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Snow time: 10 alternative ski destinations

Meribel is marvellous, Zermatt is stunning and Whistler sets the bar for après-ski. But we've got 10 affordable ski resorts in places like Slovenia, France and Sweden - great budget alternatives that don't compromise on quality. Get a great deal by choosing a cheap(er) ski resort with Skyscanner, and book your flights today.

1. St. Martin de Belleville, Three Valleys, France

The Three Valleys may be well known but St. Martin de Belleville retains an authentic French village atmosphere, where locals smoke their own hams, make cheese and keep chickens. Stay here and you can ski 600km of slopes, including down to Meribel and Courchevel, as well as the far quieter slopes of the Belleville valley. For the best deal on your chalet, try to go ‘off’ season – late December or April to score the best prices.

Nearest airport: Chambéry Average cost for a meal: You’ll have saved so much on your flight that you can forget about the budget for one night surely?! Treat yourself to a table at La Bouitte, the only restaurant for miles around with 3 Michelin stars. Average cost for a ski pass: A 2-day pass for an adult is €93.30* (£83), and a 6 day pass is €233 (£207). Where to stay: You’ll have your own balcony looking onto the village if you stay at CGH Residence & Spa.

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2. La Thuile, Italy

Yes, the Aosta valley has been well and truly discovered, but La Thuile has somehow managed to remain quiet and relatively crowd-free. There are extensive easy slopes, making it great for beginners and families. You can ski to the village of Mont Blanc at your back, or over to France and neighbouring village La Rosière.

Nearest airport: Turin Average cost for a meal: €10 for a main course. Average cost for a ski pass: Lift passes (€40/£35 per day) are valid on both the Italian and French slopes, though you must carry your passport. Where to stay: Stay at Nira Montana hotel and you’ll return daily to five-star luxury in the heart of the action.

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3. Saariselka, Finland

Want more than just skiing? Combine cross-country skiing through Lapland’s pristine, snow-packed fells with a spot of snow-shoeing, a snowmobile safari or even a husky sledge ride at Saariselka in the Arctic Circle. Après ski in the village is laidback and traditional, think Finnish tango and reindeer meat (but if you’re looking for DJs and Jaegermeister, check out these ski-friendly party resorts). If you’re with the kids, Lapland Safaris have two-hour cross-country skiing excursions and Northern Lights-hunting snowshoe adventures for €63 (€31.50 for children).

Nearest airport: Ivalo Average cost for a meal: Expect to pay upwards of €10(£9). There are a few pizzerias in the village which are excellent for refuelling post-ski. Average cost for a ski pass: €39(£34.50) for the day, and €185(£150) for a weekly ski pass. Where to stay: Santa’s Hotel Tunturi has everything you’ll need inside.

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4. Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

There is only one place where Slavic, Germanic and Romanic cultures meet – Kranjska Gora in the far northwest corner of Slovenia. This cosmopolitan Alpine area has a unique culture and cuisine as well as 18 ski slopes at altitudes of up to 1,215 metres. There are some easy trails for intermediate skiers but advanced skiers will find plenty to get excited about, with numerous red and black trails. If you’re not keen on snowsports, check out the rest of Slovenia’s beautiful scenery. Ljubljana has Christmas Markets on over December, and Lake Bled is just a few hours drive from Kranjska Gora.

Nearest airport: Ljubljana Average cost for a meal: Dishes here start from €7(£6) in some of the cheaper restaurants. Average cost for a ski pass: A day pass is just €31.50(£28) (€20 for children) and a week €182(£161) (€113 for children). Where to stay: Boutique Skipass Hotel is able to look after everything for you, from gear rental to a nice massage at the end of the day.

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5. Mzaar, Lebanon

Yes, you can ski in the Middle East. Mzaar is the region’s largest resort, and has après ski so good the locals are known to make the trip up here just for a night out. You’ll want to get skiing though, on the 80km of trails, many of which are wide and friendly enough for beginners. There is also cross-country skiing and, on clear days, views back to the coast and Beirut, an hour’s drive away.

Nearest airport: Beirut Average cost for a meal: Those staying at the Intercontinental have access to 4 different restaurants. Average cost for a ski pass: For full access to all slopes, it costs $33(£28) for a day pass. This doubles on the weekend. However, a full day on the beginner’s slope is only $13! Where to stay: Stay at the Intercontinental and you can ski from your own front door.

