An understandable mistake made by anyone booking a ski holiday is to look at the brochure price of flights and accommodation, but fail to take account of the great variety in lift ticket prices at resorts around the world. You can get a cheap self-drive French ski-apartment for a week for less than the cost of the pass to actually ski once you're there.
Families in particular need to be very careful when shopping around for their ski destination because the age at which children start to pay for tickets varies in different countries, as does the age at which children start to pay adult prices (it can be as low as 10). The percentage discount children get on adult prices also varies tremendously. It does take something of a maths genius to work out the family cost for your lift tickets at many resorts.
The French typically make children pay from age four, the youngest in Europe, and right from the start that fee is little less than the full adult price. The Ski Pass Mont Blanc around Chamonix is Europe's most expensive for four-year-olds at €200 (£140) for six days. You can buy a cheaper child ticket for your pre-schooler for a smaller area (minimum €146/£104).
The most generous child pricing in Europe is to be found in Switzerland. Here children usually pay half price or less, right through to the age of 16. Swiss resorts are also the most generous with free tickets for younger kids: at Zermatt, for example, children don't pay anything until age 10, and the SFr168 (£72) fee to age 17 compares rather favourably with most top end French resorts (£111 for your 13-year-old's week in the Three Valleys).
The French have clearly recognised how expensive their lift tickets are for families and more and more are offering "Family Packages" which typically offer more generous age allowances for children (usually up to 17) and give a modest percentage off the total bill. The Three Valleys family six-day pass for two adults and two children is €688 (£493). In Villars, Switzerland, two adult tickets total SFr522 (£223). Children don't pay until age nine and then only SFr145 (£62) each.
If you're looking for a single adult bargain, head for Iran where a week's pass was only £19 at Dizin last winter. This compares favourably with Deer Valley, Utah, where the six-day peak-season pass costs $553 (£291) this winter. In Europe the extremes range from €53 (£38) for a week in Bjelolasica in Croatia to €250 (£179) for a six-day Mont Blanc pass. Of the resorts in the brochures, the best value is offered by St Wolfgang in Austria at £79 (Thomson). Others coming in at under £85 include Saariselkä and Yllas in Finland (both Inghams), Bohinj in Slovenia (Thomson), and Isola 2000 and St Foy in France (Erna Low).
Bjelolasica (00 385 1 6177 707; www.bjelolasica.hr)
Deer Valley (00 1 435 6491000; www.deervalley.com)
Dizin (00 9821 225 69595; www.skifed.ir)
Erna Low (0870 750 6820; www.ernalow.co.uk)
Inghams (020-8780 4444; www.inghams.co.uk)
Thomson (0870 6061470; www.thomson-ski.co.uk)
3 Valleys (00 33 4 79 08 20 00; www.s3v.com
Villars (00 41 24 4953232; www.villars.ch)
Zermatt (00 41 27 9668100; www.zermatt.ch)