If you’ve got the freedom of the road; are flexible enough to hot foot it to the call of the latest powder alert; or are into the idea of trying out a bunch of lesser known ski areas – this new Snowpass ski pass scheme looks too good to be true.
Browse the internet for information about Snowpass and you’ll be no more reassured that your cash won’t be disappearing to Grand Cayman in the pocket of an opportunistic scallywag preying on the snowmads of Europe.
And that was our first thought. So we conferred with the tribe (Facebook group – you can join here), the majority of whom also feared a dreaded digital scam was afoot. Remembering that forums and Facebook communities (excluding ours) are invariably full of tripe, scaremongering and non-existent fact checking, we set about the task of sleuthing our way to the truth, fingers firmly crossed that there would be nothing sinister going down.
Let’s start at the beginning.
What is Snowpass?
Very simply, Snowpass is the Oyster card of the ski-world – ish. Not quite contactless yet but accepted as a mode of payment for ski lift systems across Europe. The ski world’s answer to the Interrail pass and the National Trust Membership. The premise being that the pass itself is worth more in snow days than the €395 current discounted price (read on because there’s a small ‘Winterized’ discount at the bottom of the page).
Covering 10 different countries in Europe, with over 100 resorts featured, there’s no chance you’ll run out of places to shred – and this list is growing all the time.
Is Snowpass legitimate?
Yes Snowpass is legitimate. Despite early question marks over how it all works, what the business model is, and whether it’s actually just an almighty scam – it turns out that it is bona fide and the real question is, why has it taken so long for someone to get something like this organised? (The answer to that is politics).
Having previously been in touch with the creators, we contacted the Snowpass office asking what their response was to all the suspicion around the Snowpass card and they suggested we contact the International Ski Federation to verify. We did, they did. But we didn’t stop there. We checked out their business credentials with the Portuguese authorities where they’re based and made contact with a few of the resorts we happen to have good relationships with.
Conclusion? If this is a scam it’s a very big and elaborate one for not much return. We are satisfied that Snowpass is a genuine product (*please do your own research).
Where they went wrong
A lack of transparency from Snowpass has, we think, probably hindered the sales of this pass – something that’s likely to disappear after this season when word spreads and their efforts to circumnavigate cross boarder ski-politics are rewarded. They perhaps should have anticipated the scepticism and headed this off at the pass with a carefully put together response, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
A glitchy website didn’t help much. In the early days, the site was crashing, the content was a bit sparse and the pre-registration thing raised eyebrows.
They continue to confuse people with the ongoing stop-start on the sales page but those of you keen to jump in and see where this pass can take you will be pleased to know it reopens on Monday 19th August.
Where does it cover?
The Snowpass covers 10 countries, over 100 resorts, and ski stations and is growing all the time. Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Spain, Slovenia and Portugal are all in on the game – hang on a minute – WHO KNEW YOU COULD SKI IN BELGIUM?
What’s the catch with Snowpass?
Despite having a colossal number of resort partners on board, the chances of the average ski tourist recognising any of them is slim. YES! Exactly what motorhome skiers want to hear!
Here are the catches:
- They are mostly small ski areas – villages and towns with a small local ski industry and certainly no Folie Douce.
- Accessibility – few are serviced by regular transfer companies from the big travel hubs, so this is going to work best for people who have their own transport
- Limited to 10 days PER AREA. Some featured ski areas cover a few villages and towns but are classed as one ski area. You can only use your pass in each area for 10 days (the don’t have to be consecutive) so there’s no chance of trying to use the Snowpass as a cheap alternative to a season pass in your favourite resort
- It’s new – and with all new things there are likely to be a few teething problems
- You still have to go to the pass office – no biggy but we’re not seeing the contactless technology in Snowpass of other area and pay-as-you-go passes
How does it actually work?
- You buy the pass (don’t forget to use the discount code below)
- Take it to a partner ski pass office, redeem the number of days you want at any one time
- Off you slide
- Snow pass and the resort do the business thing
How does it work for the resorts?
