Brilliant ski school, Slovenia
We took a family ski trip to Slovenia a few years ago with our daughter, who was seven at the time, and we wanted to try a smaller resort. We took the train from the UK to Bohinj via Ljubljana and Jasenice. In Bohinj we stayed near the foot of the cable car that goes up to the slopes of Vogel. It proved the perfect place for our daughter to learn with the brilliant local ski school and for the rest of us to enjoy some of the more challenging slopes. Lift passes were relatively cheap (this year €40 a day for adults) and as such we didn’t feel the pressure to maximise our piste time; instead, we also got to explore nearby Bled and the snowy walks at Bohinj too.
Great chicken soup and ski runs, Slovakia
Ski resort Mýto pod Ďumbierom has three miles of slopes with five lifts and affordable prices (ski pass €31). There’s an amazing restaurant and creche just by the slopes. Food there is just delicious: definitely try the chicken soup. It’s particularly good for families and novice skiers and snowboarders, with a fine ski and snowboard school. The village of Mýto pod Ďumbierom provides excellent accommodation options in wooden cottages, and the High Tatra mountains are under an hour’s drive away for those who want to explore further.
Pistes and pools, Slovakia
Jasná, in Slovakia’s Low Tatras, offers great value for money, with a modern lift system and good snow record. There are pistes for all abilities, including designated patrolled freeride zones. A seven-day lift pass is €255, but cheaper bought in advance. Eating and drinking on the mountain is very cheap; roughly half the cost of French resorts. The town of Liptovský Mikuláš, 11 miles to the north, caters best for families and non-skiers. The village also has Aquapark Tatralandia – a huge indoor water park and spa – a lift pass brings a hefty discount off entry.
Family-friendly slopes, Pyrenees, Spain
La Molina in the Pyrenees is a two-hour drive north from Barcelona (a train and bus package is also available). It is great for beginners and families, with less après-ski buzz but good Spanish cafes and a couple of supermarkets. Daily adult ski passes are from €35.50. Lessons are from €40 an hour for private tutor, and a bus ticket, equipment hire and pass for a day come to about €80.
Ski and swim, Spain
Ski the Sierra Nevada in Spain, between Granada and Almería. It’s a great resort, the most southerly in Europe. Where else can you ski in the morning and be on the beach in the afternoon? There are 131 pistes across 70 miles of slopes, making it the largest ski area in Spain. A ski pass costs from €44 for a day.
Affordable Cortina, Italy
For casual or entry-level skiers there’s a lovely town next to the famous Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Italian Dolomites called San Vito di Cadore. It’s small, more affordable than its famous neighbour and has a good selection of slopes. It’s where I learned to ski, and if you find yourself wanting more you can always drive over to Cortina and take in the scenery (and crowds) for a day. It’s also a wonderful place to try hiking with snowshoes, tobogganing and ski mountaineering in a safe environment, and has a charming town centre. Ski passes from €41 a day.
Quiet and charming, France
The smaller French resorts are far cheaper, quieter and more charming than the big names known by British skiers. I’d recommend Les Saisies: it’s high enough to have consistently good snow, with plenty of variety, from long blue runs with beautiful views to challenging blacks. There’s also a great toboggan run and swimming pools for kids who are tired after ski school. Ski passes are €235.80 for six days or €45 for a day.
Just right for beginners, France
If you hanker for France, you can get a six-day family ski pass in Valloire for under €800 rather than almost €1,200 in Les Trois Vallées. There are plenty of small apartments to rent in a proper working village, as well as a mountain restaurant where you can get spag bol for €10, a small not overpriced (for a mountain) Carrefour and a good weekly market. It’s a decent, though not massive, ski area that is just right for beginners and early intermediates as well as a limited amount of more challenging runs and a link to adjoining Valmeinier. Basically, a good family-friendly resort that’s not too up itself. Sadly for cycling enthusiasts, you won’t be able to make it up the Col du Galibier in winter …
Cheap side of Chamonix, France
To experience Chamonix without breaking the bank try Vallorcine by the Swiss border. It’s known by locals as the Valley of Bears, and what makes it special is its wild side. From here you can access the La Balme/Le Tour ski area (without the queues) or take a short trip to Grand Montets for challenging pistes and backcountry. Eat well for a reasonable price at Cafe Comptoir then set off on a peaceful cross-country or showshoe adventure. Chamonix has flexi-pricing for cheaper off-peak ski passes, and accommodation in Vallorcine costs significantly less than in Chamonix.
Medieval mix, France
Stay right in the heart of Briançon in the Grand-Serre. You can get the ski train and disembark straight into the walled medieval city, the highest town in the EU and a Unesco world heritage site. There’s a varied mix of runs (with access to Monêtier, Chantemerle and Serre Chevalier too), plus traditional mountain restaurants in the old city and lots of affordable accommodation close to the main lift. The ski area fully opens from 10 December with a daily ski pass for adults costing a relatively reasonable €29.