There are plenty of guides to skiing on a budget so I thought it might be time to go the other way. How to ski on a big budget – how to do it properly but at the same time how to spend wisely and make the most out of your money and your experience.
Where to go:
We operate in Verbier, Zermatt and St Moritz, so we are totally biased, but these resorts really are the best in Switzerland, and Switzerland is – in our opinion – the world’s best-equipped country for well-heeled skiers.
Switzerland copes well with better off skiers because its main resorts are higher, more authentic, historic, luxurious, have superior infrastructure and the best alpine vistas. Swiss resorts are accessed on safe roads from many well equipped private airfields, the people are discreet and don’t mind selling you what you want, and in nearly all cases the instructors, drivers, hoteliers and shop owners have already met someone richer or more royal than your good self.
If you want to enjoy the luxury, anonymity, security and normality that come with a ski holiday to Switzerland, then give us a call. We have a network of partner companies which manage the most luxurious properties and deliver the most enjoyable experiences. And, on a daily basis our team of instructors take people to the best terraces on the mountain.
How to get there:
Our resorts – Verbier, Zermatt and St Moritz – all have great access for private jets. Sion military airport has a large TAG aviation GA facility; Net Jets even has a desk in the terminal building. Though be aware that the TAG private terminal is on the other side of the airport from the main public terminal. Many clients complain that Sion is often closed, meaning a diversion to Geneva, or worse, Bern – if you have a choice, we recommend Geneva. To land in Sion, your pilots not only need to be Mountain Qualified but they also need to be brave. Sion is 40 minutes from Verbier and just over an hour from Zermatt. You can take the helicopter to Zermatt; the town is car-free so there is a painful last leg by train and electro taxi that can be skipped with a heli-transfer. Don’t bother taking a helicopter to Verbier as the Verbier heliport is down the valley in Le Châble, so you’re only cutting a few minutes compared with the car journey and you’ll look like a bit of a plonker. St Moritz has its own private airfield; a Swiss F/A-18 will even escort if you come during Davos… pretty cool. The airfield can take big jets too so is suitable to those coming from afar. If you get diverted, you are likely to end up in Zurich or Milan; Milan is the better option as it’s closer by car.
Choosing Verbier, Zermatt or St Moritz:
Choose Verbier if you are serious about skiing. Zermatt is arguably the Daddy of all ski resorts world wide, with an authentic old village, better shopping and good food – it’s also got the Matterhorn, links to Italy and some amazing lunch possibilities. It is cold though, and compared to Verbier gets little sun in the village. Verbier has the best, most staffed, comfortable luxury chalets and is the darling for the Hedge Fund retiree set, whereas Zermatt is all about the hotels with only a handful of acceptable chalets. Unlike most resorts where all the 5* action is in one village, St Moritz is more about the region and the surrounding villages. It’s got everything from amazing shopping, fairly easy skiing and serious old school 5* hotels, to casinos and nightclubs priced to keep it comfortably free of undesirables.
Verbier has its charms; modern, young and if you really are a billionaire, you’ll be less alone than you think. Zermatt is a bit rustic, but there’s no shortage of quality, funky, romantic and groovily designed places, which is fun. Blow it in St Moritz, specifically at Kings in the Badrutts Palace; go dancing with a bit of Euro-Trash – but who cares!
Go private. Lessons are ruined if there are big splits in the groups so this is going to be something to spend on. Book an instructor for every day and rely on them to keep you on good slopes, keep everyone happy on the snow, book lunches, (unless your chalet or hotel does this), oh… and teach skiing. As a rule, high-rolling clients with a big party will have one instructor for every three people. Instructors usually come to your hotel or chalet the night before and shouldn’t have a problem coming with you to the rental shop to help you choose the right kit. Most importantly, they will also keep you safe. As for kids, in general small children up to seven years old will only last a morning, so only book their instructors for half a day.
Usually ski schools make people pay up front for their lessons, and 24 hours is the normal cancellation policy. They have to pay their guys so go easy, or ask for an account if you’re a regular visitor to that resort. Be sure to tip your instructors, though no more than 10% of the value of the lessons.
Your instructors are not like other mountain staff; they’re more like professionals. They have relationships all around the mountain and can make a big difference to your holiday. Treat them well and they’ll make your next stay easier too.
Use the same guys each year and at Easter offer them a seat home on your jet – they’ll love that. In Verbier, Zermatt and St Moritz, use my school ES; if you’re going elsewhere, give me a call and I’ll find you a good one. We’re on your side.
Buy your clothing and ski boots, but rent skis. For beginners, rent the boots too.
Buying everything for the beginner skier in your party, including skis that may only get used once is a waste. The stuff you should own is in this order: clothing, boots, and then skis. If a pair of skis costs more than €1200, you’re being done. The same goes for boots: spend €1000 max… and even then! To be honest, almost all shops in top ski resorts are good, though there are some products that just aim to attract silly money for no good reason. Don’t assume that the most expensive products are the best. For rentals and kit, use the following stores:
Verbier: Mountain Air +41 (0) 27 771 62 31
Zermatt: Glacier Sport Intersport Rent +41 (0) 27 968 13 00
St Moritz: INTERSPORT La Fainera Sport & Mode +41 (0) 81 826 55 02
Skiing without a budget :: Written by Julian Griffiths