An Insider’s Guide To A Budget Ski Trip

June 25th, 2012

These tips could save you hundreds on your next ski holiday!

Resident Ski Bum | Alex Cameron

The inspiration for writing this article has come from a couple of conversations that I have had recently. The word is spreading about Australia’s great early season conditions and in the bars and pubs around Sydney a lot of people are talking ‘snow’. The recent storm has sent these conversations into overdrive. Yet what strikes me as odd, considering I am a flat-broke university student, is the recurring theme of the cost of skiing in Australia. There is a widely held perception that the price of a ski holiday is so high as to be prohibitive. People are towing the same line, “I’d love to go for a ski this year, but I just can’t afford it.” Or more unusual still, “I might look at going to New Zealand because it’s cheaper.”

If you can’t get the thought of snow covered gum trees out of your head but at the same time feel constrained by your budget, then read on…

It is absolutely true that skiing is an expensive pursuit. It is also true that Australian lift passes are amongst the most expensive in the world. However, that doesn’t mean that a ski holiday is unaffordable. If you are prepared to skimp on a few of the luxuries normally associated with a ski trip, you’ll find you can save yourself a surprising amount of money. Below are a few ideas I’ve honed over my years as a ski bum – they may not all work for you but one or two might just be enough to get your budget over the line. (All estimations are based loosely on available price comparisons for a week skiing in Australia and may not be verifiably accurate.)

1. Borrow gear
Know a guy who skis? Call him up and see how he has been. Casually slip into the conversation that you are thinking of ducking off to the mountains for the week. Always try to snake your mates snowboard gear . See if he still has a jacket? If he does, see if he’s got pants too. Repeat the same process for goggles, skis, poles and boots (if you have the same sized feet!) Tell him you’ll buy him a case of beer when you get back.
Estimated savings: $250

You want to know a little secret? You’ll be just as excited riding up a chair in fresh snow on borrowed skis as you would be on rental skis.

2. Travel with friends
Having friends around makes the trip better anyway so this one should be a no-brainer. Friends split the cost of petrol, share the strain of driving and will be there to witness your on-mountain performance. A snow holiday is within one petrol tank of Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne for most cars. Having a full car means the difference between $80 and $20 when you fill up. Over a couple of tanks of petrol, that adds up.
Estimated savings: $60

3. Stay with friends
In an ideal world, you befriend people who live at the snow. In this regard, I consider myself extremely lucky. Without the generosity of the families of my close friends, I would have done substantially less time at the snow. One handy tip I can recommend from personal experience is to take a blow up mattress and sleeping bag. You never know which floor you might be able to crash on.

However, if you can’t score free accommodation the next best bet is to rent a place with friends. Again, having blow up mattresses and sleeping bags will drive your dollar further. If there are four of you, rent a motel room with two beds and ‘rochambeau’ (scissor-paper-rock) for who sleeps on the floor.
Estimated savings: $400

4. Don’t stay on the mountain
There is nothing more enticing than the thought of waking up on the mountain as the sun rises over fresh snow. However, you pay to make that dream a reality. What you don’t pay (nearly as much) for is waking up on a blow up mattress on the floor of a Jindabyne or Cooma motel room. Or a Bright motel room. Or a Mansfield motel room. You might have to drive a bit further, but for the money you save it is worth it.
Estimated savings: $500

Whether you woke up in a chalet overlooking the resort or on a motel room floor an hour away, powder and gum trees are going to look just as good.

5. Cook your own food
Everything costs more at the snow, including food. The simple solution is to bring food from home. I have friends who bring ingredients to make sandwiches from Sydney, and then take pre-made sandwiches up the hill for lunch. I’m a little less organised and end up paying $15 for a kebab. The same thinking applies for breakfast and dinner – bring food or buy the ingredients and prepare it yourself.
Estimated savings: $50

6. Search for package deals
The best times to look for good package deals are during the ‘shoulder’ season. This means outside the peak skiing period that stretches from the start of the school holidays in early July through to the end of the third week of August. As a reward for reading this far through the article, I’ll reveal a true insider’s tip: the best time to ski in Australia (for snow, crowds, mountain conditions) is the last week of August and the first week of September. By this time, the package deals have started back up.
Estimated savings: $250

7. Go ahead and buy your own gear
Sure borrowing your mates gear is better then renting, but what happens when he or she wants to join you on this trip you just told them about? Luckily for you the cost of snow gear has fallen in recent years. In the market for a new board? Try buying online, online snow shops provide competitive shipping Australia wide and if you can get something on sale then you will save even more.
Estimated Savings: depends how often you ride!!

So considering it has just dumped down half a metre of snow, why not call up a few mates and throw around the idea of a ski holiday. If you’re goal is to go skiing, without any of the luxuries that are often associated with it, then you might be surprised just how affordable it is.