Student ski trips are a bit like freshers week up all over again, but up a mountain. A tonne of booze, a lot of early mornings and late nights, and a complete lack of personal space – what more could you want from a holiday?
Seriously though, they are one of the best things you can do at uni. Even if you can’t ski, it’s an excuse to go out every night, forget about real life, and for an entire week just concentrate on having fun. And it would be very difficult not to have fun.
However, it’s always good to be aware of what you’re in for when booking on to one of these things, especially if you’ve never done it before – so read on for my advice on how to prepare, what to take, and how to ensure you make it out the other side without (much) injury to yourself or your bank balance.
You’ve got to be at least mildly organised to ensure the week passes without a hassle. Think about getting into a group of friends before you sign up (because a ski trip on your own would be less than enjoyable), and this will make everything a lot easier. This way you can group together to bring or buy the things you’ll need for the week, and you won’t have to share a room with a stinky, sweaty snorer (unless you are friends with one).
Sort out in advance who is going to take what. Think about what is going to be cheaper or easier to buy once you’re out there, and what would be more sensible just to take with you. There will likely be some restriction on baggage, so don’t lug the entire contents of your kitchen all the way to the Alps: they probably have washing up liquid in France. Don’t forget to get your Euros in advance either – you probably won’t take enough money for the exchange rate to make much of a difference but it’s still worth trying to get the best deal. It’s a good idea also to look up what the charge would be for using your card abroad – with some banks, this can be a good option, especially if it’s a credit card you’re using.
For a comprehensive packing list, see the end of this post, but there are a few general tips to bear in mind before you stuff your suitcase. First of all, if you haven’t skiied before, consider borrowing clothes off a friend or relative rather than buying everything brand new. If you don’t know anyone with ski stuff, have a look on eBay – there’s always fairly cheap second hand clothing (of questionable style) knocking around on there. Also think about saving space by coordinating with your roommates – don’t pack twelve different outfits for the week; you may as well each pack a few options and then you can always swap amongst yourselves. Although probably don’t share ski clothes, that’s just a bit grim. Make sure you do pack some clothes to sit around in – because that’s what you’ll spend the majority of the evening doing before you go out (more fun, and necessary, than it sounds).
If, by some miracle, you’re done packing early, why not get excited by checking out the resort? Most resorts these days have webcams with a live feed of the slopes, and this can also be good to give you a clue about what the weather will be like (although it can all change quite quickly.
If, like me, you are a bit of a cheapskate, you will probably opt for making the interminable coach journey to the Alps. This will be (very) long and in places boring, but still worth it in my opinion. I’d advise bringing along a lot of pre-made sandwiches though, if you don’t want all that money you’ve saved being spent on sub-par service station pasties. Bring water as well, but you will have to play a delicate balancing game between dehydration and having to use the coach’s emergency toilet. There will be a hypermarket stop at some point on the journey, so factor that in to your preparation.
It’s definitely worth coming armed with lots of distractions for the journey: bring a tonne of snacks, cards (and a good knowledge of card games that can be played without a table and in a generally awkward position), magazines or books to read, an iPod, one of those crossword books like your nan has – anything you can think of to pass the time. Bringing along a DVD is also a good idea because most coaches will have DVD players, and watching a ridiculous yet strangely compelling chick flick is a great way to while away a couple of hours. And if you don’t, you might be forced to sit through someone else’s DVD of choice – and nobody wants to watch four solid hours of Little Britain. If all else fails, or you’re not a great traveller, find some good sleeping tablets.
Though it may seem tempting or hilarious, don’t bother getting drunk before or during the coach journey – all that will happen is that you will be awake and on a cramped, sweaty coach through the whole process of being drunk, sobering up, and being hungover, with only very limited access to a bacon sarnie. Save it for the ferry (but also don’t forget that the other side of that is another sizeable chunk of driving).
Hopefully you’ve picked room mates who you know you’ll get on well with, even when living in each other’s pockets for a week. However, even if you have had such good luck, there are things you can do to make the whole process a bit easier. When you’re deciding who is going to sleep where, try to base it on people’s habits – like who gets up early, or who gets back late. Usually there will be a mixture of bed arrangements – bunk beds, singles and sofa beds – and some are better than others, so if all other methods fail, play cards for it on the coach (also another way to pass the time).
Once you’re settled in, divide up the cooking. Decide beforehand whether you’re going to take it in turns to cook, or whether to do it in pairs. You might want to bring some food with you from home, or you can buy it all in the hypermarket on the way to resort, and just split the cost. One option would be for each person to make a meal for the group at home, then freeze it for the journey and it will be defrosted ready to eat by the time you get there. The kitchens are usually quite small and sparse, so simple things are usually best, and in general cooking as a group makes the most sense. Be wary of buying meals that you need an oven for – the likelihood is that there might not be one.
