If you love skiing, there are probably few things that make you happier than having your face blasted with frozen water as you soak up sunshine and blue skies on pearly-white slopes.
Considering Switzerland’s huge variety of Alpine retreats and extensive winter sport facilities, it isn’t surprising that an estimated 35.4 percent of the Swiss population hits the ski slopes in winter while another 5.1 percent of residents take to snowboards.
While overall costs may be somewhat higher than what you pay across the border, there are easy ways to enjoy the Swiss winter without breaking the bank. Following these simple pointers from moneyland.ch will help you get a lot more winter fun for less.
1. Get a ski pass rather than individual tickets
If you expect to ski at least 15 times throughout the season, a seasonal pass will often work out cheaper than buying individual day passes every time you go skiing. This only really works if you always ski at the same resort, but some ski passes are good for several resorts in the same area. Some ski resorts offer shorter passes (6 days or 8 days, for example), and these are a good alternative if you will only be skiing during a short winter vacation rather than throughout the whole season.
2. Plan ahead
Buying your ski passes in advance can slash the cost of skiing at many Swiss resorts by 10% or more. Pre-season sales usually run between September and November. Buying a seasonal pass before the end of November can easily shave 5% off the standard price tag. If you buy ski passes as early as September or October, you can benefit from much larger discounts at some resorts (discounts of 10% or more on seasonal ski passes purchased before the end of September are typical).
3. Choose the right hotel
If you expect to spend the night at a hotel anyway, check into hotels which throw in a day pass for the ski slopes free of charge. Many Swiss hotels offer this perk, although some give you a ski pass with any night’s stay, while some only give you a pass if you stay at least 2 nights. You can find all-inclusive deals to suit all budgets on websites like Bergfex.ch and on the individual websites of towns or hotels. Some towns offer free one-day ski passes for each night you spend at participating hotels.
4. Get a Skicard
Holding the Skicard issued by ski association Swiss-Ski entitles you to a 20% discount on day passes at around 30 Swiss ski resorts. The card costs just 6 francs. The Skicard can also be added to the Swisspass public transportation card issued by the SBB/CFF and the online registration process is fairly simple.
Not all Swiss resorts offer the 20% discount to Skicard holders, and many of the big names aren’t eligible. But dozens of less famous but equally gratifying resorts like Diavolezza, Crans-Montana, Melchsee-Frutt and Andermatt are eligible. If you like to escape the beaten path and test out multiple slopes across the country, there’s no better way to enjoy more skiing for less.
5. Take advantage of bank benefits
Some Swiss banks and credit card issuers offer ski discounts to their customers. For example Raiffeisen Bank offers its customers discounted day passes (as much as 50% off) at popular ski resorts as part of its Members Plus benefit program. Zürcher Kantonalbank customers can use the cross country ski track in Guldenen free of charge.
American Express Membership Rewards can be used to pay for online purchases and rentals of ski equipment from Swissrent. Cornèrcard credit card users can obtain the èFun card for 5 Swiss francs. This card acts as an electronic pass and holders benefit from discounts of up to 20% on daily ski passes at select resorts.
6. Take advantage of insurance perks
All residents of Switzerland are required to get basic health insurance from an insurance provider. To ease the pain of paying the premiums, many insurers offer their policyholders special deals and discounts. Perhaps ironically (considering the risky nature of winter sports), insurance providers line their winter-edition magazine pages with customer discounts on ski travel packages and discounts on ski and snowboarding equipment rentals.
7. Check out public transportation combo deals
While driving to your destination is often cheaper and more convenient than using public transportation, railway/ski combo packages can sometimes offer good value for money. If you don’t own a car, then looking into railway deals ahead of your ski trip is almost a must. Getting a Snow’n’Rail deal from the SBB works out much cheaper than buying a railway ticket and a ski pass separately.
8. Look into student deals
If you are currently studying, ask about student deals before buying a ski pass. Some Swiss resorts offer student discounts. The Stucard Maestro card available to customers of many cantonal banks is a student debit card which entitles you to numerous discounts. Cardholders benefit from automated discounts when they use the card to pay for passes at many idyllic ski destinations. You must present your Stucard and an ID when purchasing your pass. Occasional student ski deals can be found on websites like Toasted and Legi often offers discounts on ski equipment rentals.
9. Use Reka checks to pay
Not all Swiss ski slopes accept REKA checks as payment, but close to 100 ski lifts across Switzerland do. The main benefit of using REKA checks to pay when possible is that you can get more value for your money. If you have a Supercard from Coop, you can buy REKA checks at a 3% discount on their face value at large Coop supermarkets. So 500 francs worth of REKA checks, for example, would cost 485 francs. REKA also provides a payment card in the place of paper checks, and a 2% discount applies when you deposit money into your REKA card account via deposit slip, bank transfer, or using a Postfinance card or American Express card. Many employers and labor unions offer REKA checks to employees and members at discounted prices (up to 20%).
10. Make use of classified pages
Private individuals often advertise unwanted ski passes, REKA checks, and ski holiday vouchers in classified papers and on second-hand portals like Ricardo, Tutti, Anibis, and Ebay. Generally these are offered at heavily discounted prices, and you can also negotiate. These outlets also help you save by making it easy to resell any non-refundable unused passes or vouchers left over after you’ve had your annual winter fix.
11. Buy ski passes through a ticket agent
Ticketcorner, one of the leading ticket agents in Switzerland, offers a 20% discount on ski passes at more than 40 ski resorts across the country. The condition: You have to be a member of Ticketcorner’s Live Club in order to get the discount, and membership comes at a 49 Swiss franc membership fee. However, if you do a lot of skiing at eligible resorts, the 20% you save on ski passes can more than make up for the cost of membership.