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Plan Early for a European Ski Vacation

by Barbara Rogers

Oct 6, 2019

Stillman Rogers

Travel Tips

Skiing in the Alps or Dolomites may sound like the adventure of a lifetime, but it can be more than a dream vacation for your family. Begin with the lift prices, which can be half of prices at equivalent ski resorts in the United States or Canada. And the difference between adult and youth tickets is far greater, so the savings can be significant for a family.


The range of lodging prices in and around ski resorts compares to those in North America, but early planning can yield reasonable rates even at some of the most famous resorts, such as Zermatt. In general, expect higher prices in Switzerland, lower in Italy and Austria. Overall, you’ll likely find the cost of a vacation in Italy is usually lower than at ski resorts in France or Switzerland.


Italian ski resorts have a relaxed atmosphere and easy pace, where the emphasis is on having fun, and combined with lower ticket prices, this makes Italy an attractive place for families to take a ski vacation. While lift prices are generally lower in Italy, in the Dolomites (which includes the famed Cortina d’Ampezzo and its surrounding resorts) the Dolomiti Superski pass adds an extra layer of savings.


The Dolomiti Superski pass costs $69 a day for adults and $48 for children over age 8. Children under age 8 ski free with a ticketed adult (one child per adult). If your vacation is Jan. 7–Feb. 1, the Superski pass is even cheaper. Compare that to rates exceeding $100 a day at resorts like Breckenridge and Mont Tremblant.

Learning to ski. Photo: Stillman Rogers

This pass, available by the day or in multiday units that brings the price even lower, includes the full use of lifts and trails of Cortina d’Ampezzo and the 11 other resorts in the Gruppo del Sella peaks. Of these, Alta Badia is popular for families with beginning and intermediate skiers, with good gentle beginner terrain, and about 50 percent of its trails rated as intermediate. Hot-shot parents won’t be bored here, though — the Gran Risa slope is one of the most technically difficult in all the Alps.


Families with beginning and intermediate skiers will also find plenty of terrain at Cortina d’Ampezzo, where there are slopes and trails for beginners, and about half the skiable terrain is intermediate. Elsewhere in Italy, at the smaller resorts with less international fame, rates can run as low as $20 a day, and children are often less than half the adult rate.


Lift rates are higher at the big-name resorts in France, but still lower than those in North America, with Chamonix and Courchevel running about $60 a day for adults. Smaller French resorts have tickets as low as $25 a day.


Although prices of everything tend higher in Switzerland, especially at iconic resorts like Zermatt, there are lodging deals if you book early. Also at Zermatt, children up to age 9 ride free on the mountain lifts if accompanied by an adult with a multiday pass. Better yet, the free Wolli Card, valid for one year, includes access to the Gornergrat Bahn lift and free lodging in some Zermatt hotels.


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