If you are searching for the best affordable ski resorts in Europe, there are plenty of options to explore. Skiing in Europe can be an expensive hobby, especially in the glamourous resorts of Val d’isere and Courchevel. So why not explore the hidden gems of Italy, the lively resorts of Bulgaria and Finland’s winter wonderland? Here’s a list of ski resorts that won’t make your eyes water.
Located in Andorra, one of the world’s smallest countries, Grandvalira ski resort is wonderful for beginners and intermediates. It includes: Pas de la Casa, Grau Roig, Soldeu, El Tarter, Canillo and Encamp. It’s the largest in Andorra and the Pyrenees.
Grandvalira is connected and accessible with a single ski pass. It’s near to the capital city and provides a great skiing for both skiers and snowboarders. There are large, interconnected ski resorts with a number of villages. The major selling point is you often don’t get the crowds. For skiing and snowboarding, there are 210 km of slopes and 74 lifts. The winter resort is between 1,710 and 2,640 m.
Niederau is probably the best-known village in the Wildschönau. It’s a picturesque area in a side valley above Wörgl in the Austrian Tyrol. Niederau is just one the ski areas in the valley and, although it is the more popular, the villages of Auffach and Oberau also offer a good alternative.
Niederau is home to a fantastic beginner zone on the edge of the valley. There are a number of groomed slopes that can be accessed via a gondola and a chairlift. A couple are quite steep which presents a challenge, except for the experts. Nearest airport is Innsbruck Aiport.
Zauchensee is a small ski area in the mountains in Salzburgerland Austria. It is an uncrowded, user-friendly area with fun piste trails and off-piste freeriding in the forest. Part of the Salzburger Sportwelt, it also includes Flachau and Filzmoos, and is included as part of the Ski Amadé lift pass.
The nearby Obertauern resort is probably more well-known but Zauchensee’s altitude and snow record is decent. There aren’t a huge number of hotels to choose from but access is straightforward. Public transport access by train and bus is reliable. There are quality on-piste trails for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. You will find fantastic on-mountain and village restaurants and bars. The Zauchensee ski resort is only around 1hr by car from Salzburg.
Winner of the “Most Beautiful Village in Austria” competition, Alpbach is a classic Tyrolean ski resort. Located just 45 minutes from Innsbruck airport, it’s postcard-pretty. You can enjoy quaint buildings full of charm, beautiful scenery and friendly locals. It’s part of the Ski Juwel ski area. Alpbach ski resort has continuously proven itself to be a real jewel in the crown of Austrian skiing.
Alpbach is popular for teaching beginners, particularly children. It has excellent nursery slopes close to the village, up the mountain and good ski schools. The accommodation in Alpbach comprises mainly family-run hotels or guesthouses. It offers a respectable ski area, courtesy of its links into the beautiful Wildschönau Valley.
There is a short, free ski bus journey to/from the slopes. There are bars and restaurants at bottom of the pistes in nearby Inneralpbach for après-ski. While Alpbach is quiet in comparison to other ski resorts, it has a few lively bars. Bear in mind, that most visitors choose Alpbach to relax and enjoy the ambiance and the stunning views.
Set on the outskirts of Bulgaria’s Pirin National Park, Bansko is a fantastic choice for anyone on a budget. The resort has been named “Best Ski Resort In Bulgaria” every year since 2013 by the World Ski Awards. Great for first timers, Bansko offers 75km of ski runs and decent snow conditions, just get to the gondola early to avoid queues. It’s a wonderful combination of a modern ski resort and a historic town with cobbled streets and local restaurants. There’s a great choice of apres-ski bars to choose from. The ski area and town have had substantial money invested recently.
If you’re looking for a lively ski resort, Bulgaria could be the one for you. Set in the heart of a national park, Borovets’ 58km ski area is known for its pretty tree-lined slopes, located on the northern slopes of Bulgaria’s Rila Mountains. Borovets is known for great-value skiing and lively nightlife, in a picturesque woodland setting. The tree-lined slopes are perfect for gentle cruising. There are some lovely hotels that are cheaper than other European ski resorts.
