Travel: Prices on a sliding scale: Which ski resorts are most expensive? Chris Gill finds that some of them are pretty steep

In the autumn, I poured scorn on the 'typical prices' published in some of the new ski resort guides which were, to say the least, misleading, and I invited readers to record prices on their early- season skiing trips. Fifty-two readers came up with the goods. My thanks to them for their conscientious efforts; when Where to Ski is published in the autumn, they will each receive a copy.

In terms of resort coverage, our survey is obviously not comprehensive (Kitzbuhel, for instance, is not included), but we have gathered enough data to compile one that is much more reliable than others. And the picture that emerges is clear.

I have calculated a price index for each resort listed. This mainly reflects the costs of eating and drinking in bars and restaurants on the mountain or by the nursery slopes, or in simple places in the village; upmarket village restaurants have not been included.

The benchmark (an index score of 100) is the average French resort. I settled on this mainly because we got many more results from France than from any other country. By coincidence, the resort from which we had most results, Val d'Isere, happens to have a score of precisely 100. But you'll see from the list that there are many cheaper resorts than Val, and a handful that are much more expensive.

I have looked at a wide range of items and worked out their average prices at all French resorts. The index for each is achieved by comparing the prices in that resort with overall French average.

To give you some idea of the level of these benchmark prices, here are a few examples (converted at the rate of 8.6 francs to the pound):

Small coffee, 90p; large coffee, pounds 1.75; hot chocolate, pounds 1.65; wine (glass) pounds 1.40, (25cl carafe) pounds 2.85, (bottle) pounds 7.20; scotch, pounds 3.40; dish of the day, pounds 6.75; steak, pounds 7; burger, pounds 4.60; chips, pounds 2.55; pizza, pounds 3.70; green salad, pounds 2.35; filled bread roll, pounds 2.45.

The price indexes for the different countries and their resorts follow, in ascending order of price. The exchange rates that have been used in each case appear at the end.

French resorts

Chatel 83

Chamonix 84

Valmorel 86

Serre Chevalier 89

Montgenevre 90

Morzine 91

Les Carroz (near Flaine) 92

Risoul/Vars 92 St-Gervais 92

Avoriaz 94

La Clusaz 96

Les Menuires 98

Val d'Isere/Tignes 100

Les Arcs 101

La Rosiere 106

Val Thorens 109

Megeve 118

Meribel 125

Courchevel 142

No huge surprises, except perhaps the degree by which the cost of Courchevel exceeds the others, and the modest cost of Chamonix - but then, it does attract people who are big on skiing rather than spending. Of the mega-resorts, only La Plagne is missing, but it can be safely put in the 100-105 region. It is curious that quiet little La Rosiere, across the valley from Les Arcs, should be in the same league.

Austrian resorts

Leogang 87

Zauchensee 89

Badgastein 92

Zell am See 94

Ischgl 96

Galtur 97

Saalbach 98

Dachstein 100

St Anton 103

Schladming 104

Niederau 105

Obergurgl 110

Obertauern 113

Obergurgl has long been known as relatively expensive, but it is slightly surprising to find it beaten to pole position by Obertauern, which to my knowledge does not have a reputation for high prices, although it does have the merit of being high and snow-sure. Schladming, nearby, comes out surprisingly pricey, too.

Swiss resorts

Verbier 115

Zermatt 122

Saas-Fee 125

Murren 126

Not quite the detailed picture you might have hoped for, but general confirmation that Switzerland is, overall, the most expensive country to ski at the moment. Of all the other resorts surveyed here, only Courchevel pips these prices.

Italian resorts

Macugnaga 54

Courmayeur 56

Bardonecchia 58

Sestriere 65

Sauze d'Oulx 71

Corvara/San Cassiano 76

Cervinia 97

Clear confirmation that Italy is the bargain of the season at current exchange rates - and that Cervinia deserves its reputation as the most expensive mass- market Italian resort.

American resorts

Mammoth 55

Heavenly Valley 86

Vail 109

The US is good value - something that American visitors to Britain can confirm - but the range of prices is striking. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Aspen is no more expensive than Vail, and maybe slightly cheaper.

Exchange values of pounds 1 used: 8.6FFr; 17.5 Austrian schillings; 2.1SwFr; 2,500 lire; 1.45 dollars US.

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