By voodoo and magic. No actually, once you understand the business model a bit better, it does make sense. These are small resorts that sometimes have shorter seasons than the big snow-sure resorts and are the first to suffer with unreliable snowfall. Many have limited investment or physical resources for large scale snow making and many of them are ignored by British tour operators. Is that a reason to discount them – hell no!
These ski resorts largely rely on the local tourists, so being given the opportunity to promote their skiing further afield without the huge costs involved makes this a no brainer for many places.
Collectively each resort also benefits from the scheme and whilst they accrue funds from the number of skiers on their slopes using the Snowpass, there is also a smart funding formula in place that is designed to benefit the industry as a whole. Much needed.
Is Snowpass for me?
Maybe. Maybe not. But it certainly works for us. Preferring the season long approach to skiing; being able to trot about between small ski areas; perhaps only taking in a day at a time, makes for endless adventures on the horizon.
If this is you, we think you should give the Snowpass some real consideration:
- Motorhome or campervan skier or boarder
- Someone who’s a fan of dashing off to ‘who knows where’ at the drop of a hat; can pick up a hire car on the ground; and likes the jeopardy of a last minute Air B&B
- Anyone who knows that they’re going to spend 5 days in two of these resorts – you just need to do the maths to see it’s a no brainer
- Ski bums
Why Snowpass particularly works for motorhome skiers
One of the many privileges and attractions of motorhome skiing is the flexibility it can offer you. You don’t have to stay put when conditions are rubbish and Snowpass is an affordable way of maximising your snow days without shelling out for on-the-day passes at a premium. In fact, from discussions so far, we can see that a number of people are already looking into resorts and even countries they never considered before – trying out areas that might have seemed a bit far flung and risky if you’re a powder-hound that knows what you like and likes what you know.
Even people who normally book a campsite and stick to the more conventional, one resort 7-10 day itinerary, are being encouraged by the opportunity that exists when their home is on their back.
What’s more, a large number of these places are motorhome friendly – we’ll publish the list with motorhome and camping friendly resorts shortly (you might want to consider joining our mailing list at the bottom of the page to get notified) – and even more tolerate parking-up for a few days, even if there is no exclusively designated camper parking.
It’s no secret that with the closure of aires in Châtel, the uncertainty around Alpe d’Huez, and the difficulty faced by van conversions and camper trucks in resorts like Morzine – finding awesome places to park is going to become increasingly challenging. The last thing any of us wants is to cause disruption, but the economic pressure on land in larger resorts means that aires are getting squeezed and motorhome parking is an easy target. It doesn’t generate a huge revenue and selling the land is far more lucrative. However, go to some of the smaller resorts and you’ll have a different experience – welcomed with open arms, and in some places facilities that far exceed those of the large ski-topolis, maybe this is the future for motorhome skiing.
Note: many of the resorts on the Snowpass website state the distant to the nearest campsite – we strongly suggest that you do not rely on this information until we have had a chance to check the status of these campsites and whether they are open in winter.
How we can see it working for us
Take the 2017 season as an example. It was feast or famine in the Alps. Not that there was any shortage of snow but there was more than a season’s fair share of super-shitty days where you couldn’t think of anything worse than suiting up and hitting the slopes. Admin days as we referred to them. Once we’d realised we were actually completely footloose on our season long motorhome skiing trip, we only stayed a few days anywhere and the trip was all the better for it. We didn’t give ourselves time to tire of an area or become over confident on any given run (which rarely ends well!) and we always left with mixed feelings – a yearning to stay but the excitement of the next hill beckoning. This year, time is tight so fart-arsing around watching YouTube and making snow castles is not going to be an option.
