Tight holiday budgets are leading skiers to leapfrog traditional favourites in the Alps for better value ski resorts in Central and Eastern Europe this winter.
Skyscanner has seen a 154% rise in searches for winter flights from the UK to cities east of the Alps compared to last year.
The most popular eastern ski hubs are Krakow in Poland, Sofia in Bulgaria, Bratislava in Slovakia and Ljubljana in Slovenia. The trends reflect the search for better value skiing this winter in light of the recession and strong Euro.
Further evidence for this trend comes from a recent Skyscanner poll which asked skiers and snowboarders whether they would be taking a ski trip this winter; 57% replied that they would, but of those, 65% said they would be heading for a cheaper option than usual.
Sam Baldwin, Skyscanner travel editor and ski expert commented on the trends:
“With an après ski pint now costing close to £8 in some French resorts, many skiers and snowboarders are looking for cheaper options this year. Eastern Europe has suffered from a stigma – some people imagine it to be all concrete communist blocks and dodgy food – but that’s completely inaccurate.
"Whilst it’s true that most resorts in Eastern and central Europe are smaller than large interlinked areas in France or Austria, they do offer plenty of great skiing in attractive alpine towns, excellent value and an interesting cultural experience.”
Get more piste for your pound: 5 Value Ski Resorts
Zakopane is Poland’s winter capital and largest ski resort, which offers skiing from December to March. Located in the Tatras Mountains, which is part of the Carpathian range, the ski area is made up of 14 separate zones which offer around 50 lifts in total. You can watch skiers learning to fly during the World Ski-Jumping Cup, a truly impressive sight, and the bars offer plenty of Polish hospitality and lively après-ski action. Find cheap flights to Krakow
Vogel must be one of Slovenia’s most beautiful ski areas. Perched high above Bohinj Lake, you can enjoy the stunning views across the Triglav National Park. Nearby, the small ski area of Kobla offers extra slopes and there are also 10km of cross-country ski trails that run through a forested plateau at Pokljuka. Stay at Pension Stare, a cosy family run hotel right on the banks of Bohinj. Nightlife here is quiet – so Vogel is best suited for romantic couples or families. Find cheap flights to Ljubljana
Along with its cousins, Bansko and Pamporovo, the ski resort of Borovets is a great choice for the bargain hunter. A lively, cheap and cheerful town, Borovets is the oldest ski resort in Bulgaria. Nestled at around 1,300m in the Rila Mountains, it’s comprised of three separate zones (which aren’t yet fully linked).
The upper half of the mountain is largely above the tree line and offers plenty of wide open pistes, most of which are fairly gentle – ideal for beginners and intermediates. The ski instruction here is top notch and the après ski is lively, so it’s particularly popular with party animals. Find cheap flights to Sofia
Boasting 23 lifts and a vertical drop of 821 meters, this surprisingly modern resort is Serbia’s top winter offering. Kopaonik is excellent value – a cup of coffee will cost less than 80p, beer is about 50p a bottle and a three-course lunch just £5.
Serbians are renowned for being 24-hour party people, so the nightlife is energetic – pack your dancing shoes and hangover cures. With the Serbian tourist board currently pushing “Visit Serbia Year 2011” – the country is set for a boost in visitors – better get there before everyone else! Find cheap flights to Belgrade
Jasna , Slovakia
Slovakia’s biggest and best resort, Jasna is situated in the Low Tatras National Park. Don’t be put off by the name, the mountain rises to an altitude of 2,024m and offers a very respectable 1,000m of vertical drop. Jasna’s snowpark is sponsored by Burton and has terrain to challenge even the most fearless freestylers, whilst the nearby town of Liptovsky Mikulás provides ample entertainment after dark.
Pricewise, Slovakia is infinitely better value than France; a pint will cost £1 or less; a three course meal just a tenner. Try PropagandaSnowboards who offer excellent value packages for skiers and snowboarders, including accommodation, breakfast, transfers and guiding from £215. Find cheap flights to Bratislava or Poprad Tatry