There’s also varied après-ski, including clubs, bars and traditional local pubs. Set among the ski area above Borovets has some of Bulgaria’s best terrain for more experienced skiers. The ski lessons and lift passes cost a lot less than elsewhere in Europe too. There’s an excellent school to help beginners build their confidence. Intermediates can take the gondola to the Yastrebetz area for long reds.
Borovets is one of our best resorts for families. Lots of its accommodation is close to the lifts and has family facilities, the ski school is easy to get to and there’s plenty to do off the slopes. This is strong contender as one of the best affordable ski resorts in Europe.
The ski resort Pamporovo is located in the Smolyan Province. For skiing and snowboarding, there’s 29.8 km of slopes available and 13 lifts. The winter sports area is situated between 1,473 and 1,926 m. As with the other main Bulgarian resorts (Bansko and Borovets), Pamporovo offers very good value skiing. It’s a great location for beginners and a lively, cheap après-ski scene. For a small ski area, the slopes offer decent variety, including several blacks. It’s a great place to learn and to develop your technique.
A winter wonderland with stunning snow-capped trees and glistening frozen lakes. Levi offers a very different ski holiday experience. It can get bitterly cold but in addition to skiing, there are lots of other activities you won’t find in the Alps. You may see the Northern Lights, huskies, can drive snowmobiles and ride Icelandic horses. The winter season begins with snowmaking around October and lasts until May. The sun doesn’t rise until mid-morning and sets early afternoon so time on the slopes is limited.
Levi is considered a bit flat but there are blue slopes for beginners, red slopes for intermediate skiers and black slopes for the experts. A great choice for families but look for a half-board deal as eating out can be expensive. There are 43 ski slopes and 27 ski lifts in Levi Ski Resort. There is a lively après ski scene in Levi with a number of pubs and clubs to explore including a sports bar, Irish bar and Karaoke bar.
FRANCE, CHÂTEL, PORTES DU SOLEIL
Easily accessible from Geneva Airport, the Portes du Soleil is one of the largest linked ski resorts in the world. It covers 650km of ski runs which link 12 different resorts across France and the French-Swiss border. The 12 ski resorts include: Avoriaz, Les Gets, Châtel, Champery, Les Crosets, Morgins and Champoussin. It’s worth noting there’s a choice of ski passes, you can buy a cheaper Châtel pass if you don’t want access to the whole Portes du Soleil.
You can enjoy some incredible views of the Dents du Midi mountain range and Lake Geneva. If you’re looking for a French ski resort close to an airport with a short transfer time, Châtel is perfect.
Agriculture and tourism have steadily developed to create a charming resort in the Alps. Châtel comfortably offers something for everyone, beginners through to experts, and is definitely one of the best affordable ski resorts in Europe.
Read more: The Complete Guide to the Portes du Soleil.
Winterberg is a small, picturesque town in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It’s home to a ski resort with 22 lifts and 20 pistes, although it only has 190 metres of vertical descent. With this in mind, it is best suited to beginner skiers and snowboarders. However, experts and intermediates can try Winterberg’s 220 km of cross-country ski trails.
A small proportion of the pistes are covered by snowmaking. The nearest airport is at Cologne and the nearest train station is at Winterberg. There is also accommodation located close to the pistes. The ski resort offers a huge variety of mid-mountain huts and lovely restaurants.
ITALY, ALBA DI CANAZEI
Alba di Canazei is an attractive small resort at one end of the Val di Fassa Valley. It has its own ski area and offers easy access to the Sella Ronda via the lift at Canazei. The Marmolada Glacier is nearby for snow-sure skiing. This is an idyllic place for skiers. You can stay in one of the hotels in the village and reach the slopes quickly.
The Ciampac aerial tramway is in the village centre and takes you to the Ciampac-Buffaure ski resort. There are ski slopes to suit every ability, plus warm mountain refuges with large terraces offering panoramic views. The Fassa Valley’s skiing has something for everyone.
