better value than Austria and France. All four feature in the best value top 10.
Sestriere (£354.98) has moved up to third place in the table from fifth position last year on the back of an 11 per cent fall in euro ski costs. Once the sterling rate is applied, prices in the resort are level with last season – making this the best deal across the eurozone. Elsewhere in Italy, local euro prices are on par with a year ago in Livigno (4th place, £363.84) and Selva Val Gardena (10th place, £470.30), and down four per cent in La Thuile (9th place, £456.45).
By contrast, local prices have snowballed across the nine Austrian and French resorts surveyed. Once the exchange rate is applied, skiers can therefore expect to pay an average of 20 per cent more than last season in Austrian resorts and 26 per cent extra in French ones.
Despite the price rises, Ellmau (£403.08) in the Tyrol is in fifth place in the Post Office best
value chart, dropping only one place since last year and significantly cheaper than the other Austrian ski resorts: Mayrhofen (£490.72); Kitzbühel (£614.08); and St Anton (£664.76).
Morzine remains best value among the five French resorts surveyed at £446.33 but has fallen from sixth place in last year’s report to eighth position now. Its barometer cost is around 30 per cent lower than in Val d’Isère (£638.80), the most expensive French resort.
Although Switzerland remains highest-priced of the ‘Big Four’, local prices are level with a year ago. Once the prices in Swiss francs are converted to sterling, this means the increased costs faced by UK skiers are lower than in either Austria or France at between 16-19 per cent.
But the cheapest of the three Swiss resorts surveyed, Saas Fee (£718.33) is still eight per cent more expensive than St Anton, the highest-priced Austrian resort, and over 12 per cent pricier than in Val d’Isère. Zermatt (£875.24) is the most expensive of the 20 European resorts for the second consecutive year, 53 per cent more than in another world-class skiing option, Courchevel (£570.96).
Elsewhere in the eurozone, Soldeu, Andorra (6th place, £441.64) and Ruka, Finland (7th place, £443.73) retain their top 10 places with lower than average price rises of 20 and 24 per cent respectively.
Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money, which accounts for one-in-four UK currency transactions, said: “Ski resort costs are likely to play an important part in destination choice this year as the weaker pound puts pressure on the holiday purse. That’s why it is so important to do your homework before booking and factor in all the costs of a ski holiday to the package price. Despite the price rises we found this year, there are still some great value resorts to choose from in Eastern Europe, while Italy is looking good as well and will appeal to skiers who prefer to head to the slopes in one of the long-established favourites.”
Across the Atlantic, it will be downhill all the way for skiers planning transatlantic trips this winter with significant price rises in five of the six resorts surveyed in the USA and Canada. Banff was the only resort where local prices have remained in line with those recorded a year ago. At £701.91, ski costs in Banff are therefore around 19 per cent higher than last season once the exchange rate is applied, compared with the 95 per cent rise found in another Canadian resort, Tremblant (£1,037.40). Vail (£1,118.46) and Breckenridge (£1,134.29) in Colorado were most expensive of all, both in North America and across the whole report.
Chris Logan, Crystal Ski Holidays Managing Director, said: “Despite the exchange rate movements, there are destinations that still offer great value for customers. These range from the usual suspects like Bulgaria and Slovenia to more traditional destinations like Sestriere in Italy but, wherever they choose to go, skiers can keep their costs down by thinking ahead. Crystal have seen an increase in the number of customers pre-booking their ski equipment and double digit growth for pre-booked lift passes. In addition, our fully catered chalets are increasingly popular, as are the hotels where we offer €100 credit to be spent at the hotel bar or restaurant.”
Andrew Brown added: “Make sure you get more for your money by changing cash before leaving home rather than at the airport or ski resort where you risk getting a poor rate. Take enough cash to cover ski and living costs and be aware that transactions of over £500 will get you a better rate in our branches or on the Post Office website.”
Skiers can purchase euros 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 immediately at over 1,600 branches, while an additional 2,400 stock US dollars. Euros and US dollars can also be ordered online at postoffice.co.uk for same day ‘click and collect’ at almost 3,000 branches as well as next day collection at any branch or for home delivery. A range of travel insurance policies suitable for ski trips are also available at Post Office branches or online at postoffice.co.uk
¹ The Post Office Ski Resort Report was compiled using prices for 26 resorts in Europe and North America, provided by Crystal Ski Holidays (www.crystalski.co.uk), the UK’s leading ski holiday specialist. 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 is published in barometer tables accompanying the report. All prices are based on the Post Office exchange rates in late September 2016.