Is this going to mess up my Q1 2017 savings rate? Perhaps. Am I going to regret it? Unlikely. Because for the second time in my life I skied two glaciers in one day.
Turned up at the lift 3 mins before it opened, skied on freshly groomed slopes on the way to Glacier du Pissaillas, the heavy cloud cleared away just in time for the ride on Leissieres Express (I don’t suffer from vertigo, but man, that thing gives me an adrenaline shot every time).
Made it to the glacier in record time, there was hardly anyone there! Left when people began filing in, then another ride on the up-and-over rollercoaster, an easy descent down Plan/Piste M, aka my favourite highway, and I’m back where I started. Time to head to Tignes.
By then I was running on Red Bull and endorphins, so had a banana in the gondola in lieu of lunch to add a couple of calories to the mix. Got into the Tignes funicular at half one, had a few runs on Grande Motte glacier, took Double M down to the village, then a chair lift back to Val.
Another slope and lift combination put me at the top of La Face. I looked at it, I wanted to, but my quivering legs were saying no. So I went for what I thought was going to be an easier option, Santons. That frozen ravine where kneecaps go to die. Bloody snowboarders had dug it up so far beyond recognition that there was no ski slope left – only piles of compacted snow and crushed ice interspersed with patches of bare ice. Marvellous. Well, the only way is down.
I managed to not break anything, though had my legs had a voice they would’ve been cursing all the way to the bottom. Got back to the hotel, changed, found the rest of the crew in the bar, and still had time for a drink before dinner.
That’s what I’d call a good day at the office 😉
Here are a few tips for getting value for money on ski holidays:
- If you live in or around London, don’t fly. Eurostar’s snow train goes directly from St Pancras to Bourg St Maurice. No need to change in Paris. By the time you factor in the cost and hassle of airport transfers and bullshit extra charges for ski gear, the train is just as cost effective as flying. If you’re organised about it you can get advance tickets for £149 return. There are no check-in times, you don’t have to be at the gate 45 mins before it closes, there’s no baggage allowance, you can take your own food for the trip, and there’s no limit on the volume of liquids you can carry.
It’s an 11 hour journey. If you take the night train, you’ll leave London at around 7.30pm on Friday and arrive in Bourg St Maurice before 6am on Saturday. You can easily be on the slopes by 9am. Just make sure you’re not in a carriage adjacent to the restaurant or you won’t sleep. A bus from the train station to Val costs €12 and takes a little less than an hour. It also goes to Tignes and neighbouring resorts. All hotels I’ve been to had luggage rooms and changing/shower facilities for early arrivals. For a small fee they’ll even feed you breakfast.
- Accommodation will be your largest expense item. Call the ski resort’s tourist office, tell them your budget and how many people are going, and ask for tips. There are many small family run hotels in L’Espace Killy area that aren’t on booking.com. If you have 6 or more people in the group, renting an apartment might be the best option. Tignes is generally cheaper than Val.
- A ski pass is going to be your second largest expense item. It’s virtually certain you won’t cover the entire ski area on your first day, and maybe not even on your second. On day 3 and beyond, as your legs adjust, a L’Espace Killy pass can be justifiable. Check the weather forecast, ask the hotel staff about the quality of snow on the slopes, and do some planning.
- If you’re not taking your own gear, pre-order ski rental. Skis are skis, there are only so many brands you’ll want to use, and they tend to be priced by performance level. Order in advance and you can bag a 30%+ discount on the shop floor price.
- Apres ski is nice, and if you’re buying lunch on the slopes, go for a proper restaurant. Why anyone would pay for overpriced cold buffet food at one of those canteen style places is beyond me. You’ll be carrying a day pack with water and extra gloves anyway, so if you only need fuel and not the apres ski experience, throw some snacks and sandwiches in the backpack, and you can picnic as you’re catching sunshine in the deck chairs they have everywhere in Val, which appear to be perpetually empty, even on sunny days. There are food stores in every village.
- Dinners and drinks. Go for it. After all, you’re only on holidays for a week or so. But if you’re skiing in March and renting an apartment, try to get one with a BBQ area. With more daylight hours and provided you get decent weather, burgers on your terrace for dinner, washed down with some red, can be quite nice. Dress warm 🙂