With a six day lift pass in Courchevel costing a whopping £224 this season and an après ski beer now £7 or more, the time has come to ditch the overpriced resorts of the Alps, and seek out slopes that don’t require a new mortgage to ski.
To ski on a budget (yes, it is possible), forget France, side-step Switzerland and escape Austria all together; Eastern Europe is where the best value skiing is to be found this winter.
Why? Lift passes, accommodation and food is far cheaper than in the traditional haunts of British skiers and you’ll feel like more of an adventurer in most of these mountains, skiing slopes that far fewer Brits have skied before!
Though Slovakia isn’t a big name in the ski world, Jasna is well known to savvy skiers and snowboarders who want great skiing, cheap food, and even cheaper beer. There’s a respectable 1,000m of vertical drop and with more and more investment in the resort and local area, this underrated resort won’t stay that way for long.
British run company Propaganda Snowboards welcomes skiers and snowboarders to their chalets which are a short drive from Jasna’s lifts. Pricewise, Slovakia is infinitely better value than France; a pint of beer will cost £1 or less; a three course meal just a tenner.
Borovets is the oldest winter resort in Bulgaria, huddled in coniferous forests among the highest mountain range on the Balkan Peninsula. It is also the biggest and most modern Alpine resort in the country. The highest pistes sit at 2600m and offer fantastic downhill runs while the town itself has lively restaurants and bars serving hearty bites at bargain prices. Borovets is a cheap and cheerful resort for all abilities of skier, snowboarder and cross-country fanatic.
One of Eastern Europe’s most modern resorts, Kopaonik in Serbia, has 21 shiny new lifts, whisking skiers up thick, forest-lined runs. There are some interesting off-piste opportunities and extensive cross-country trails. The longest downhill run is 3.5km from a modest drop of 521m with 44km of day and night skiing and snowboarding on partly wooded trails. One of the main draws is Kopaonik’s rural charm; traditional thatched huts dot the slopes and offer cosy open fires and lashings of ‘hot wine’. Being Serbia, there is no shortage of après ski partying well into the small hours.
Close to the beautiful capital Ljubljana, Krvavec in Slovenia is a small but mainly intermediate ski area, with a max altitude of 1,971m of altitude and three distinct summits. Brand new gondolas transport skiers to the slopes in less than seven minutes where they can enjoy a guaranteed 100 days of snow. Snowshoeing, snow biking and skidooing are also available. For a unique twist on your holiday why not stay in Igloo Village, a ‘snow hotel’ with tunnels that connect igloo chamber rooms, including romantic ones just for couples.
Popova Shapka, Macedonia
Popova Shapka is a major winter destination in north-western Macedonia. Intermediate skiers and snowboarders will love the deep snow, as long as the lifts are running. For those looking to try something a little more daring, there is Europe’s only cat-skiing operation: Eskimo-freeride. You get taken up the mountains in a converted piste-groomer, to the best backcountry in the area where you can glide through pines on pure Popova powder.
Jahorina, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Jahorina is one of the larger ski resorts in the Balkans and was a winter Olympic venue. Most of the skiing here is intermediate level, and there are 20km of pistes, efficient lifts and lovely views towards Sarajevo too. Those who don’t want to stop just because the sun goes down can enjoy night skiing, and there’s a lively après ski scene with great value food and drink to revive you after a day on the slopes.
The well-groomed pistes of popular Poiana-Brasov are perfect for beginners and intermediates, and a new eight-seater gondola has improved the somewhat dated lift system. The resort may be small but it’s perfectly formed and is giving Borovets a run for its money. There’s fun floodlit night skiing so you can stay longer on the slopes but advanced skiers may find the skiing limited as there are only a few black runs. Off piste you can relax in a horse-drawn sleigh, or hit the bars, restaurants – be sure to try the Ţuică – plum wine.
Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic
Nestled high in the Krkonose Mountains, Spindleruv Mlyn has consistently excellent snow conditions thanks to teeth chattering temperatures of between -15 to -20 degrees C, getting even colder at night. The resulting snow is powder champagne and the combined ski area has 23 lifts and 20 long runs with the highest at 1310m and excellent black and red runs for advanced skiers. End the day with warming traditional food and 90% proof plum brandy that is almost as astonishing as the cheap prices.
Glenshee, the Highlands, Scotland
Remember, you don’t have to leave the country to get your snow fix. Glenshee is the largest ski and snowboard area in the UK and home to the infamous Tiger, one of the most challenging black runs going. On a clear day the snow-covered views across the Cairngorms National Park are just stunning and there are some surprisingly steep slopes, along with open bowls, narrow gullies, pisted and unpisted runs. Though Scottish skiing is famed for the wind, if you get lucky with the weather you can have better conditions than the Alps, and if not, the Scottish hospitality will warm your cockles anyway!
Euro prices have been converted to approx GBP value using XE.com. Airport transfers not included in total price. Flight and accommodation prices correct at time of publication.