When it comes to skiing, sticking to any kind of ‘affordable’ budget is near enough impossible – even if you do manage to find a cheap deal, you’ve got your ski passes, your equipment hire, your food and endless boozy après sessions to budget for; finding anything below the £1,000 mark requires some serious digging. Lucky for you, we’ve enlisted the help of some insider experts to reveal an array of brilliant options to inspire your next snowy adventure. From charming rustic chalets to stylish snow-specked hotels, take your pick from our edit of under-the-radar resorts, short breaks and snow-sure destinations for a more purse-friendly getaway…
Dubbed the capital of all mountain skiing, Chamonix’s rocky, vertiginous valley and tumbling glaciers are where snowsports and mountaineering collide. A mecca for powder lovers, ski instructors, mountain guides and bona fide skiers alike flock in unison to see how they’ll measure up to the challenge of what Chamonix calls ‘le grand ski’, but with its vast range of nursery slopes, and blissful blue runs, Chamonix caters for all levels.
STAY HERE: Rocky Pop
As with most popular French Alps resorts, Chamonix doesn’t come cheap, but if you want to make your budget stretch, the Rocky Pop hotel (which opened last year) located in Les Houches, just 5km from the resort centre, is a brilliant affordable option. Cool and quirky in design with a buzzing atmosphere, there’s everything from live music and DJs in the cocktail bar to gourmet burgers and pizzas in the canteen-style restaurant. The rooms are cosy, slick and stylish, and available either as a duo room for two, or larger, split-level duplex rooms that sleeps four.
Prices from around £700 for 7 nights bed and breakfast or £575 for a four-night break
STAY HERE: Terminal Neige Montenvers
The second opening from the design-led Terminal Neige brand comes in the form of a luxurious mountain refuge that overlooks France’s longest glacier, the Mer de Glace. Accessible only by funicular railway, this stylish, great-value hotel is geared up for hiking, not skiing, but if you’re looking for respite from the slopes, this wooden chalet-style retreat, boasting spectacular Alpine views and hearty Savoyarde food, provides the perfect sanctuary.
Prices start from €160 (approx £143) per double room on a half board basis and €90 (approx. £80) per person for a stay in a dormitory room (sleeping up to ten people).
As one of the most reliable European resorts for snow, Zermatt’s charming resort is a skier’s paradise, with over 200km of piste guaranteeing year-round fun. There are plenty of slopes for all levels ranging from challenging reds and undulating blues to acres of soft, off-piste powder, for the thrill seekers of the group.
STAY HERE: Backstage Hotel
After a hard day on the slopes, there’s nothing better than relaxing aching muscles in the comfort of a steamy spa, and Zermatt’s urban-chic Backstage Hotel is just the place to do it. A theatrical boutique hotel with a touch of Hollywood glamour – it is named Backstage after all – and a wellness centre that’s out of this world. Stately home meets urban cool, this luxe boutique retreat – which features hotel rooms, chic chalets and luxe private apartments – gives you star treatment in the heart of the Swiss Alps.
Short stay packages from CHF 204.00 (£162) per person
STAY HERE: Heinz Julen Loft
Designed by local star artist-architect Heinz Julen, this sprawling chalet – which used to be his own private home – is one of Zermatt’s most spectacular properties. A vast Manhattan-style loft set into a wooden chalet, which boasts panoramic views of the Swiss Alps, Julen’s architectural fusion of elements make this chalet truly unique. Combining acres of glass, steel, textured concrete and wood, this luxe retreat boasts everything from suspended illuminated tables and private bars to indoor Jacuzzis, glass wall fireplaces and decadent Baby Grands. Luxury in its finest form. But surprisingly, if you book sole use of the loft, prices start from just £80 per person, per night. This has rock star after party written all over it.
3 bedrooms (sleeps 6), from £481 per night/£80 per person per night
One of the French Alps’ smaller, lesser-known alpine resorts; popular with families, and within easy access of Portes du Soleil, Megève and Chamonix by car. The main resort is tiny, but charming, with a few shops, bars and restaurants dotted around. If you’re looking for vibrant après, you’ll be disappointed – there’s little in the way of nightlife – but if you’re after a relaxed retreat, Flaine is the place to head. The slopes in the Flaine bowl are challenging enough for competent skiers, but advanced skiers can hop on the eight-seat Grands Vans chair lift, for easy access of the extensive slopes of Les Carroz, Morillon and Samoëns via the wide Vernant bowl.
