I whipped down slopes so long that my legs were aching by the bottom, then went directly to a lift with no line to go straight back up to the top again. Around me were jagged peaks covered in snow, with some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen. It was everything I’d dreamed Swiss Alps skiing would be, but at a price that was cheaper than what I’d spend at a low-level small resort in the USA, thanks to the surprisingly affordable deals offered by the Ski Hostel program.
The Swiss Ski Hostel program I’m talking about, with the enviable domain name of ski-hostel.com, is in some years a concept rather than one specific place, but the offerings this year are based where I slept for two weeks, at Relais en Dranse in the village of Liddes. The owners and managers have this and a couple of other lodges in an area that’s removed from the glitzy resorts where billionaires and vacationers looking for status are hitting the slopes.
Because of this, they are able to offer affordable lodging rates and also offer downright cheap ski passes for the length of your stay. The most common package is a week of hostel-style lodging, skiing every day (if you want) at one of three resorts, transportation to the slopes, half board, and airport transfers. The price for all that is just 950 Swiss francs, which at the current exchange rate is $1,115. To stay and ski in Switzerland!
If you want to stop right here and book it because that’s such a steal, head to the packages page here.
Skiing Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive in Switzerland
Most Americans and Canadians have no idea that it’s actually cheaper to ski in Europe than it is in North America and it’s not even close when you compare lift ticket prices.
I spent two weeks in this Liddes region last winter because I had won a lodging package from sister company Co-living Fringue while I was at a digital nomad festival. While I didn’t hit the slopes every day, I was out for a lot of them, with a bout of night skiing in there even, and spent a total of 80 euros on the lift tickets.
That’s because the regional tourism office for Pays du St. Bernard sells an already affordable season pass for half price to the Ski Hostel guests since they won’t use it the whole season. That pass also covers transportation on the local buses in the area.
Yes, that was the total price for all the skiing, a fraction of what you’d spend for a single day at resorts in Colorado or Utah. The Ski Hostel people have two rooms of equipment available for rent too for skiers and snowboarders, so you can come down with just your luggage if you’d like and they’ll set you up for with rentals.
That ski week package mentioned above includes the lift passes though and you’re really on your own just for lunch when it comes to meals. Breakfast and dinner are communal, prepared by volunteers staying for weeks or months.
Some of the people on ski hostel packages while I was there brown-bagged something they had prepared from the local grocery store, though considering Swiss grocery prices it seemed like a wash on doing that compared to just buying food on the slopes at either resort we were hitting.
Skiing at Vichères and Fouly
There are three slopes included in that Pays du St. Bernard ski pass, but one is strictly for beginners and isn’t up as high as the others, so we didn’t spend any time there during my visit. We did have one beginner attending while I was there, but he learned during a night skiing round at La Fouly, which worked out fine. He was a fast learner, so the next day he was managing the green slopes.
We spent most of our time at Vichères since it was less than 10 minutes away by car from the Relais en Dranse lodge. Transportation is included, but there’s also a local bus that will get you there (included with the pass) on a set schedule if you want to leave or come back at a different time. I was there in March and there was only one day we could ski all the way to the bottom because there wasn’t enough snow cover left, but up at the top it was glorious, looking like this:
We got dumped on one day with more than a foot of powder, which sounds great but actually made it tough to navigate if you didn’t have fat skis, which I didn’t So I had a humbling day that day and took a few bruising tumbles. The rest of the time it was great though, with varied terrain, some long but fast cruising runs, and some challenging ones with some steepness. All the while, the views were fantastic.
I liked the vistas even better at Fouly, which was about 20 minutes away, because the Swiss Alps were looming right over us and the view was always dramatic. Check out the view the lift operator has from the top:
Once again, there was a nice mix of trails, with ways for groups skiing together to branch off at different points and go steeper or mellower and connect again at the bottom. We also had a nice lunch here both days, sitting outside in the sun.
Staying at the Relais en Dranse Ski Hostel
I wasn’t sure what to expect at the Relais en Dranse lodge since the place hosts language camps, co-working weeks, and ski vacations all under one roof depending on what time of the year it is. All those groups have two things in common though: they want to have fun and they need to eat.
So there’s a pool table, foosball tables, lots of games, books, a piano, and some outdoor fun items for warm weather. They rigged up a projector screen one night for a movie, we roasted marshmallows by a fire one night, and the Sonos stereo system got a lot of use.
There’s a shared kitchen that’s large and can crank out group meals or be used by individual guests for making their own. Then the working types (which included me some days) need a fast Wi-Fi signal and work spaces, so there are plenty of tables, extension cords, and sofas for those who like to lounge while working. There’s also a sauna on the ground floor.
Most of the rooms have four or six beds, so you won’t generally get loads of privacy unless the place is mostly empty. It was some nights I was there though, so I had a few where it was just me in one room. The communal bathrooms are large and there are laundry facilities when you need to start over with clean clothing. Organization and communication left a bit to be desired at times since everyone working there is a volunteer exchanging work for lodging except the owner, so at these prices, don’t be expecting Swiss efficiency at all times.
The lodge is downhill from the village, so you get a good workout going to shop for groceries or to hit the pub, but then getting back home is quite easy as it’s all downhill. The village is a pretty one, in a small valley between two sets of mountains.
For more information, see the ski hostel page here. When planning a trip, check flights into Geneva, the closest major airport. Check out our Movenpick Geneva Airport and Tiffany Hotel reviews. The local language is French, but a half dozen languages are usually overheard at the lodge, including English.
If you’re not up for sharing a room, the owners also have a more traditional lodge in Liddes village with private rooms with en-suite baths. Ask them for a quote for an upgrade.
Review and photos by editor Tim Leffel, who spent two weeks at the lodge after winning a contest at Bansko Nomad Fest, where Co-living Fringue was a sponsor. As always, all opinions are his own.