The growing airport transfer market reflects the shift in ski holiday booking habits from package holidays towards travellers independently organising their own skiing holidays, but what should you look out for when choosing an airport transfer company?
Organising your own transport from the airport to the ski resort
The combination of cheap flights from the UK and other European airports to the Alps and the Pyrenees, and better online information sources (like Ultimate-Ski), makes it easy for skiers to package their own ski holidays, rather than pay a tour operator to do it for them.
And in the same way that you can book your own flights and accommodation, you can also book your own transport from the airport to the resort.
Once upon a time, the choice available for skiers was often limited to either using public transport options which were slow and indirect, or trying to persuade a local taxi driver, who spoke little or no English and who spent most of his time driving on urban roads, to take you up to the mountains.
Nowadays, there are a large and growing number of airport transfer companies to choose from that offer you a door to door service, with experienced drivers who know the mountain roads, driving cars and minivans with plenty of room for all of your ski gear. And if your flight is delayed or anything else goes wrong, the best ones have 24 hour English language helplines that you can call to get the assistance you need.
Airport Transfers Vs Renting a Car
How the costs compare
The cost of an airport transfer is usually about the same as hiring a car for a one week ski holiday, and may well be cheaper once you tot up the ‘Extras’ that car rental companies charge for – such as snow chains, ski and board racks, child seats, additional driver cover, and collision damage insurance. (And don’t forget fuel and motorway tolls, as these costs are automatically included in the price of an airport transfer but are excluded from the price quoted by a car hire company.) And if you rent a car, remember you might have to pay for parking in the ski resort: some accommodation providers include a free car parking space, but unless this is specifically stated, you should presume you will have to pay extra for it, and in a lot of Alpine ski resorts, it’s expensive.
How car-friendly is your ski resort
Having a rental car in a car-free ski resort like Avoriaz, Wengen, Val Thorens, or Zermatt is obviously more of a problem than an asset. But almost all Alpine ski resorts now put restrictions on where private cars can go and where they can park – even resorts that suffer from too much traffic like Val d’Isere and St Anton have central car-free zones. This means that even if your accommodation is not within walking distance of the nearest ski lift, it’s usually easier to get to the lift using the free ski bus service provided by the resort than by using your rental car and then having to find a parking spot near the lift. Most resorts also have dedicated bus lanes which ensure buses have priority and so journeys in a private car often take longer. And don’t assume you can just jump in your rental car and instantly drive it away in the morning: if it’s snowed overnight, you’ll have to scrape the snow off the windscreen and defrost it, then clear a path to the nearest proper road. And even normally reliable cars can become unreliable if they are left outside in very low temperatures.
A less stressful journey to the resort – especially if snow chains are required
Your ski holiday is much more likely to get off to a good start if you use an airport transfer provider rather than a rental car, because it saves you from the prospect of driving an unfamiliar car on mountain roads in wintry conditions. If you’ve rented a car and it starts to snow heavily, you will have to put on snow-chains yourself, which is not straightforward if you have not done it before, or you’re out of practice. And even if you are experienced at fitting snow chains, it’s still not fun to do in the middle of a blizzard.
Car rental can be the right choice
Although airport transfers are usually a better option, sometimes hiring a car is preferable – for instance if you want to explore lots of small ski resorts on your holiday, or if you want to ski in several different unlinked ski areas, or stay outside a ski resort in a rural location. Car rental is also likely to be cheaper if you’re only coming skiing for a weekend or a short break. And if you’ve decided to rent a car, then we recommend you use Rental Cars.com as it lets you see the best deals from multiple car-hire firms including big brands like Hertz, Avis, Budget, Alamo, Europcar, Dollar and Thrifty. It also offers free cancellations on most bookings with a price match guarantee so you can lock in the best price.
Choosing an airport transfer company
See the section below this if you’re happy to take our recommendation, but if you want to choose your own, these are the questions to ask.
1. Is the transfer company licensed to operate?
First and foremost, you need to be confident that the company you are booking with is legally operating and has the relevant transport documents necessary to operate in the country or countries that you are travelling through.
2. Punctuality and back-office support
Secondly, you want to be sure that your transfer is actually going to be there on time when you arrive at the airport and to collect you at the appointed time for the return journey! While some of the smaller operators offer “a personalised service” that might mean that the owner is also one of the full time drivers and therefore on the road a lot of the time. If so, you may have difficulties in getting hold of “the company” when you most need to, and remember that the smaller operators are less able to arrange replacement vehicles and to resolve such difficulties quickly; ideally, without you being aware of the problem in the first place.
3. Check for good quality vehicles and drivers
Thirdly, you need to know that the transfer company’s vehicles and drivers meet the required high standards. It’s all very well getting a cheap deal, but the safety of your journey into the mountains should be an issue very high up on the agenda. If you’ve ever been off-piste in a minibus, it’s not an experience you’d want to repeat let alone pay for!
4. Do your homework
Clearly, being aware of some of the pitfalls will help you choose a reliable transfer company. You can usually find relevant information on transfer company websites to help reassure you, but websites are sales tools so don’t believe everything you read and try to find some independent sources, such as friends who have recently been to the same resort.
Transfer Companies that we recommend
Ski-Lifts Airport Transfers
Each year Ski-Lifts helps thousands of skiers and boarders get to their accommodation in ski resorts, with a range of hassle-free, door-to-door transfer options from all major airports and train stations, and 24/7 English language assistance if needed. Get an immediate quote and book online >>>
Alps2Alps Airport Transfers
Alps2Alps provides private and group transfers to all major Alpine ski resorts from airports in France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Germany. Our 24/7 multilingual customer service assistance and dispatch centre keeps you informed. Book online and get a real time quote in seconds!