/10 of the best small ski resorts in Europe: readers’ travel tips

10 of the best small ski resorts in Europe: readers’ travel tips

Winning tip: Spanish Pyrenees

Port Aine is a lovely ski resort with 22 pistes, reaching a height of 2,440 metres. As with many small Spanish resorts it is only busy at weekends, so during the week you can enjoy deserted beautifully groomed pistes, with lovely off-piste challenges as well. Food and drink prices are very low, and the people really welcoming. Lift passes at €65 for two days are great value, or just €3 if, like me, you are over 70. There’s accommodation in Rialp at the foot of the mountain or stay at Red Rock Trails near Tremp, if you want a multi-activity holiday. Note: Spanish schools don’t have half-term, so those periods are no more expensive than any other time.

Julian Alps, Slovenia

Ski resort and slopes filled with skiiers at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.

Kranjska Gora

Kranjska Gora is a brilliant small ski resort in Slovenia’s Julian Alps, close to the Italian and Austrian borders. There’s a great mix of slopes, including plenty of easier runs for families and beginners – all accessible via chair lifts and drag lifts. I thoroughly recommend the ski and snowboard school, and the nearby cross-country skiing centre makes a great day out. The village itself is full of Alpine charm – particular highlights were Lake Jasna (a stunning turquoise lake), Pizzeria Pino for wood-oven pizza and Slascicarna Kala for the best cake we’ve ever eaten.
Two-day ski pass €59, kranjska-gora.si

Valais, Switzerland

Champex-Lac, Switzerland, in winter.

Champex-Lac. Photograph: Getty Images

Champex-Lac is a small village built around a lake that freezes for skating or cross-country skiing. Only two lifts, but it still has powder in a tree-lined bowl after nearby Verbier is skied out. The restaurants are traditional but good value (for Switzerland), and there are shops and ski rental in the town. There’s plenty to do for kids – ice rink, nursery piste, sledge runs and a good ski school. It can be reached by train from Geneva via Martigny then the connecting branch line to nearby Orsières and a short bus ride. Verbier is a 20-minute drive away, if you want the big resort experience.
Two-day pass CHF56 (£46), champex.info
James Pooley

Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and may appear in print, and the best entry each week (as chosen by Tom Hall of Lonely Planet) wins a £200 voucher from hotels.com. To enter the latest competition visit the readers’ tips homepage

Morača region, Montenegro

Interior, the lounge, at Hotel Bianca, Kolasin, Montenegro.

Hotel Bianca. Photograph: Vladimir Popovic

Kolašin in central Montenegro is the most underrated mountain resort in Europe. It is a small town surrounded by the Bjelasica and Sinjajevina mountains, which rise to above 2,000 metres. Skiing costs from €30 a day including lift pass, and there are also children’s slopes with instructors. My seven-year-old loved it. The great-value Balkan cuisine is delicious and accommodation ranges from upmarket Hotel Bianca to reasonably priced log cabins. The ski slopes are 7km away and accessible by bus. For a winter holiday without queues and high prices, I’d really recommend the area.

Bavaria, Germany

A snowy scene of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Photograph: Jan Greune/Getty Images

Close to Germany’s highest mountain, the 2,962 metre Zugspitze, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a relatively unknown resort. Home of the hair-raising Kandahar downhill race, it boasts good transport connections from Munich and Innsbruck, quality family-run hotels and chalets close to the slopes, good rental equipment, varied ski runs, spectacular views, the Zugspitze glacier and vast off-piste, ski touring and cross-country skiing. The town is the epitome of charming old-style Bavarian prettiness complete with traditional festivals. Après-ski activities range from local food and beer on and off the slope, to gorge walks and castles. A great place to get away from overcrowded, busy and better-known resorts.
Two-day ski pass €88, zugspitze.de

Andalucía, Spain

View of a snow track in Sierra Nevada (Spain) with chairlifts. There is some people skiing in the picture.

Skiing in the Sierra Nevada. Photograph: Getty Images

We had a fantastic long weekend in the Sierra Nevada resort, Spain. It’s only a couple of hours’ drive from Málaga or 50 minutes from Granada. The resort is small but lively, with plenty of bars and restaurants. It is also super-cheap in comparison with the Alps. The skiing is great for beginners and intermediates – not so much for advanced but nice easy slopes to cruise at high speed. It certainly kept our mixed-ability group happy for a few days.
Three-day pass €137, sierranevada.es
Anna Skelton

French Pyrenees

Diners at outdoor restaurants, while other people sit an relax on benches on a sunny winter day at the Grand Tourmalet ski area, La Mongie, French Pyrenees.

Grand Tourmalet ski area, La Mongie Photograph: Gonzalo Azumendi/Getty Images

Near Lourdes there is another place of miracles. La Mongie surprises with 68 pistes from 1,800 to 2,500 metres, and truly delights. Two functional apartment pyramids close to the village provide tiny flats for super-easy access to the 100km of pistes and close to all amenities. We opted for a cute studio. It’s in the impressive Grand Tourmalet region in the Midi-Pyrenees, and skiers have access to eight resorts. Lourdes railway station is just under an hour away by bus, and Pau is 95 minutes away.
Two-day pass €90, n-py.com/en
Sarah Hyde

Kittilä region, Finland

The northern lights in the sky over a frozen lake at Levi, Finland.

The northern lights in the sky over a frozen lake at Levi, Finland. Photograph: Julian Eales/Alamy

Skiing in Levi, northern Finland, was perhaps the most enchanting winter experience I have ever had. As the sun goes down just after midday, a lot of the skiing takes place under floodlights (and in -40C), not to mention the aurora borealis. But among our family’s favourite local touches were the small smoke huts lining the edges of some slopes. These were small log teepees with a fire burning in the middle, topped with a grill to cook your locally bought meat on. I think that more or less every day we bought sausages or reindeer steaks to cook on an open flame for lunch.
Two-day pass €44, levi.fi

Thessaly region, Greece

Snow in Pelion mountain, one of the most popular winter travel destinations in Greece.

Hut on the slopes of Mount Pelion. Photograph: Hercules Milas/Alamy

A wonderful ski experience is to be had in Hania on the slopes of Mount Pelion. If the sun is shining on the glittering snow, it is possible to ski with the blue Aegean gleaming on one side and the islands and hills of the Pelion peninsula emerging out of the mirror of the Pagasitikos Gulf on the other. The ski centre is within easy distance of the city of Volos with its hotels, museums and restaurants, and picturesque villages in the area. Hania has 3km of slopes of varied difficulty, and five ski lifts. Lessons and equipment hire are on tap and prices are unbelievably reasonable.
Ski pass €13 a day, aroundpelion.com

Abruzzo, Italy

Skiers on a slope at Roccaraso, Italy.

Roccaraso. Photograph: Getty Images

An extensive ski area in the Apennines, with mountains of around 2,000 metres, Roccaraso is big enough to occupy good intermediate skiers for a few days. It is covered in beech forest rather than pine, and outside of weekends is incredibly quiet. The mountain restaurants on the outside look uninspiring but the homecooked food served within is better and far cheaper than Alpine equivalents. Everyone, we found, was incredibly friendly and welcoming. The weather can change quickly but when conditions are good you may never want to ski anywhere else again. To round off your break, spend a night or two in Rome. In short a perfect winter holiday.
Two-day ski pass €81, skiabruzzo.com

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