When you think winter breaks and skiing people normally think of The Big Five (France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany). However, Europe is a veritable smorgasbord of excellent skiing resorts from Alpine dopplegangers to budget breaks for the beginner skier, here are ten of our favourites:
Bansko, Bulgaria – best for snowboarding
Bansko is located at the foot of the Pirin Mountains, 160km from Sofia and has long been lauded as the new Andorra. It is known for its long ski runs and excellent snowboard and skiing infrastructure. There are lots of hotels of varying standards available to suit every traveller and you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to Apres-Ski destinations.
Poiana Brasov, Romania – best for night skiing
Considered one of the best in Romania, Poiana Brasov is located in the Carpathian Mountains and boasts an Olympic run but is best suited for the beginner to intermediate skier as the resort lacks real challenges for the advanced. The action doesn’t end when the sun goes down as the resort offers outstanding night skiing runs, as well as snowshoeing, winter camping and snowboarding. This is a budget resort and is much more affordable than the resorts among the Big Five but is fast becoming the resort of choice among winter sport passionates.
Saariselka, Lapland, Finland – best for cool experience
The word on the slopes is that after skiing in Lapland, you will never go back to the Alps! Saariselka is located within the Artic Circle and is a true winter wilderness. For the skiing enthusiasts there is 180km of skiing terrain for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers as well as acres of stunning woodland for snowshoeing, crosscountry skiing and sledding. Not skiing? No problem, there are plenty of other attractions including husky safaris and reindeer sleigh rides. At night thaw out in the steaming saunas and recoup at the onsite microbrewery as Aurora Borealis plays out across the night sky. With unparalleled panorama and excellent conditions, you can understand why Saariselka ski holidays are so popular.
Davraz, Turkey – Europe’s best kept secret
There are not many places where you can enjoy super skiing conditions and access to the Mediterranean coastline, but Davraz in Turkey is just the place. Accumulating approximately 2 metres of snow depth each winter, it is located in the middle of three crystal clear lakes which, offer stunning views from the slopes. It is very safe for amateurs while also offering challenging black runs for the more professional skier. Still one of Europe’s best kept secrets, it is fast becoming a new attraction spot for Alpinism lovers.
Are, Sweden – best for saunas and schnapps
For the three S’s of skiing; snow, schnapps and saunas- Are is the place to be. It is a softer, more accessible ski destination than the Alps and especially so for the amateur and intermediate skier, but does offer six spectacular black runs for those looking to challenge themselves. Aside, from outstanding ski opportunities there is plenty for the non-skier as well, including Europe’s longest zipline.
Zakopane, Poland – best for views
Nicknamed the Winter Capital of Poland, Zakopane‘s highlights for winter sporting activities have been expounded in literature since the 1880’s. It is the youngest Alpine chain in the world and has many opportunities for the skier and non-skier alike, though it’s still developing as a renowned ski resort what it lacks in Swiss glamour and organisation it makes up for in panoramic views.
Krkonose, Czech Republic – best for choice of activities
The Krkonose Mountains translates as The Giant Mountains, the perfect title for a resort that has been hosting winter sporting competitions since 1817. It is considered one of the Top 16 Ski Resorts in Europe and has boundless opportunities and choices for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and sledding. Aside from Krkonose, the Czech Republic also offers excellent budget ski breaks in the back country destination of Spindleruv Mlyn, the lack of sophistication is compensated by cheap beer and great traditional Czech food- and you can always recoup for a few days in Prague en route home!
Geilo, Norway – best family friendly
Scandanavia offers a truly unique winter holiday experience between the Swedish three S’s and Finland’s Artic Circle experience and now, Geilo in Norway located between Oslo and Bergen offers fine Alpine and cross country skiing with the tagline- Solitude on the Slopes. It is very child friendly and offers a myriad of outdoor activities for the non-skier including ice-fishing, sledding and reindeer barbeques (not so child friendly!) while also delivering on the promise of an out-of-this-world night skiing experience.
High and Low Tatras, Slovakia – best for budget
This is a great budget option. The Tatras in Slovenia is a beautiful part of the world but yet so overlooked. The High Tatras, are great for families and beginners (especiallyTatranska Lomnica and Skalnate Pleso). More advanced skiers will probably want to head for the Low Tatras at Jasna.
Aviemore, Scotland – best for fine scenery
Scotland is another great alternative skiing option in Europe and Aviemore in the Cairngorm National Park provides both incredible scenery and good opportunities for skiing. When conditions are good there are thirty available slopes best for beginners and intermediates between early December through to mid-May. Want to try more places to ski in Scotland then head to resorts at Glenshee near Edinburgh, Nevis Range at Fort William, Glencoe Mountain and The Lecht.
With all this on offer, hidden throughout Europe- skip the Alps this winter and take a trip to one of these fabulous, less crowded and growing resorts. With something for everyone, what’s not to love?