Easy ways to save before hitting the ski slopes

Budget for food, stock up on sun cream and get clever with kit

Skiing and spending seem to go hand in hand – and even with cheap flight deals and packages, the cost of equipment and everything from a ski pass to a plate of chips seems to sky rocket when you're in the mountains. To save money, preparation is key – plan ahead and budget your spending so you hit the slopes and not your wallet.

Cheap(er) ski clothes

First up, let's think about what you'll need clothing-wise. It's hard to cut corners with ski outer layers, as those do need to be waterproof and fit well so you can move properly. But the things you wear underneath are somewhere you can really save some cash.

  • Base layers. There are a lot of clothes that are branded as 'ski base layers' which are actually not all that different to a second layer of sports clothing or a vest. Before you hit the shops for fancy ski undergarments, check your own wardrobe for thin workout leggings that might go under ski salopettes. Tops that work for yoga or running can also be a great base layer – and you can get them for bargain prices in regular clothing stores. M&S does thermal vests at 2 for £25, and I spotted some reductions on long-sleeve running tops at The Running Outlet too. Read more about base layers in our guide to heating the human not the home.

  • Outer layers. When it comes to the outer layers, a decent coat is necessary – that waterproof you use for dog walks won't be enough protection when you're on the mountain. Right now there are spring sales on at Mountain Warehouse (up to 70% off), Snow+Rock (up to 40% off), and Absolute Snow (up to 50% off until Tuesday 30 April) to name a few. If you're not a first-time skier or boarder and are thinking of investing in something that'll see you through a few seasons, you can shop sales now for high-end performance clothing and extras like new goggles, too.

  • Ski socks and gloves. Again, corner-cutting isn't ideal as socks need to be a certain length to cover your calf and shin, while gloves or mittens need to be waterproof and warm. You also want to be as comfortable in your ski or board boots as possible – they'll be on your feet every day. Cheap socks can mean painful blisters. My rule is it's better to have two decent pairs of socks (and risk a bit of whiff) than five lower quality pairs that will be uncomfortable and wear out sooner. Decent merino wool socks can be pricey (some can be £30 or more a pair), but I'd consider something like these Falke socks.

    It's personal preference between gloves or mittens – I like mittens so I can move my fingers around more easily inside them. When it's colder, I wear thin running gloves inside my mittens too. The key is to make sure your mittens or gloves cover your wrist and are waterproof. I'd pick something like these Burton gloves or Quiksilver mitts.

  • Avoid getting an 'apres-ski wardrobe'. When it comes to clothes you wear off the slopes, don't be fooled into thinking you need a whole new wardrobe. It's perfectly normal and acceptable to wear your ski jacket to go out, and there really are no fashion police. You might want something cosy to wear for a night in or two, like tracksuit bottoms.

  • Off-the-slopes footwear. Footwear is another money drain you can avoid. Hold off on buying those fancy furry-lined trendy-looking snow boots, as you actually won't spend a huge amount of time walking on the snow and ice, especially later in the season. Some shoes with a good grip will usually do the trick and you'll see plenty of people in trainers while out there. A word of warning – Ugg-style boots WILL slip and absorb a lot of snow if you do wear them on the powder.

  • Don't forget preloved. For those shopping preloved, Vinted can be a good shout for skiing gear, but make sure you buy in time for it to arrive and ask lots of questions about the size and material, and whether there are any rips or damage. There are bargains to be had, as many people go skiing once in brand-new kit, decide they don't like the sport, and sell the kit when they get home.

  • Avoid shops at the resort. There will be sales in the shops in ski resorts at this time of year, BUT be careful not to leave too much to chance. They could be overpriced, and if they don't have what you want, you may be left trouser or jacket-less. Shopping also takes up valuable holiday time.
An in-store Boots display of different types of Soltan sun cream. It's below a sign reading: "Travel miniatures. Four for three from this display."

Buy beauty and health essentials before you travel

  • Sun cream is an essential, and while we're not usually fans of buying the less MoneySaving travel minis, those ski jacket pockets require small bottles. It's not recommended you decant sun cream out of its original packaging, so make sure you buy some minis before travelling. Your local pharmacy or the duty free shop will often have 3for2 deals or 4for3. Read our full guide to sun cream for more info.

  • Medicines can be very expensive in mountain pharmacies (and asking for them is also confusing if you don't speak the lingo). Buy any medicines you might need (such as ibuprofen) at home, as the prices will be a lot higher in the mountain pharmacy.

  • Sanitary and baby items are also worth buying before you go if you think you'll need them. Again, these can be more expensive in a mountain supermarket and you won't find the range you do in your local shops. A must-do for those who rely on certain brands.

