Piste off with paying £210 just for a lift pass? Don’t want to spend £7 on an après-ski beer? If you want cheap skiing, then forget France, avoid Austria, and be sure to shun Switzerland altogether.
Global snow-chaser and Skyscanner Travel Editor Sam Baldwin reveals the best value ski resorts this winter, where the snow is deep, lift passes are cheap and a beer still costs £1 a pint.
Welcome to where the bargain-hunter snowboarders and savvy skiers are heading this season – watch the videos below and see what these excellent underrated resorts can offer!
The pistes of popular Poiana-Brasov are perfect for beginners and intermediates, and the recently added eight-seater gondola has improved the somewhat dated lift system. The resort may be small and somewhat rough round the edges, but it’s cheap and cheerful and has been popularised by budget package holidaymakers. Advanced skiers won’t find much to challenge them here, but away from the piste you can relax in a horse-drawn sleigh, or hit the numerous bars and restaurants.
Vogel, like Slovenia itself, is small but perfectly formed. Sat on a plateau high above the majestic Bohinj Lake, a modern cable car whisks skiers up from the valley in minutes, to where numerous chair lifts fan out over undulating terrain. Vogel caters well for beginners, and good skiers could cover the pistes quite easily in a day or two. More experienced riders will find plenty of off-piste exploring to do, and there is also the option of heading to Kobla, another ski area which is just fifteen minutes down the valley. Nightlife is very low key here with just a handful of lakeside restaurants, so this place is ideal for a romantic winter break, rather than your stag do. Take a look at the video below, you might be suprised about what’s on offer here!
Popova Shapka, Macedonia
Popova Shapka is a major winter destination for Macedonians; many of the lifts are antiquated but the area has a healthy snow record and for those looking to try somewhere a little different, it’s an adventurous alternative to ski resorts in the Alps. Perhaps Popova’s biggest draw is that it’s the base for Europe’s only cat-skiing operation: Eskimo-freeride. A converted piste-groomer takes you deep into the backcountry where you can glide through perfectly-spaced pines in pure Popova powder.
The oldest ski resort in Bulgaria, Borovets is huddled in pine forests among the highest mountain range on the Balkan Peninsula. The largest Alpine resort in the country, it boasts the wide, open pistes, which become tree-lined as you descend. The town is lively with bars generally catering to a mass-market crowd, (there’s plenty of happy hours and ‘two for ones’). Overall, Borovets is cheap and cheerful; a ski resort that will appeal most to beginners and early intermediates – along with those who enjoy a good knees-up after dark.
Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic
The Czech Republic may be better known for beer and boozy stag groups, but it’s also got some not-half bad skiing on offer too. Spindleruv Mlyn, in the Krkonoše Mountains, has 23 lifts and 20 runs with the highest at 1310m. This terrain is unlikely to excite advanced skiers and snowboarders (although there is a terrain park) but for learners, why pay twice as much in The Alps when Czech snow will do just fine?
Don’t forget that we have ski areas in the UK too! Scottish ski areas may not be as popular as they were before budget airlines offered easy access to the European Alps, but a fine day on the slopes of Scotland is just as fun as anywhere else. Cairngorm is the most developed area, with a funicular railway in addition to numerous surface lifts. The terrain is a mix of gentle, wide runs, good intermediate cruisers, and also some steep walls if you’re prepared to do a little walking. Due to the unpredictable weather, it’s best to keep an eye on the snow forecast and be prepared to head to The Highlands when conditions look good.
Kopaonik in Serbia has one of Eastern Europe’s most modern lift systems which delivers skiers and snowboarders to its selection of forest-lined runs. There are numerous off-piste opportunities for those who prefer to get off the beaten piste, and extensive cross-country trails if you want to try something different. Despite its hi-tech infrastructure, Kopaonik has managed to maintain its rural charm; traditional thatched huts dot the slopes and offer cosy open fires and lashings of ‘hot wine’. Be warned: every night is party night in Serbia, so be sure to pack your dancing shoes (especially if you like TurboFolk!).
For several years now Jasna has been attracting savvy skiers and snowboarders who want great snow, cheap food, and even cheaper beer. British-run holiday outfit Propaganda Snowboards, who spotted the area’s potential and set up shop here almost 10 years ago, has been sharing this Slovakian secret ever since.
New for this season is the Funitel cable car which connects both sides of Chopok, increasing the uplift capacity of this medium-sized resort to 30,000 people an hour. There’s a respectable 1,000m of vertical drop here and plenty of forest riding on offer, so Jasna is big enough to keep intermediates and even experts happy if you’re prepared to do a little off-piste exploration. Though the après-ski is relatively low-key, there are a selection of after-dark bars and restaurants in the nearby town of Liptovsky Mikulas.
Pricewise, Slovakia is excellent value; a pint of beer still costs just £1 and you can grab a three course meal for under £10 – try doing that in France!
Jahorina, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Jahorina is one of the larger ski resorts in the Balkans and boasts a proud Olympic legacy. Most of the skiing here is intermediate level, with around 20km of pistes, efficient lifts and lovely views towards the city of Sarajevo. Jahorina also offers night skiing and has a lively après-ski scene with great value food. You can stay on and around the slopes, but as it’s less than 30 minutes’ drive to Sarajevo, it’s more fun to base yourself there so you can combine a city and ski break in one.
Flights and hotels found on Skyscanner
Non-GBP currencies converted to approx GBP value using XE.com.
Lift pass and accommodation prices for high season (January-March).
Not included: equipment rental, airport transfers, insurance.
Prices correct at time of writing but may be subject to change.