How to Ski for Less: 5 Great Value Alpine Resorts
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Skiing is not a cheap holiday option. Factor in lift passes, ski hire, lessons, flights, accommodation, food, and drink, and you’ve got a virtual avalanche of expenses, but there are ways to keep the cost down. One of these is to choose the right resort – somewhere you can enjoy a top-class skiing experience without paying top rates. (Another way to reduce your expenses is to rent a car through Nova Car Hire.)
Here are some of our favourite Alpine ski resorts that combine quality skiing with affordable prices:
You normally associate high prices with high-altitude French skiing, which is what makes Les Deux-Alpes so remarkable. You’ll spend your days skiing on generally excellent snow at heights of between 2,300m and 3,400m without paying the rates you would expect for such quality. The town of Les Deux-Alpes sprawls across the base of the slopes, offering a vibrant atmosphere in the evenings and affordable accommodation in hotels, apartments, and catered chalets. The abundance of accommodation does mean that lift queues and congested pistes can be an issue in high season. Rent a car at Grenoble Airport, 104km away.
Serre Chevalier in southern France is only a short distance from Les Deux-Alpes, via the lofty Col du Lautaret. A series of traditional, Provencal-style villages (accompanied by some ill-planned modern development), Serre Chevalier incorporates the town of Briancon, with its beautiful fortified old quarter. The slopes are distinctive, extending across a long mountain range above the villages and consisting of a high tree line and an excellent array of elevated, open bowls (reaching 2,735m) and sheltered woodland runs. The antiquated lift system is undergoing improvements. Rent a car at either Turin Caselle (133km) or Grenoble (156km) airports.
Ellmau is part of the SkiWelt, Austria’s biggest linked area of slopes, but, whereas the other towns in the region offer comparatively low prices, Ellmau wins out with its traditional village atmosphere and relatively easy access to the slopes. There are authentic black slopes at the summit of Hohe Salve in Soll(1,830m), but the most attractive thing about SkiWelt is the huge potential for easy cruising on delightfully wooded slopes. The lifts and the snow-making are reliably efficient. The valley villages enjoy long descents, but the hill runs are generally short. Rent a car at Salzburg Airport (83km).
If you’ve been to Kitzbuhel, you’ll find some parallels with Schladming, the most easterly large resort in Austria. Both are valley towns with medieval old quarters and strong traditions of hard-core ski racing, but Schladming has none of the sophistication of its celebrated rival. Comfortingly traditional, without being particularly handsome, Schladming is right next the cutting-edge base station for the local peak, Planai, as well as the race finish area. From Planai, you will find links east to Hauser Kaibling and west to Rohrmoos-Hochwurzen and Reiteralm. These are densely forested mountains, with a peak elevation of 2,015m and mainly intermediate slopes. Rent a car at Salzburg Airport (89km)
Monterosa Ski is a three-valley ski area on the southern slopes of Monte Rosa, a glacial massif with its summit near Zermatt, Switzerland. One of the best things about Monterosa Ski is the off-piste countryside, some of it is served by lifts (including a cable car to 3,275m), and some of it accessible by helicopter. You will also find some great long, intermediate pistes. The resorts are charmingly laid-back and down-to-earth. Rent a car at Turin Caselle Airport and base yourself at either Gressoney (96km) or Champoluc (107km).