Skip the packed pistes, long lift queues and eye-watering prices – there are plenty of little-known ski towns which pack a powder punch but without the big-resort crowds
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WINNING TIP: Dienten am Hochkönig
Dienten is a small, traditional Austrian farming village in the middle of the Hochkönig ski area. In the past few years there has been a big investment in the area’s ski infrastructure, with lots of new lifts now linking Dienten to the surrounding villages. Despite being only an hour from Salzburg, it is still relatively unheard of and prices have been kept low. We stayed over the New Year week and never once queued for a lift or battled for space on the 150km of pistes. We especially enjoyed numerous beautiful mountain huts serving hearty treats and schnapps.
I visited this lovely Bulgarian Village 17 years ago and loved it and, on my return this year, I loved it even more. Pamporovo offers fantastic family-friendly skiing and pretty runs allow for all to be involved. The ski school is fantastic whether you are a beginner or an expert. It’s great value for money without feeling budget. Give this resort a chance, especially if you are a family considering a first skiing holiday.
Julie Catanach Burt
Seven hours drive from Calais, or less than 90 minutes from either Basel or Strasbourg, there are plenty of places to ski in the Vosges. It’s quite low, so snow is not guaranteed, but there are some runs with artificial snow. There are also maybe a dozen other places with one or two lifts perfect for a morning’s skiing. Suitable for intermediate rather than expert skiers (only a couple of black runs) they’re also ideal if you are a bit rusty and want a quick day or two to get back into the swing. Runs are around 2km maximum length, so it’s great if you’re not (ahem) perfectly fit. Prices are reasonable and there are plenty of nice cheap places to have lunch (¤10 covers a basic meal).
Auron 1600 is a surprise. Less than two hours from Nice, it captivates you with its charming village atmosphere. The skiing is suitable for all the family, catering for novice to expertall levels. It’s a fantastic journey up to the resort, hard to believe that you can be transported from the blueness of the Côte d’Azur to the crystal whiteness of the Alpes-Maritime in such a short space of time. The food and accommodation isare delightful, with numerous après ski activities.
Le Grand Bornand
Enjoyed by just a small number of British skiers, but loved by the French, Le Grand Bornandcorrect is a charming, chocolate box village in the Aravis. The smaller neighbour to La Clusazcorrect, and just an hour from Geneva and 35 minutes from Annecy, the skiing here is fantastic for all the family. You can choose a ski pass for Grand Bornand or the full Aravis area with regular buses linking the resorts. We never had to queue to get on a lift, the lift operators were always friendly and helpful and there’s a good choice of restaurants around the slopes. My husband, who’s an expert skier, loved the skiing here, particularly the off-piste – the snowfall we had was amazing. Oour three year-old loved learning and, as an intermediate skier, I had no end of choice of where to go. The tuition here is also fantastic. We’ve skied in many other places, but love it here – fantastic town, amazing skiing, easy access to Annecy for non-skiers, lovely restaurants and chilled apres ski.
Set at the foot of Monte Rosa, which is itself worth the trip, Macugnaga in Piedmont can only be described as a local ski resort. Small in size, it avoids the buses of the package holidays yet it has a vibrant feeling thanks to a friendly bunch of locals. The skiing is excellent – be the first up to peak Moro (3,008m) and enjoy the wide pistes all to yourself. The queues never get long and the hot food in the bars is not a rip-off. There is plenty to do for all; ice skating, trekking, a spa and the après-ski scene is genuine fun.
Peaceful Pragelato is 90 minutes’ drive from Turin airport. On the border of the Val Troncea national parkcorrect, it enjoys peace and tranquillity. The Via Latteacorrect skiing area is the main attraction, with more than 400km of runs but, with the Val Troncea national park so near, there is also plenty of walking and snow trekking to be done. One of the legacies from the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics is a fantastic cross-country skiing network. My family has been going to Pragelato for the past 20 years or so, and we have seen the village changing through the years and it is lovely to see!
Folgarida is a tiny resort in the Italian Dolomites but benefits from being linked to the bigger town of Madonna di Campiglio. It has 28 pistes with a total length of 50km but, when added to the Brenta Dolomites slopes, there’s access to 150km of well-groomed, tree-lined runs. Folgarida itself is very quiet on the après side, so it might be better suited to serious skiers or families. A beginner/intermediate resort, it has friendly reds and blues but has access to more challenging reds and blacks in Madonna. Our favourite was the leg-burning Orso Bruno route back from Madonna to Folgarida: 9km without any lifts!
Obersaxen-Mundaun is a lesser-known but well-sized ski area in Graubünden. It’s the home of ski champion Carlo Janka, but Obersaxen sees itself as a family ski resort and the pistes have something to offer at all skill levels. There are several other ski areas nearby for day trips, including Brigels, Sedrun and the popular Flims Laax.
From Björkliden, a small ski resort deep inside the Arctic circle and under the northern lights corridor, you can see the great Lapporten Gap – the gateway to Lapland. Cosy cabins, Sweden’s highest mountain station (Låktatjåkko) and lots of non-skiing activities. You can also ski on the Swedish/Norwegian border at Riksgränsen using the transfer bus between the ski areas.
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