Try not to completely trash the place, because you’ve probably put down a deposit on your accommodation based on the assumption that you will get it back. Make the reception aware if there are any problems with your room on arrival – anything missing, or any damage you have noticed – and then just tidy up as you go along and it should be fine. If you’re taking things between rooms or borrowing and lending stuff, just make sure you keep track of it because you could be charged for it if your room doesn’t have the right inventory when you leave. They will probably come round with instructions at the end of the week for how they want the room left, so just make sure you follow them to the letter and then you can’t really be penalised.
I can’t help much with the actual skiing part, but my main piece of advice is take advantage of being in the mountains and don’t waste too much time lounging in bed! It is a skiing holiday, after all, and there’ll be plenty of time for lounging come the start of term. Then again, if aprés is more your scene then by all means make that the focal point of your day! If this is the case, you might want to prepare accordingly and take your fanciest sunglasses and nicest woolly hat along with you during the day, so you don’t later have to stand about in your dorky helmet and goggles.
If you’re a beginner be warned: your lessons may not in fact be as helpful as you would have hoped. If you have the opportunity to have a go on a dry slope or at a snowdome at home before you go, definitely do it – having a lesson with someone who speaks the same first language as you will be very useful. Try to find an unsuspecting friend to give you some tips in your first few days in resort as well, and if you can persuade them to take you on a few first runs down then that will probably be quite helpful. Your lessons may be in the afternoon so you can always get some practice in in the morning (if you are so inclined). Or you could have a lie in, that works too.
If you’re going to one of the bigger resorts (which is likely given the probably high number of people on the trip), you will have the option to upgrade your ski pass before you go, i.e. when you book on the trip. Based on this year’s ski trip, I would suggest waiting until you get in resort. You never know what the weather is going to be like, and all the chairlifts to get to other resorts may be closed all week…
On a more general note, be aware that food at mountain restaurants is not particularly student-budget friendly, so I’d always take snacks and homemade sandwiches out with me. You can very cheaply get a baguette to split and some ham and delicious French cheese for filling, and it’s definitely worth it for the money you save (which you can then splash out on a regular afternoon hot chocolate). I would always recommend wearing a bumbag so you can easily carry stuff with you (it’s PRACTICAL ok?), but most people opt for a rucksack. This can make getting on a chairlift a bit more uncomfortable, though.
There will be a lot of this. Vin chaud at lunch time, aprés ski pints in the afternoon, maybe a glass of wine (or ten) with dinner… like I said, freshers’ week up a mountain. To save money I would definitely suggest buying a box of wine from the hypermarket when you stop off on the way, and that should set you up for the week. Alcohol is much cheaper in France in general, so I wouldn’t bother bringing any from home unless you have some to use up. I would also suggest bringing a hip flask – clubs in the Alps are expensive. You’ll always wear your ski jacket out to the club so it should be fairly easy to smuggle in. And don’t worry too much about the hangover – there is honestly no better cure than carving your way down the slopes in the fresh morning air. Don’t waste any time feeling sorry for yourself!
A comprehensive(ish) packing list
And finally, even if you couldn’t be bothered to read through the rest of the advice, a packing list will always come in useful. Bear in mind, as mentioned above, that the things for the room can either be brought from home or bought at the hypermarket stop, but as a general rule bring stuff that it’s easy to pack and buy stuff that will be just as cheap as it is at home.
|For the Room (to share out)||For the Coach||General|
|Shampoo||DVD||Skiwear, thermals, goggles|
|Conditioner||Small blanket||2-3 going out outfits|
|Shower gel||Eye mask and ear plugs if you have trouble sleeping||Warm, comfy clothes for lounging|
|Toothpaste||Travel pillow (or a jumper will do)||Pajamas|
|Tea towel||Cards and other games (e.g. Cards Against Humanity)||Sturdy pair of shoes (with grip!)|
|Dishcloth or sponge||Crossword/sudoku||Slippers (no, honestly)|
|Hand soap||Books or Kindle||Hipflask|
|Suncream||Shareable snacks||Bumbag (or a rucksack, boring)|
|Bin bags||Multiple sandwiches or other food||Other toiletries|
|Foil or cling film||iPod and headphones||Towel|
|Hairdryer, straighteners||Phone (obviously)|
|Food for the week||Alcohol|
|Washing up liquid||Euros (around 150€ if you’re thrifty)|