As the days grow shorter, I find myself, like many fans of winter sports, daydreaming about skiing.
And while the U.S. has some of the best ski and snowboard resorts in the world, hitting the slopes in Europe has its own charms and, surprisingly, can be more affordable than many people realize.
Obviously, airfare is the biggest hurdle in terms of price but not necessarily an insurmountable one thanks to the proliferation of low-cost transatlantic flights, especially off-season. A random search showed a roundtrip JFK-Vail flight at just over $400 in mid-January, for example, compared to JFK-Geneva for the same dates at around $550.
By contrast, the prices of lift tickets are dramatically different in the U.S. versus overseas. For example, you can expect to pay up to $328 for a two-day pass at Vail for the upcoming season and the pass is good at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone Resorts. A two-day pass at Davos Klosters Mountains in Switzerland, on the other hand, costs about $143 and is valid at the top five mountains in the region: Parsenn Davos Klosters, Jakobshorn, Madrisa, Rinerhorn and Pischa.
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Of course, these kinds of comparisons are unscientific, since no two resorts are alike in every respect and trying to compare them is a case of apples and oranges. But it is fair to say that, in general, lift-ticket prices are lower in Europe than here, and I chose these two ski areas because they are high-end, well-known and offer access to more than one mountain. I also didn't take hotel prices into consideration, because there are properties at various price points on both continents.
Clients looking to save even more money overseas might consider focusing on resorts at less-obvious destinations in Europe, such as Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, where a two-day pass will only set you back about $68, or Moninec, not far from Prague in the Czech Republic, where two days of skiing costs less than $45.
Aside from price, there are other considerations that can add to the appeal of a European ski vacation. It's easy to combine a few days on the slopes with sightseeing in a nearby city, Geneva or Salzburg for example, and many European resorts are accessible via excellent rail service. And although U.S. resorts have come a long way with regard to dining, it's tough to beat the charm of a warm-up cappuccino at a slope-side taverna.
For retailers anxious about putting together a European ski vacation, ski.com offers links to ski tour operators that organize winter vacations to the U.S. and Europe.