Please give that man a beer. Who was it that came up with the idea of budget airfares? If you're lucky enough to live near an airport serviced by a budget airline, and you want to go to the Alps, get a map out, take your driving licence, and you may find yourself a short drive from the slopes for less money than you'll spend on the first round of beers. The cheapest way is to book as far in advance as possible, but of course that means you won't know what the snow conditions will be. If you can fly early morning and mid week it's far cheaper than on a weekend. A lot of the arrival airports are in the middle of a cow field, so if you can't rent a car do some research into public transport before you arrive or you maybe turning up in the resort on the back of a bull. A down side to budget airlines is if it goes wrong there's little back up. If your flight is cancelled you're normally met with a long queue and only the offer of a flight in a few days time or your money back.
Going it alone
The main benefit of going alone is the freedom, as you can visit many resorts in a week. Look on the web find the best snow and head straight to it, but be careful if you're trying to do it on the cheap side as you could find yourself stuck in a full resort and stumping up for an expensive room. When looking for accommodation in a resort try the Tourist Info Office first, they can normally help you with finding and sometimes booking accommodation, and they'll usually speak good English.
If time is short tour operators can be great. They will sort out your flights and arrange a transfer to and from resort. If you've booked half-board you'll get breakfast, afternoon tea, and with dinner often free wine. You may have to hold your nose to get it down but it's free. They can also arrange hotels and self-catering apartments. Be careful to find out exactly where your accommodation is located or you could have a long bus ride or walk to the lifts each morning. The two main draw backs to organized holidays is if there's no snow your scuppered, and the holiday reps will try to bleed you dry by wanting to sell you stupid après ski fondue nights.
Rolling your own
If you're taking your own kit with you, make sure you check to see if they charge you for the privilege. Most of the tour operators do, and for the budget airlines it's a given, expect to be charged around £20. It looks like Ryan Air won't even allow you to take your kit with you, so check the situation out before you turn up to the airport.
Fly drive is always a winner in North America, it also gives you the freedom to roam resorts at will and follow the snow. If you're boarding in one of the more remote parts of the world then you should defiantly go it alone, and try to hang with the locals, not just steamroller through their country in the back of a motor.
Many resorts are close to major train links. It sure beats bus services for speed, but make sure that you plan ahead and don't turn up to the airport without knowing the next step. From London you can hop on the snow train on a Thursday night and hop out at Bourg St.Maurice at 7am ready for the lifts to open in Les Arcs.
20 hours in a coach doesn't sound like fun, and make no mistake, its not. But then again, if you're small and want a cheap getaway then perfect. There's many companies offering very cheap boarding weekends and holidays by coach, that leave from various parts of the UK to various places in France. You'll travel overnight and possibly get there in time for a few hours on the slope, or at worst first at the bar
Next: Riding style & learning