Monday, April 06, 2009

My Big Fat Cheap Ski Vacation?

Let’s save money by going to Lech/Zurs in Austria, one of Europe’s most expensive ski resorts. That was the plan. So how did we fare? Well, we won a few and we lost a few.

The first winner was Tripit, this awesome free service that automatically organises your trip. You send them your email confirmations and they build you a day by day itinerary. If you believe, as I do, that time is money, then using Tripit saved us a bundle

Transport was also a winner. Our flights on the discount airline easyJet in and out of Salzburg, our rental car from Auto Europe and our £7 easyBus transfers to London were hassle free, on time and cheap. Our return flight was slightly marred by the fact that as of March 30th, easyJet transferred some flights from Gatwick’s South to North Terminal and our arrival was pretty shambolic. We assume they will straighten this out with time. Otherwise, transport during a peak travel period was smooth and inexpensive and how often can you say that?

Accommodation was also on the winning side. In Zurs, we stayed at the Alpen Hotel Valluga, a four star property where our 'Sun and Snow' package included 7 nights half board, an afternoon Jause (a substantial snack) our lift tickets and some extras such as a carriage ride, a Valluga cocktail and a fondue evening (which never materialised). Members of our group spent between €917 and €1,092 depending on the size of the room and we appreciated the hotel’s level of comfort, the good public spaces, the excellent location close to the slopes and the hardworking and charming staff.

On the losing side were our ruinously expensive ski rentals from Sport Ski-Toni which can be found in the basement of the luxurious Lorunser Hotel, a favourite of royals such as Princess Caroline and Queen Beatrix. We ended up paying €196 per person for a 6 day rental. By contrast, in Corvara, Italy, last year, we spent €120. In fairness to Toni’s, the skis were in excellent condition and a quick check of the competition shows that renting equipment in Lech/Zurs is expensive everywhere. Unfortunately, options such as booking equipment on-line for substantial discounts are also not available in Lech Zurs. Next time we might consider paying the additional charge and the hassle to put our skis on the plane.

The other loser was the price of alcohol – much bigger mark ups than at many other resorts. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing as it slowed down our consumption. Having learned the fine art of “drinks in the room” from some frugal Dutch friends we always held our cocktail hour in Room 401 which helped keep down our costs.

But enough about money. How was the skiing? In a word – glorious. The Arlberg area, comprised of Lech, Zurs, St. Anton, St Christoph and Stuben describes itself as “a legendary region which has enjoyed cult status for as long as skiing has been a winter passion.” As the only resort I know where they stop selling lift tickets when they deem the slopes to be full, with one of the highest annual snow fall rates in Europe and with 280 kilometers of beautifully groomed pistes, and 180 kilometers of powder runs, hey, they might be right.

So was Lech/Zurs, with its pricey reputation, a good choice for recession skiing? Yes, it certainly was. Was it cheap? Absolutely not, but I don’t think you can beat the quality of the experience at this classic resort. And if you go to all the trouble to ski, then it really matters that the resort has the kind of uncompromising approach to quality that can be found in the Arlberg. By saving where we could (discount transport and accommodation that included our lift ticket) we kept costs to a reasonable level and even though we watched every penny, we always felt welcomed and valued, which is a classy approach to customer service. When every penny counts, Lech/Zurs still delivers value for these challenging times.
Photo of Lech by Leo Meiseder


  1. I love skiing... I went for a ski vacation last month!! It was more enjoyable trip for me...

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