What does the perfect ski holiday in the French Alps look like?
A luxury chalet rental overlooking the pistes, a crackling fireplace and the smell of hot cocoa (or fondue) in the air?
You can’t really have your dream ski holiday if you let someone else plan it for you. That’s why today, we’re going to show you how to plan DIY ski holidays in the French Alps.
We won’t only explain how to do it, but we’ll also guide you to the resources and contact information you need to plan every leg of your ski holidays.
We’ll tell you how to get to the Alps, how and where to book your transfers to the actual ski resort, and even how to hire your skis. You’ll feel confident you won’t have missed anything for your DIY ski holidays, and you’ll have even more fun and flexibility than if you had booked all-inclusive ski holidays.
Ready to be your own travel agent for your skiing holiday in the French Alps?
Why plan DIY ski holidays?
A family ski trip means you’re likely tied to school holidays. Packages are the most expensive during Christmas and half-term, and the best ones get booked rapidly. Most people have the same plans as you. The cafeterias will be crowded and so will the transport.
If you DIY your trip, it’s unique, and you can do things exactly how you and your family want to.
DIY ski holidays may seem overwhelming. However, if you plan ahead you can have a far more rewarding ski trip.
One of the main reasons DIY ski holidays trump the alternative is that you can travel in style. Few all-inclusive ski holidays will give you the top chalets in the most exclusive spots. If you appreciate a bespoke holiday, this is the only way to go.
When you plan your own ski trip, you can take more scenic routes, eat better and healthier food, and stay in more beautiful chalets. It also happens to be one of the most economic ways to go skiing, which is helpful when a large family wants to sleep in luxury accommodation.
It just takes some time in advance to plan.
Why not an all-inclusive ski holiday?
If you can’t be bothered to take the time to plan a trip, this can be a sound choice for some. It’s convenient and some of the deals are surprisingly attractive.
There are a few reasons we’re not a huge fan of package deals for ski holidays, though:
- The accommodation is generic
- Your meal is usually something greasy and fried
- You don’t have any flexibility
- You have to fit perfectly into the packaged deal (some pre-determined combination like 2 kids and 2 adults)
A self-catered ski chalet offers beautiful (and usually better) accommodation, where you can cook (or order in!) better food and experience your ski holidays your way.
So let’s see how to plan your DIY ski holiday.
Booking your flight
To get to the French Alps by plane, you have to fly into a neighbouring city (because of the mountains, you can’t fly directly to the resorts). The closest and best-connected airport to most of the French Alps resorts is Geneva. You can get a transfer from Geneva’s airport to almost all the ski resorts in the French Alps.
Other well-placed airports are Chambéry, Grenoble and Lyon St Exupery.
Swiss Airlines does transport ski equipment for free, but it’s one of the only airlines to do so. If you fly with another airline, you’ll need to book your ski carriage in advance.
This can be pretty expensive. Some alternatives are ski luggage delivery companies like Fetch My Luggage or Bagsahead. These companies pick up your luggage and equipment from your home and deliver it straight to your chalet. If you’re traveling with a family, that means your hands will be free to deal with crying toddlers or hand them over to your spouse. What a relief if you’re planning a family ski trip!
Booking your train to the Alps
Train travel is one of the most pleasant and scenic routes to the French Alps, not to mention far more eco-friendly. The beauty of DIY ski holidays is that you can book the train and take the route you want.
The French Alps are accessible via railway from:
From those cities you can take the following:
Getting to Chamonix by train:
- Take train to Bellegarde via TGV (book from SNCF)
- Bellegarde to St Gervais via TER (local train)
- St Gervais to Chamonix on the Mont Blanc Express Train
Getting to Morzine by train:
Getting to Les Gets by train:
Also, from St. Pancras International or Ashford International train stations, you can hop on the Eurostar Ski Train and get to the French Alps by train.
The trains take you directly to Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-St-Maurice, which are close to many French Alps ski resorts.
DIY Transfers to the French Alps
This is the tricky part that can be the biggest headache if you don’t plan in advance. There are a few ways to get to your chalet from the airports:
- Hire a car and drive there - Straight shot to the Alps and offers you the most flexibility.
- Get a shuttle transfer from the airport - Most of the airports in the area will have transfers to the Alps, but it can cost several hundred pounds. If you’re a big group that can divide the costs, the costs won’t be too bad.
- Check if the resort offers transfers - Some resorts offer free transfer from the airport. Check before going.
- Use a dedicated transfer company - You can book private transfer with companies like Mountain Drop Offs or AlpLine
It’s extremely important, for the sake of your sanity, that you plan far in advance and sort out your transfer.
The most flexible and often highest-quality accommodation will be self-catered chalets. The self-catered ski apartment is an especially good option for groups or families. If you book far enough in advance, you should be able to get high-quality luxury ski chalets close to the slopes.
If you plan to book in Chamonix, Morzine, or Les Gets, here are some options that you can book directly online:
- Luxury, self-catered Chamonix ski chalets
- Luxury, self-catered Morzine ski chalets
- Luxury, self-catered Les Gets ski chalets
If you’re travelling with children, check that the chalet is close to the pistes to make things easier.
DIY ski holidays travel insurance
When you’re racing down a piste at 15mph with two slippery skis attached to your feet, accidents can happen. While an all-inclusive package will usually include insurance for you, your DIY ski holidays don’t. That’s your responsibility and not one you should take lightly.
There are a few options you can choose. Alpine Elements offers group insurance for families but also ski insurance for individuals starting at £14.82. This covers accidents, illness, and even the cost of travel for a family member to come visit you in the hospital. It also covers a cancelled trip and lost, stolen or damaged luggage. It doesn’t cover wine or fondue spills on clothes.
You can either hire your ski equipment directly at the resort, but the word on the grapevine is that you can save more money if you book in advance (and probably save time queuing, too!).
You can book via websites like SnowRental.net to make sure you get exactly the gear you want, not to mention get the equipment for nearly 40% cheaper than directly at the resort.
If you plan to go on several snowboarding or skiing holidays, you may want to consider buying your own snow equipment.
Don’t forget to book ski tuition in advance as well. You can check on the ski resort website what schools are available for adults or kids and most of the time you can book directly through the website.
When to book your DIY ski holiday
Your DIY ski holidays only works if you give yourself enough time to organise. Book as far in advance as possible to make sure everything is in order. We’d recommend booking your DIY ski holidays as far back as August if you can.
Last tips about planning DIY ski holidays to the French Alps
Here are some last tips about planning your DIY ski holidays:
- It’s worth repeating: plan in advance. Book everything early: travel, accommodation, ski passes and transfers.
- If you can, plan your ski holiday mid-week rather than weekends.
- Send your luggage ahead of you, as described above. You can thank us later.
- If you decide against #3, don’t forget to check your airline’s baggage policy and/or cost of ski carriage. Book this in advance.
- Consider going during the low-season parts of the year for more choice (January)
- Decide in advance what you want to do after the slopes clothes. Relax? Choose a chalet with a sauna. Party? Find the best party ski resorts.
- Try to be flexible. This will help you get the highest quality DIY ski holidays and for the best price.
Planning DIY ski holidays can be rewarding and fun. It’s only stressful if you leave the planning fo the last minute. Have you planned DIY ski holidays before or is this your first time?
Don’t forget to check out our Ultimate Guide on How to Plan a Skiing Holiday in the French Alps, which contains all the information you need to know!