Snowpass can be your signpost for this kind of trip. Featuring so many small stations, you can hot-foot from one village to the next, chase the best snow and wake up to a different view every few days. This is particularly good for people who aren’t equipped to stay for long periods off grid and you’ll get a chance to top up your battery on the drive, and if you arrive somewhere and it’s simply pants (or full), move on – nothing lost. Obviously you can do this without being a Snowpass holder but with ski passes ranging from €25-66/per day you’re going to find yourself pretty smug, pretty quickly if you do have one. If you’re like us, you like at least a little bit of planning and this is where we think the Snowpass becomes an awesome place to start for anyone planning motorhome ski adventures.
A real attraction for us is what we call doggo days. Those are the days when you’re a bit achy or you just fancy a change of pace – catch a lift with furry friend in tow, have a snow shoe about at the top, grab a beer and suck up a view or two before catching a lift back down. It’s sometimes difficult to justify even a pedestrian pass in some resorts but with Snowpass, this is a concern of the past. All that’s required is a doggy pass where available and your dog gets to summit the Alps too.
Let’s not forget #Vanlife
This is us. Vanlife. Travelling in a self converted van (having previously toured in a traditional motorhome) certainly opens up some doors. Accessibility, more wild camping opportunities and the chance to park in many of the ski lift car parks with no issues at all, anyone travelling in a campervan is going to love the Snowpass, we’re sure of it. Before we even knew of the Snowpass this is the path we’d chosen – station hopping – itching the scratch to see more and more of Europe, and visiting all the places we were coming across in our research (and courtesy of our Facebook group members).
This is a very appealing way to travel and ski for us and this pass might just have knocked off around €600 per person from our winter plans for 2019/20.
But most of the areas are really small – won’t you get bored?
Not likely. The Snowpass partner resorts aren’t the Milton Keynes Snowdome, and that can keep us entertained for at least a day at a time.
A day to scope the area, a day to perfect some lines and a day to venture off the beaten track. That’s plenty enough for us. A very interesting lady in Chamonix once told us
It is so very British to ski all day – first lift to last. Nobody does that apart from the British. It’s strange, no time for lunch.
Ask the OG motorhome skiers and they’ll all tell you the same thing. Pace yourself. If you want to stay in good shape, limit the chances of getting injured now and in the future and retain some energy for driving and exploring, chill on the skiing man. So whilst those of you used to skiing the Paradiski Area are probably going to want to turn off your ski-loggers, you might discover some awesome hills you would never otherwise have considered.
Example: Snowpass Motorhome friendly resort – Les Orres
Les Orres, in the Southern French Alps is a great resort. It’s a mini-big resort if you know what we mean – everything that you have in one of the French giants, just smaller. Great motorhome parking, enough skiing to keep you happy for a few days – lots of events throughout the season including the Redbull Tout Schuss (read how we became Redbull athletes for the day) and only 10 hours from Calais. That’s the same as Les Arcs. You can check out our aire review by clicking the image below which details all the facilities and has all the info you’ll need.
What’s in the future for snowpass?
We’ll see but the scheme is free to join for resorts so we can only imagine it will grow in the future. The RRP on the Snowpass is €895 but has been on sale at €395 since launch – capping numbers at this price at 50,000.
WINTERIZED VERDICT ON THE SNOWPASS
The Snowpass requires serious consideration – especially for touring motorhome skiers.
There are of course many other discounts available on ski passes, particularly for those staying in one area, but we really like the Snowpass and it’s certainly providing an affordable alternative to pay-as-you-go or a season pass.
If you want to take advantage of the Winterized discount – click directly to through to the Snowpass website using this link and use the Snowpass promo code WINTERIZED10 – it’ll get you a €10 discount – that’s a free pint on the piste so not to be sniffed at! Feel free to share the code far and wide with anyone you know who might be interested – the €385/ season pass might be a short lived thing and we want to see the project grow and become really successful.
As we said we’ll be doing the leg work for you on the nearest places to park around the Snowpass featured resorts so if you’re interested in keeping up to date on those and all the other motorhome and camper van friendly resorts and ski stations we review, please sign up to the newsletter below.