For many of us skiers old enough to remember we can recall the good times when the £ stood proudly as a currency of Kings; we threw our money around with ease and enjoyed the best of ski holidays. The one burning question is, have these halcyon days returned? Well, maybe things are not so decadent in this post economic-crash environment and perhaps we have re-educated ourselves to be a little more modest in our expenditure, however with the strength of the pound we have seen our spending power increase and subsequently in-resort costs have tumbled by almost a third. Indeed, February half term skiers this year enjoyed an exchange rate of €1.42 to the pound.
As the recession bit, ski resorts were slow to adjust prices. They “Ostriched” themselves wrapped up in the comfort blanket of the mantra that skiers will always ski. To start with this looked true; many of us skiers felt that things would turn around swiftly, however, households started housekeeping and ski numbers started stalling. Even amongst those hardened addicts determined to have their hit of the white stuff it was noticeable that many were now downgrading. Five star guests were happy with four star prices, four star guests with three star prices, private transfers became shared, Michelin starred lunches became fondue fuelled pit stops. Things were changing and the resorts were finally waking up to this fact. After a season or two we saw the plat de jour fall from a lofty €16 to a more affordable €10, hire shops started offering discounts for early bookings (by as much as 50%), and bar prices became more aligned with average London bar prices. Antoine Cournot’s supply and demand theorem had firmly hit the ski world in the mouth, and the Alps were addled. Purchasing habits were changing, 5 years ago very few clients asked the cost of ski packs prior to booking a trip. Now around 75% will ask the cost of lift passes, equipment hire, and tuition before making their holiday choice. British ski tour operators were instrumental in stopping the rot by offering deals to the end user and thus retaining skier numbers. In particular they negotiated with the resort tourist offices and unleashed a barrage of deals on lift passes to lessen the impact of the recession and keep the skiers on the pistes.
Of course, as the economic instability reduced we witnessed an increase in consumer confidence and, therefore, fewer offers of this magnitude were made available. For us British skiers though the one boon has been the rejuvenated £ against the €. Where once the two currencies shared parity the £ has strengthened by some 30-35%. So that plat de jour peaking at £16.00 can now be bought for as little as £8.60. If we just equate what this means to lift passes alone, one of the biggest skier expenditures, then we can see how much better off we are as skiers in 2015. A 3 valleys area lift pass can now be purchased at just under £200.00 per adult when at the peak of our financial problems it hit a whopping £250.00 per adult. Where once ski and boot hire rocketed in the Eurozone for a mid-quality set of adult equipment to £120.00, it can now be pre-purchased at around £70.00. That once £8.00 pint of beer in Val d’Isere is more likely to cost £4.00 these days – all a result of in-resort price realignment coupled with more punch in the pound.
So what can we expect for skiing in the 2015/16 season? Even given the Bank of England’s inflation report causing a GBP negative the likelihood is that the £ will still stay above levels we have witnessed over the last 7 years or so. Judging by the bullish nature of advance ski holiday bookings it does appear that the renewed confidence in the market is continuing. It is doubtful that resorts will increase costs by too much, they seem to have learned their lesson in a price sensitive market place. We can only predict that the British skier will continue to experience a more favourable financial experience in the Eurozone Alps next season. Are we to be re-crowned kings again? In reality, no, but surely we can claim a position of a minor royal these days.