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6. Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland

Your nearest world-class ski resort is closer than you think. From late December to April, the Cairngorm Mountains host 30 kilometres of ski runs, and brand new Snow School opens for all who haven’t skied before. Aviemore, the closest town, even has après-ski down – the main street is lined with pubs, and Cairngorm even has it’s own brewery. The cherry on top? The No.31 bus from Aviemore will drop you at the resort, and Scotland’s only funicular will get you to the top of the mountain. Accessible skiing at it’s finest. Lessons start from £99 for adults, including ski hire and ski pass.

Nearest airport: Aberdeen Average cost for a meal: £6-£10 for lunch on the mountain. Average cost for a ski pass: £36 for one-day, and £160 for full access for 5 days. Where to stay: The Highland Hotel in Aviemore is easy to get to, located just off the A9. Once you’re in, enjoy the buffet breakfast, steam room and short walk to Aviemore’s local restaurants.

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7. Åre, Sweden

Not heard of Åre? The Swedish have somehow been keeping their premier ski resort to themselves, its guaranteed December-May snow and 89 slopes largely unmarked by non-Swedish skis. Åre Björnen in the east is best for children and beginners, while the off-piste section in Central Åre will keep experienced skiers challenged for days. There’s dog-sledding and ice climbing as well as a moose farm and boutique shopping for non-skiers. The Northern Lights aren’t reserved for powder hounds either, Sweden is one of the best places to see the aurora borealis.

Nearest airport: Åre Östersund Average cost for a meal out: 150–200SEK (£13-16) for a main course. Average cost for a ski pass: A week’s pass costs 2055SEK (£161), one day is 425SEK (£33) Where to stay: Hotel Åregården guests get free access to the Country Club – one of the villages biggest nightclubs.

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8. Samoëns, France

Samoëns is a historic village attached to a whopper of a ski area, part of the Grand Massif ski domain with its 265 kilometres of piste – but you’ll also find an Alpine botanical garden, a weekly market for local produce (ham, cheese, patisserie) and a traffic-free main square dominated by a vast lime tree. You’re just an hour from Geneva but unlikely to find any crowds, and you may be the only Brits in the village.

Nearest airport: Geneva Average cost for a meal: €15+. The well-heeled crowd from Geneva know this secret spot. Average cost for a ski pass: Grand Massif ski passes cost €45.50 per day or €316 for seven days. Where to stay: Neige et Roc is a traditional chalet-style family friendly hotel.

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9. Cherry Peak Resort, Utah, USA

Cherry Peak is one of the newest ski resorts in the US, having had it’s first season in 2015. The resort is located just outside of Richmond, which is easy to get to via car or private transfer. If you’re more Bambi than black run Cherry Peak is ideal, there are 280 acres of snow fields with a handy beginners section and 29 different trails with varying difficulty levels. If you’re more confident, you’ll be interested in the 10 black runs on offer as well as the 1,300m vertical. The slopes are only open 9am – 9pm Monday to Saturday, so take Sunday as a rest day.

Nearest airport: Salt Lake City Average cost for a meal: $8-$12 for a main meal at the Resort. Average cost for a ski pass: Prices start from just $25(£21) for adults night skiing (5–9pm) and $49(£38) for a full day (9am–4pm). Where to stay: Cherry Peak Resort is brand new, and offers access to every different slope – the team in the hotel will kit you out in no time.

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10. Baqueira-Beret, Spain

The Northeast of Spain is usually associated with Bilbao, and the surf culture trickles in from Biarritz – so it’s no surprise the boardriders have made a home in the Spanish Pyrenees. Yes, there’s skiing in Spain. In fact, there’s 4,700 acres worth of ski-friendly snow in Val d’Aran, and it’s frequented by Spain’s Royal family too. Baqueira-Beret is royal standard with a 1,010m vertical drop (that competes with Big Sky in Montreal), and there’s now 146km of downhill. You’ll need the long Spanish lunch to keep your energy up.

Nearest airport: Lourdes Average cost for a meal: €10-€14 (£8-£10) in local restaurants. Average cost for a ski pass: A one day ski pass here is €49 for adults (€32.50 for children), a week is €255 (€160 for children). Where to stay: Rooms at the AC Baqueira Ski & Resort have jetted tubs and iPod docks. Ski passes, storage, rentals, and lessons are also available.

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More ideas for having the best cold-weather getaway this year:

How to do a cheap ski holiday

New ski goggles, a retro-ski outfit and all those drinks can tot up to a sky high bill. Use these tips to keep within your travel budget.

The coolest places to stay when you ski: ice hotels

No longer reserved for Bond films, these ice hotels are all available to book online. Rent yourself an igloo in Alaska, Sweden or Romania.

What to do in a ski-resort if you can’t ski

Don’t sit inside drinking the bar dry: try snow-shoeing, husky rides and spa days. You should definitely do a little apres-ski too.

*Published November 2016. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability

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