Planning on taking your skis with you on your holiday this winter? With a few notable exceptions, the cost now kicks ownership into touch.
The harsh fact is that, unless you choose to drive to the Alps or the Pyrenees, go by train and take your hardware with you, skiers and snowboarders will be punished financially this season more than ever.
The return price for ski carriage in Europe – if you book in advance online – now ranges from around £40 (57€) with Thomson to a chilling £80 (114€) with Ryanair. Pay at the airport and you’ll suffer at least a £10 (14€) penalty charge.
Wholesale charter carriers do not normally charge tour operators for ski carriage. But tour operators see fit to charge their customers. It is another way of making money and also shortens check-in and aircraft loading time.
A lot of old ski and snowboards that will fill the holds of aircraft bound for Geneva and other skiing hubs this winter will have a lower market value than the cost of their carriage. Frankly, you’d do better to invest the money in ski rental.
However, some people hate renting skis and I have to confess I am one of them. Yes, I’m well aware that the standard of hire equipment in all major resorts is usually excellent – if expensive. But that doesn’t help me. I want the continuity of being mounted on a pair of skis that I know and like – my own.
If I’ve got rental skis, I tend to spend the whole day grumbling about the heavy, bulky bindings and often – probably quite wrongly – blaming what’s underfoot for how I am performing. Yes, I know about bad workmen, but the point is why should I be penalised for taking my own with me?
Fortunately, a little careful research shows you that there are alternatives to airline ransom, along with a few handy tricks of the trade that can reduce the fee you are required to pay:
Travel with Swiss International. This is the only major airline to still offer free ski and boot carriage.
Holiday with YSE Ski. Ok, your choice of destination is limited to Val d’Isere because the long-established chalet specialist only goes to the one resort. But there’s nothing wrong with Val d’Isere and your skis – and boots – are carried free of charge.
Send your skis (and luggage) in advance and enjoy a hassle-free journey: Piste of Mind picks up from your home and delivers to your hotel, chalet, or apartment. At the end of your holiday the operation happens in reverse.
I used it last winter to take skis to and from Valmorel and the service was faultless. For 2015-16 they’ve added delivery/collections point for an express last-minute service. The company covers all the main Alpine countries, plus Andorra and Bulgaria. Standard pricing per item is no less expensive. However, substantial discounts apply for volume of items from one address and can bring the cost down dramatically.
Ski Carriage will look after your skis and boots year round, deliver to your chosen resort, and arrange a ski service before you arrive.
Weight-sharing is one of the most cost-efficient ways of carrying your gear. Airlines that allow this don’t actually explain in their baggage details what it involves – the exception is easyJet
Firstly, you need to buy one of the huge double wheelie ski bags made by Thule and Ellis Brigham. You take this as a piece of sporting equipment instead of a hold bag and carry your skis or snowboard and all your clothing in one bag. (The Thule version has separate inner bags to keep clothing clean and dry.) With easyJet this works best if two of you are travelling on the same flight because you are allowed to weight-share.
Rules vary from airline to airline. For example, BA does not allow weight-sharing between passengers. However, you can take your double ski bag as part of your free hold allowance provided it does not exceed 23kgs.
But the harsh truth is that if you want to take your gear with you this winter, the cheapest and most hassle-free option is to go by car – or let the train take the strain.
November 21, 2015Ian de Haan
The best way to reduce the cost of hauling skis around is to rent brand new skis in the resort. This actually works out less costly than buying, servicing, repairing and replacing skis. For £80-90 per week, you can get brand new skis, have them edged and waxed every other day, change them every day if you want AT NO EXTRA COST !
Plus, if there is a lot of powder snow, you can get some powder skis for the day and go off piste with a guide. I used to have my own skis but it is SO much EASIER to rent by ordering ahead and collecting at the resort. NO hauling skis into a taxi, into the airport and on and off trains or buses or up and down stairs or elevators. I used to own my own skis but have been renting for the last 15 years. Skis only last for about 15 weeks before they go flat and loose their spring. Skiing on different skis gives you more understanding of the skis and snow and more FUN.
If the conditions are bad, you can always grab a pair of rock hoppers from the hire shop and carry on skiing – would you do that with your brand new skis ?
With your own skis, you are stuck with them and can end up limiting where you ski.
Rent and ski anywhere with fun – It really is less expensive when ALL the costs are added up !
November 21, 2015Felice Hardy
That’s a good point, Ian.
November 24, 2015Mrs F Rothery
I nearly took your advice to book the train this January until I saw the price: £279 return to Bourg St Maurice plus the bus/taxi from there to whichever resort you want! And that’s a low season date. Is YSE the only operator who doesn’t charge for ski carriage? Why don’t they? The train would be half their holiday cost in January!
As for driving, I remember a coachload of grinning all-inclusive types waving to me and my husband as we stood beside our car in a blizzard, him holding the chains, me holding the instructions! Even in fine weather the journey from London to the Alps is a marathon. The drive home somehow worse. If you live north or west of London, just getting to Dover takes an age. In bad weather, on a busy weekend (aren’t they all?) or just on snowy roads, the journey by car is a nightmare! Never again!!
November 25, 2015Felice Hardy
We agree with you. Check out indirect train services, which are cheaper. YSE doesn’t charge for skis because they believe you should be able to take them on a ski holiday without being penalised! Unfortunately we don’t know of any likeminded operators…
November 25, 2015fraser
BA don’t charge for ski/board if you take as part of hold baggage, whilst air france/klm online in advance is very cheap…so it’s not a big deal if you are careful with your airline. (however if changing flights and using easyjet etc then yes the costs get too steep).
Also I’ve had my board for 11 years and done 22 trips with it, board/bindings cost £400 (in a sale!) and I estimate ski carriage has cost £400 when charged and tallied up, servicing about £200…so £1k versus 22 weekly rentals at nearer £2k…rentals perhaps with bindings I don’t like….so I don’t think the rental savings argument holds for keen skiers – unless you buy new equipment every <5 years or only use it 1 week per year..in that case, yes rent!
I would agree the hassle of carting ski gear to certain resorts..especially diy gigs with several transits bus/rail/taxi etc may be outweighed by picking up in resort, but some rental gear is not the brand new/latest version that folk are talking about…that is usually at a premium of an extra 50%, so rental charges can quickly mount up, especially with boots and helmets. Both mindsets have pros/cons, if you don't go much or always want latest gear, then rent, if you ski a lot and want personalised kit take your own is my advice!gnfnr