Where To Ski In Europe: The New Breed Of Affordable Destinations

Austria, France, and Switzerland might well be
Europe’s prized skiing destinations, with their pristine runs, celebrity après-ski
scenes, and luxury five-star resorts, but those trips definitely don’t come
cheap. A weekend in Verbier would cost most of us more than a month’s
salary, and though skiing alongside Kate Moss would be wonderful, with a bit of
careful planning and research, it is possible to hit the slopes elsewhere without
having to file for bankruptcy. Let us introduce you to the new breed of
European skiing destinations, which offer groomed slopes, affordable
accommodations, and dirt-cheap pints.  

Photo: Popova Sapka / Courtesy of Snow-Forecast.

Popova Šapka,
Macedonia
Once upon a
time, Popova Šapka was frequented only by local Macedonians. But, now that Europe
has caught on to its ultra-cheap prices, long runs, good conditions, and high
snow levels, it’s on the radar of many keen skiers and snowboarders. A
six-day lift pass hovers around the £50 mark — that’s less than half the price
of other European ski resorts.

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Kopaonik,
Serbia
We know
Serbia is great for summer music festivals, but its buzzy nightlife scene is
equally alluring in the winter months. In Kopaonik, every night is party night.
Despite its quaint, rustic charm, the après-ski scene here is heavy with what
they call "TurboFolk" tunes, which keep revelers dancing 'til dawn. The skiing
is good, too, with 55 kilometers of trails and 12 kilometers of adventurous off-piste runs on peaks
that rise to 2,017 meters above sea level. Stay at Apart Hotel & Spa Zoned, where
the Turkish baths and hot tubs will ease your well-worked muscles.  

Zakopane,
Poland
Considered
to be the winter capital of Poland, Zakopane is a great resort for beginners
and pros alike. A flurry of recent investment has cemented its status as a destination worth visiting, thanks to wide ski paths, frequently groomed runs, extra
ski lifts, and quality après-ski — whilst pints remain dirt-cheap. The airport
is less than two hours away, and if you scout around, you can get a good
B&B for less than £50 a night. 

Ischgl, Austria
Austria’s
Ischgl is more for beginners and intermediates than major adrenaline junkies
(though St. Anton, one of the best resorts in Europe, is within driving distance if
you’re looking for more oomph). The novelty of heated seats on ski lifts is
reason enough to visit, and if that can’t sway you, the high number of on-piste
mountain restaurants and bars will. It’s all about frequent
pint stops in Ischgl. 

Špindlerův
Mlýn, Czech Republic
If your
kind of skiing trip is 50% slopes and 50% pubs, plan for Špindlerův Mlýn this year. Ultra-affordable, with pints
from 80p and 25 kilometers of great runs,
it’s a win-win destination for leisurely skiers. And, if you can steal enough
time from the office, extend your holiday with a quick trip to Prague on the
way home.

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Borovets, Bulgaria
While France, Switzerland, and Austria tend to
steal the thunder when it comes to skiing in Europe, Bulgaria offers excellent, affordable
resorts. The oldest and biggest is Borovets. It’s suitable for novices and
masters alike; good nursery runs can be found on lower levels, with more
ambitious ones at 2,600 meters and up. Après-ski is dangerously affordable, with pints of
beer from £1.

Poiana-Brasov, Romania
Poiana-Brașov is Romania’s largest and most luxurious winter resort, and a six-day ski pass will set you back just £110. Though advanced skiers might get a little restless here, those who are in the market for leisurely runs on pristine paths will be in their element — as will beginners, as the Ana Ski School is excellent, with more than 140 certified instructors. As for off-piste entertainment, it’s more horse-drawn sleighs than house tunes, but for some of us, that’s perfect.

Livigno, Italy
Unlike most resorts in the Alps, Italy’s Livigno is admirably affordable thanks to it being a tax-free (woo hoo!) destination. As well as being a great resort for gentle skiers (advanced ones might be a little restricted), it’s a good one for snowboarders to keep on their radar, too, as an extensive snowboard park has recently been installed. But, the best thing about skiing in Italy has to be the on-piste pizzerias.

Jahorina, Bosnia
Jahorina hosted the women’s Alpine skiing events of the 1984 Winter Olympics, and if it’s good enough for Olympians, it’s good enough for us. Intrepid adventurers can enjoy 20 kilometres of off-piste runs; the rest of the slopes will make intermediate skiers happy; and those who seek lively après-ski will find just what they’re looking for in and around the slopes, as well as in the nearby city of Sarajevo. A new motorway connects the resort to the international airport at Sarajevo, making Jahorina ever more accessible — perfect for long weekend getaways. Kolasin, Montenegro
Kolašin was named the second-best-value ski resort in Europe in a recent survey by foreign-currency specialists HiFX, which should certainly make your ears prick. It knows it's less glamorous than its European counterparts, but at 1,450 meters above sea level, Kolašin offers 30 kilometres of runs (predominantly blues) accessed by modern ski lifts. Stay at the Bianca Resort & Spa, and ski straight from the slopes to the spa.
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Photo: Courtesy of Visit Scotland.

Cairngorm,
Scotland
Real U.K. skiing resorts are sort of unimaginable to those of us who don’t
live in the Scottish Highlands, but Cairngorm is a genuine, credible skiing
destination with good lifts, wide runs, and even a funicular railway. Hire a
car, pack the skis, and get on the road — no passport or Euros required! 

Jasná, Slovakia
Spread across
Chopok Mountain, Jasná — considered to be the cheapest ski resort in Europe —
is more modern than most in Eastern Europe, while possessing the charm
and character of the much-loved Austrian resorts nearby. Ambitious off-piste
runs are readily accessible on the south side of Chopok Mountain, while the
north side has a good network of pisted runs as well as the majority of
après-ski bars. Adrenaline junkies can wear themselves out in the Red Bull "freeride zones."

Photo: Courtesy of Poiana Brasov.

Livigno, Italy
Unlike
most resorts in the Alps, Italy’s Livigno is admirably affordable thanks to it being a tax-free (woo hoo!) destination. As well as being a great resort for
gentle skiers (advanced ones might be a little restricted), it’s a good one for
snowboarders to keep on their radar, too, as an extensive snowboard park has
recently been installed. But, the best thing about skiing in Italy has to be the
on-piste pizzerias. 

Jahorina, Bosnia
Jahorina
hosted the women’s Alpine skiing events of the 1984 Winter Olympics, and if
it’s good enough for Olympians, it’s good enough for us. Intrepid adventurers can
enjoy 20 kilometers of off-piste runs; the rest of the slopes will make intermediate
skiers happy; and those who seek lively après-ski will find just what they’re
looking for in and around the slopes, as well as in the nearby city of
Sarajevo. A new motorway connects the resort to the international airport at Sarajevo,
making Jahorina ever more accessible — perfect for long weekend getaways. 

Kolasin, Montenegro
Kolašin was
named the second-best-value ski resort in Europe in a recent survey by foreign-currency specialists HiFX, which should certainly make your ears prick. It
knows it's less glamorous than its European counterparts, but at 1,450 meters above sea
level, Kolašin offers 30 kilometers of runs (predominantly blues) accessed by
modern ski lifts. Stay at the Bianca
Resort & Spa
, and ski straight from the slopes to the spa.       

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