Big Ski, Small Budget: low cost ski holidays
Value resorts linked to big domains
We love finding places to stay that give us access to some big skiing but are small, friendly, cheaper to stay and easier to get to. Big-name resorts offer unrivalled convenience if you’re prepared to pay a premium to be among all the action, both on and off the mountain. Purpose-built, high-altitude resorts also ought to be snow-sure throughout the season (and often beyond), while it’s also possible to find ski-in ski-out accommodation. As well as laying the first tracks of the morning and being last to ski down the slopes at the end of the afternoon, you needn’t even bother to take off your boots before heading to the bar for a spot of après-ski. However, if you’re skiing with your family or are on a tight budget, you might be feeling that the time has come to think carefully about your priorities. Here’s where lift-linked villages start to look very attractive, giving you the best chance to get things right for your family or fellow skiers, whatever their needs – and your budget.
“…if you’re skiing with your family or are on a tight budget, you might be feeling that the time has come to think carefully about your priorities.”
Our Top 5 Lift-Linked Villages
1: L’Espace Diamant
Located just south of Megève, the Espace Diamant brings together the ski areas of the Val d’Arly with those around Hauteluce and Les Saisies in and around the Beaufortain. The result is currently one of the best-kept secrets in the French Alps, with a wealth of varied terrain and great snow record, thanks to the nearby presence of Mont Blanc. If you wish you can even ski a whole circuit comfortably in a day. Stay in one of the linked villages such as Crest Voland which also has its own small but family-friendly ski area, or Hauteluce, which has links to Les Saisies or Les Contamines, and enjoy an authentic French ski holiday with bags of charm.
2: L’Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine
Tucked away in a secluded valley off the Grenoble-Briançon road close to Le Bourg d’Oisans, Vaujany is easily accessible for anyone travelling from the UK, and just happens to be linked by cable-car into the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domain ski area. Vaujany is also linked to its near-neighbour Oz-en-Oisans, which also offers lift access to Alpe d’Huez.
Vaujany has a lot going for it. There’s varied accommodation, a covered pedestrian walkway with escalators (great for getting back to your accommodation at the end of the day), along with friendly restaurants and bars with real-world prices. As a base for both mixed-ability and non-skiers, its own terrain offers hours of relaxed skiing before you head over to Alpe d’Huez for the serious stuff (including the legendary 17km La Sarenne piste). The village has recently opened a leisure centre with pool, ice rink, crêche and spa centre, and offers family-friendly activities every day.
Similarly,Oz-en-Oisans, has high-speed gondola links into L’Alpe d’Huez and has some of its own learner slopes, plus some challenging steeps. The traffic-free village is great for children and has some competitive budget prices for self-catering ski holidays.
3: Meribel and the 3 Valleys
Just a very short distance from the A430 autoroute and the town of Moutiers, Brides-les-Bains is a traditional spa town with plenty of hotel accommodation and a modest village centre. It can be a cost-effective base from which to ski the extensive Three Valleys, to which it’s linked (into Méribel) by gondola lift. Offers and low-season prices can get you a large, comfortable hotel room on a half-board basis, or there are relatively new self-catering apartments on the edge of the village.
Learners and young families should head further into the 3 Valleys to linked villages such as La Tania or Courchevel Moriond which we skied in 2017. However, if you don’t mind the 25 minute gondola ride and can resist Meribel’s infamous après ski, then Brides-les-Bains could be for you.
4: Val Cenis Vanoise
Part of the justifiably-popular Val Cenis Vanoise ski domain, Termignon sits at 1300m, and has an unpretentious, welcoming vibe, with rapid access to its own pistes, including some of the most stunning views of the Vanoise massif, and you’re in the Haute-Maurienne. Finally, a two-way link via the Turra 6-seater high-speed lift into Val Cenis was added a few years ago, so skiers based in Termignon profit from the best of both worlds, with a slightly shorter drive, easy access, plus lower-priced accommodation close to the pistes.
When the ski areas of La Plagne, Peisey Vallandry and Les Arcs were linked by the Vanoise Express, the largest and most audacious of all cable cars, it created the world’s second-largest linked skiable domaine. Undoubtedly one of the most popular ski destinations in France, it can be quite pricey, especially if you want the full Paradiski ski-pass. There are places, though, where you can find quiet tree-lined runs, small village restaurants and a friendly family vibe at more modest prices. Look to the lower villages such as the former mining village of Montalbert (1350m) which has just had a new high-speed lift, Les Coches (1450m) and Montchavin (1250m), once a forlorn mountain hamlet, but whose fortunes were transformed when it linked to La Plagne for the 1973 ski season and instantly became a fully-fledged ski village.