There’s a wide choice of friendly, intimate ski areas for all abilities. All have excellent snow-making cover and most have modern lifts. Val di Fassa makes an effort for families by offering childcare, play facilities and special low-price package deals making it one of the best affordable ski resorts in Europe.
A hidden gem, Pila is a small to medium-sized Alpine ski-resort in the Aosta Valley region in northern Italy. There are more than 24 pistes, including 4 blue runs, 29 red runs and 4 black runs. If you are looking for more challenging terrain maybe head to La Thuile. The area is little known outside of Italy so it has few queues and great terrain which makes for good skiing.
The bulk of the runs at Pila are for intermediates. However, there are adequate beginner slopes and they tend to be quiet. This allows you to improve without worrying about collisions. For the intermediates and experts the upper slopes at Pila are wide with nice open bowls.
Your ski pass at Pila also offers one day at the nearby resort of Courmayeur. If you enjoy your apres-ski, best advice might be to stay in Aosta, a lovely old Roman town with nightlife, restaurants and plenty of accommodation. The nearest airport is Turin Caselle Airport.
Madesimo is a hidden gem. This charming resort is set in a traditional Italian village. It’s also quite close to the Swiss border. The resort comprises more than 60km of pistes, with modern lift systems and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. It’s best suited for intermediate skiers as it has a variety of blue and red runs.
Families love the dedicated area for children. Here they can learn to ski and also try snow tubing. Nursery slopes are located at the end of the village which also has long blue runs through the trees, ideal for beginners. It’s probably not the place for advanced skiers as there are only 5 blacks covering 9km.
Madesimo’s mountain restaurants offer fantastic value and the après-ski is friendly and relaxed. There are shops, bars and restaurants so the afternoons can be spent exploring the resort. Popular spots include the Shamrock Pub and the Tender Disco Bar which both liven up at the weekends.
The Jasná Nízke Tatry ski resort is among the top three most family-friendly ski resorts in Slovakia. Surrounded by beautiful nature, this ski resort offers the longest ski slopes in Slovakia. There are lots of hotels, guest houses and apartments. Beer and food is cheaper than France although the locals in Jasná don’t speak much English.
Investment into high-speed lifts, off-slope facilities and extensive new snowmaking is a major plus. It now offers almost 50km of slopes, a lift system to rival the Alps and some exciting off-piste skiing. Off the slopes, the accommodation has improved, along with the food. Making this one of the best affordable resorts in Europe.
The north-facing slopes above Poiana Brasov are home to the largest mountain resort in Romania. Once named the best affordable ski resort in Europe by the telegraph.co.uk in 2008. Its location is set in the Carpathians, however it’s also close to a major city that offers easy access. This is a good value option for beginner or intermediate skiers and snowboarders.
There is some terrain for beginners and advanced skiers too although the ski area is small. The resort offers five main lifts and around 24km of slopes so the main attraction is value for money. It’s also near popular tourist attractions. Why not combine your trip with a visit to Dracula’s Castle, the Rasnov Fortress or the medieval city of Brasov?
Vogel Ski Resort is one of Slovenia’s best all-round resorts. It’s situated above Bohinj near to the stunning Lake Bohinj. The views on a clear day are beautiful. The resort has a total of 22 km of ski slopes, 8 km tracks for cross country skiing and a snowboard park. Vogel is one of Slovenia’s higher resorts and caters to more beginners. Experienced skiers will find plenty off-piste options and some more difficult and longer pistes.
Access the resort via the gondola from the shores of Lake Bohinj. It’s worth the early start to avoid busy queues and a packed gondola. There’s a ski bus that runs from Bled to Bohinj and the resort offers a choice of places to eat and drink on the mountain top. You can also find restaurants around the beautiful Lake Bohinj. The season runs until late April.
Lake Bohinj in Slovenia.
If you’re looking for a cost-effective ski holiday, check out 5 Reasons to Stay in a Self-Catered Ski Chalet.