  • Lip balms are a must-take in my experience, as the cold days will chap your lips, and the warm ones will dehydrate them. I've paid nearly a tenner for a lip balm in a shop at a ski resort in the past, so my advice is to take one with you.

Do a deal on your one-use equipment such as helmets and skis

The final pieces of kit are the one-off things you would hire – skis or snowboards, boots and a helmet. Many ski/board hire shops now include a helmet in a weekly hire package, and if they don't, you can ask if they'll include one. Hiring equipment in advance can also save you money – if you are travelling with a package deal, look at booking through the travel company to see if they do a pre-ordering ski equipment deal. You can also pre-order from hire shops. On a recent trip in March 2024, I saved 10% by booking my skis and poles in advance with Intersport. Pre-ordering helps you beat the queues too, as they'll have already put your stuff aside for the order.

If you have friends who ski, they may lend you a helmet, but don't be offended if they won't – a beginner's fall might crack a helmet and leave you with the cost of a replacement, so we can be a bit cautious to let them out of our sight. Also, beware buying second-hand helmets, as you don't know what's happened to them previously.

Budget for food and drink before you go

There's no avoiding the fact that food on the mountain can be extortionately expensive. So you need to be clever with the where and when of your spending.

  • Take some time to find out where you might eat and drink, both during the day and in the evening. Many package-arranged chalet stays don't cater for guests on a Wednesday (so the chalet staff can have a night off), so company reps will make suggestions of where you can go instead. A bit of advance research might mean you can choose a budget-friendly option before you're bamboozled by the offers of fondue for 10.
MSE Jenny H, who wrote this blog, holds up a plate of cheesy bread and salad in a mountain restaurant.
  • Make your own sarnies. There's a classic cliché that you either pay a lot of money to eat 'on the mountain' or you're eating a frozen cereal bar on the chair lift. It's great to make your own lunch if you can – with the proviso of course that one person will be in charge of the rucksack with them all in, promising not to fall over and squash the food!

  • Choose your alfresco days vs which days you'll treat yourselves to a burger, panini or even fondue on the slopes. If you're staying in a hotel, of course you should take the opportunity to fill up on good energy-giving food at breakfast time so you're not tempted by mid-morning hot chocolates.

  • Bringing some snacks with you, especially if you have young children, is an easy win. Remember that some will be harder to transport while you're skiing (think bananas!), but snack bars are ideal.

  • Choose hypermarket over mini mart. If you've driven, head to a hypermarket before you get to the resort, as the smaller supermarkets will be a lot more expensive and have way less choice.

Preloaded currency cards

One way to stay on top of your spends is a preloaded currency card or a travel debit card, which will avoid any extra bank fees and help you stick to your food plans by giving you a set amount in the currency of the country where you're on hols. See our Prepaid travel cards guide for more details on what might work for you.

It also makes the spending a family thing or a couple thing rather than falling to one 'lead' person. To find out food and drink prices, have a look at some of the resort restaurants online, and see if they list their menu and set a budget. Think about experience above all – there will always be a cool mountainside café or restaurant to try, but it will be cheaper to have a drink there, rather than a three-course meal. If it's alfresco views you're after, study the map of the area to see where there are picnic spots to have your lunch.

Allow for extra 'get me off the mountain' insurance

Hopefully you have already booked your travel insurance (if not, see our Travel insurance guide pronto, and also read up on GHICs and EHICs), but there is another small insurance fee to pay that you want to budget for – it's called different things in different countries (in France, for example, it's called Carré Neige), but it's essentially a small fee that covers you if you need help getting off the mountain. This covers you for being airlifted down if something happens, which isn't always covered by regular insurance. You can usually add the extra on when you buy a lift pass. Check with local lift pass offices if this is something they offer in that area or country.

Paying an extra 10 euros to insure your ski hire is also well worth it. It's so easy for someone to pick up your skis instead of theirs when they're all piled together at lunch. For real peace of mind, you could take a small chain lock to wrap around all your group's skis and boards.

Remember to avoid roaming charges

It's so tempting to take a photo or video of every skiing moment – but beware data roaming charges. Check what's included with your provider or contract before you go. You might want to consider buying a Sim card while out there, but in my experience, the best way to save cash is to turn off roaming, rely on Wi-Fi and enjoy the view. Many resorts now have Wi-Fi you can log into all over the slopes (they'll expect you to share an email or phone number to sign up) and it tends to kick in around major chair lifts or gondolas – handy if you're feeling confident enough to hold your phone on the chair lift while you check any messages.

If you are keen on taking lots of pics and sharing to social media, be mindful that batteries can really suffer in the cold weather – a top trick is to keep your phone in a spare (non ski) sock in your inside jacket pocket so it stays warmer, then add the footage of your efforts on the slopes when you're back on Wi-Fi in the evening.