10 of the best small and affordable ski resorts in Europe: readers’ travel tips
Winning tip: Madesimo, Lombardy, Italy
Just 2½ hours from Milan Malpensa, passing Lake Como, Madesimo has varied and extensive skiing with 60km of uncrowded pistes between 1,550 and 2,880 metres. Highlights are the pisted and off-piste runs of the Val di Lei, and Canalone and Camosci expert off-piste itineraries. Lunches on-mountain cost €20 with wine. Apres ski is quintessentially Italian, with complimentary aperitivo snacks ranging from crisps to antipasti and tartlets. Our favourite was Le Bollicine, which also offers dinner. Lift pass from €39, six-day from €157. Hotel Emet has doubles from €470 a week half-board.
Pohorje, Maribor, Slovenia
This compact ski resort hosts the FIS ladies Golden Fox ski event. When the snow is good it’s excellent, with a range of uncrowded slopes for all abilities. It’s an unusual resort as you’re looking down on the city of Maribor, but once you’re up there you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. You can go cross country to Areh and other areas and see hardly a soul. There’s a range of bars – Peggy Bar is excellent and La Cantina restaurant does great pizza and pasta. Ljubljana airport is about two hours away; Graz, Austria (served by Ryanair) is under an hour away.
Pamporovo, in the Rhodopi mountains, is a sunny and uncrowded ski resort three hours from Sofia with guaranteed snow. It’s excellent for beginners, but also has advanced slopes like the “Wall”, off-piste trails, après ski and a freestyle area. Pine trees prevent avalanches, signage is clear and lift facilities and instructors are amazing. Off peak in March, a three-day pass with two-hour lesson a day, lift pass and full snowboard hire was £80! There’s also dog sledding, snowmobiling, and comfortable hotels have double rooms for about £50 B&B.
Ling San Koo
Termignon, Val Cenis, France
With 125km of pistes, this authentic village on the edge of the beautiful Vanoise national park offers affordable and convenient ski hire; excellent offers on passes late season (children ski free with two adults); reasonable fare on the slopes – vin chaud, raclette with bleu de Termignon cheese; and a choice of accommodation. Travelling by car with Eurotunnel and sharing costs, booking everything ourselves, we brought last year’s family celebration week for Dad in at under £400pp.
La Norma, Maurienne Valley, France
This is the ideal resort for families with young children. All the accommodation is slopeside so the kids can easily slide to the excellent ski school. The parents can then take advantage of the 1,400 metres of vertical and amazing untracked off piste. Due to the high altitude, perfect snow lasts for weeks in the easy chutes and powder fields that are accessible from the high point of La Norma. From mid-mountain the huge area of tree skiing can be accessed from the green and blue runs that zigzag the mountain. Self-catering accommodation is cheap and cheerful, the après ski is non-existent and a few restaurants offer good basic food.
Abetone, Tuscany, Italy
Near Pistoia, about 1½ hours’ drive from Florence and Pisa, this simple, unassuming ski resort has enough pistes to satisfy intermediate-advanced skiers but is also good for beginners. It’s easy to get to, and although it’s not very high, the snow is usually good. The whole place has the feel of a Tuscan town, as opposed to a ski resort. There are a number of comfortable hotels along the single main road, and several restaurants selling rustic Tuscan mountain fare such as polenta with boar sauce. It’s perfect for families, less so for those looking for nightlife, as there isn’t very much.
Harrachov, Czech Republic
A snowy train ride from the city of Liberec, through forested foothills, takes you to this gem of a small ski resort. A couple of lifts take you to the top of the Čertova Hora peak, for cruising motorway runs down through the trees to a classic wooden hut serving bramboračky (potato fritters) and pilsner. A one-day lift pass costs around £10, hotel doubles from €60.
Niederau, Tyrol, Austria
This is a quaint village with a relatively small network of pistes but on the same lift pass, €240 for seven days, you can use other pistes in neighbouring villages. It may be small but there are some challenging runs which are ski-able right down to the village, which has several timber huts with lively après ski bars blaring out europop. Nearby is Glennie’s Resto, which does great food. Hotel Austria is a simple family-run establishment 50 metres from the main gondola, with half-board from €67pp.
A three-hour bus ride from Barcelona, this resort boasts more than 200km of pistes. Home of the 2018 Ski World Cup , it’s also one of the best budget resorts, with hotel rooms from €65 in March. The ski area links to five towns – Encamp, Canillo, El Tarter, Grau Roig and Pas de la Casa. Our flights from the UK were £40 with a direct bus from the airport costing £15.
Remember the Sarajevo Olympics? Well those ski slopes are still going strong but now with modern lifts installed. Fly to Sarajevo and a short transfer takes you up the mountain. It was under €100 last year for a five-day ski-pass, good cheap food and drink for lunch and in the evenings, friendly people. Ski Sarajevo arranges packages, but it’s not that hard to do it yourself. (Lufthansa flies via Munich.)
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