26 December 2018
A ski holiday is never going to be cheap. But, if you choose the right ski resort and plan carefully, you can stretch your money further than you might think. Here are five brilliant budget ski resorts where you can enjoy fabulous but affordable skiing.
1. Sestriere, Italy
This purpose-built ski resort in Italy’s Val Susa may not be particularly pretty, but it does offer the best value of Europe’s world-class ski resorts. Its high altitude, north-facing slopes, and good snow-making equipment mean that conditions here are always good. Your ski pass gives you access to the enormous 400km Milky Way circuit, including Sauze d’Oulx, SanSicario, Cesana and Claviere. There’s also a cheaper pass that just gives you access to the lifts in the beginners’ area, and there are discounted passes for seniors.
Sestriere prides itself on offering budget skiing for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. Intermediate and advanced skiers can enjoy the thrill of runs used in World Cup races and the Torino Winter Olympics, while lessons at the ski school cost half what they do in France. There are plenty of self-catering apartments and budget hotels within easy walking distance of the lifts, so you can go from PJs to piste in a matter of minutes without breaking the bank. It’s also worth mentioning that this is one of very few ski resorts where you won’t scream in horror at the price of a cup of coffee, and where the pizza is cheap and delicious.
2. Ellmau, Austria
This quaint, traditional village is part of SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser – Brixental, Austria’s most extensive area of linked slopes. Ellmau is probably one of the best choices in Europe for families with children. The mountain station has its own children’s restaurant, child-care facilities and kids’ adventure ski school. A new 10-seater gondola is extremely family-friendly and offers the option to get on and off half-way up. There are some excellent nursery slopes on either side of the village, as well as plenty of broad, sunny, easy runs on the mountain.
Ellmau offers relatively low prices, and lots of value package deals. Most importantly for families, if one parent purchases a SkiWelt ski pass valid for three or more days, all the children from the same family under the age of 15 get a free ski pass to use during the same period.
3. Serre Chevalier, France
This resort area actually consists of 13 different villages in a sunny, south-facing valley. One of the largest ski resorts in France and Europe, Serre Chevalier has 250km of pistes and a multitude of runs for everyone from beginners to expert skiers and snowboarders. It’s considered one of the best resorts for snowboarders, with cruising slopes for carving, powdered off-piste for freeriding, and lots of trees and natural obstacles to weave through.
Serre Chevalier is a great alternative to the more famous and fashionable French resorts: It has a friendly atmosphere, excellent snowfall, sunny weather, and lower prices all round. There are very few fancy hotels here: accommodation is mostly in modestly priced Logis de France inns and self-catering chalets. Restaurants are budget-friendly, family-run places offering traditional local meals. There are numerous options for ski passes, with special discounts for beginners, families, children, groups of young adults, and seniors. A local valley bus service and regular ski busses make it easy to get around without hiring a car.
4. Grindelwald, Switzerland
The Jungfrau ski area is defined by the iconic peaks of the Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger. Grindelwald is the area’s largest resort, with nearly 230km of pristine ski slopes offering something for every level and taste. Grindelwald is also a particular treat for families and snowboarders, thanks to 20km of toboggan runs, and a snow park for freestylers.
Although Switzerland is one of the world’s most expensive countries to visit, a ski holiday in Grindelwald can still be great value, particularly if you book your accommodation, ski pass and ski hire well in advance. Book self-catering accommodation instead of a hotel room, and you’ll find places with similar rates to equivalent accommodation in Cape Town. Buy your ski pass at least three weeks in advance to get an earlybird discount of 20%, and book your ski or snowboard hire online to get 25% off. You can also get a reduced pass that just covers the Grindelwald-Wengen area.
5. Kranjska Gora, Slovenia
The UK Post Office recently published a survey of prices at 28 ski resorts for 2017, and this picturesque village in the Julian Alps turned out to be the cheapest in Europe. Although Eastern Europe’s ski resorts typically aren’t as well-developed as those in the ‘Big Four’ of France, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, Kranjska Gora has enough charm and sophistication to compare favourably – and it even has chalets to boot.
Kranjska is a good choice for beginners, as it’s home to an excellent ski school where you can learn to ski for less than half the price of lessons at better-known resorts like Kitzbuhel. Budget-conscious families are well-catered for as the nursery slopes are very central and all the hotels are near the pistes. And, there’s some lively apres-ski activity in the resort’s reasonably-priced restaurants.