STAY HERE: Terminal Neige Totem
For luxury lodgings without the hefty price tag, Flaine’s slickest opening, Terminal Neige Totem ticks every box. Dripping in urban charm, the hotel is styled with bold graphics, concrete fireplaces, slate flooring and seductive animal furs. For ski-in, ski-out convenience, clip in for a 30-second glide to the Grandes Platières gondola, which takes you swiftly into the heart of the snow-sure Flaine bowl.
Rates start from 150EUR per night based on two sharing on a B&B basis, or £995 for two people 7 nights including flights with Ski Solutions
As if bounding down the mountain with the sun on your face wasn’t enough, throw world-class slope-side DJs and raucous jacuzzi parties into the mix, and you’ve got yourself the perfect ski holiday. For hardcore après fans, Snowbombing is a party reveller's dream, with DJs spinning decks on the slopes, in the bars and inside custom-made igloos packed with shots of Jägermeister and swarming crowds. As one of Europe’s liveliest, most popular festivals, Mayrhofen always guarantees big, rowdy crowds, but the slopes are glorious the entire winter season, and there are plenty of quaint, peaceful bars and restaurants scattered around the picturesque rustic ski village providing quiet refuge for those keen to avoid the partying crowds.
STAY HERE: Hotel Elisabeth
A guaranteed party session from the minute you get there until the minute you leave – those of you wanting to hit it hard on and off the slopes, Snowbombing is the place to be. But for those planning on ending the night before the sun comes up, hang up your boarding boots at Hotel Elisabeth, located just a short walk from the centre of Mayrhofen. As the resort’s only five-star hotel, you’ll revel in luxury after a partying session; relax on the sprawling balconies in the hotel’s rustic, wooden setting, and tuck into some deliciously warming, high-quality food.
Prices vary from around £130 per night (based on two sharing), Inghams offer packages including half board, flights and transfers for around £1,100 per person for 1 week
With its close proximity to Geneva and enormous ski area which almost always guarantees great snowfall, this celebrated resort remains a popular choice for French, British and international skiers alike. Megève boasts a gloriously sunny setting, and has a beautifully preserved, partly medieval centre with a mix of medieval architecture, small boutiques and uber-smart chalets set against the village’s quaint cobbled streets. Pretty horse drawn carriages trot around the streets and can take you to the slopes – although there are free shuttles available too – and foodies can choose from an array of fabulous restaurants; eight of which have been awarded with Michelin stars. The resort tends to be fairly quiet during the week, with the pace ramping up at the weekend, but it always keeps its very traditional French feel.
STAY HERE: Chalet Nelson
This beautifully renovated chalet in Rochebrune promises five-star luxury for less, with rates starting at just £15 per person, per night. Conveniently located to the slopes – and shops – this chic ski retreat is contemporary in design, and comes with its own dedicated relaxation floor with a modern sauna room to help ease tired, aching muscles. Large picture windows offer sweeping views of the romantic, snowy landscapes, whilst the spacious outdoor balcony is the perfect setting to enjoy a glass of wine, hand-selected from the chalet’s wine cellar. Great for groups, this chalet sleeps ten in total. We can see this turning into a bit of an après party session.
5 bedrooms (sleeps 10), from £147 per night /£15 per person per night
As the capital of the sprawling 650km Portes du Soleil ski area, combining the regions of French Chablais and Swiss Valais, Morzine is a popular destination for families – there are plenty of winter-themed activities, including ice diving, tobogganing, ice skating and snow shoeing, to keep the whole family entertained – but with its lively après scene, it’s becomingly increasingly popular with the younger crowds, with parties lasting until the early hours. Its varied terrain, and close proximity to Geneva Airport – it takes 1hr 15mins by car – makes it a great location for skiers and boarders of all abilities, and the large town centre teeming with alpine charm, has a great selection of bars and restaurants to hole up in after a hard day on the slopes.
STAY HERE: The Ark
There’s something so romantic about returning to a rustic wooden chalet in the depths of the snowy mountains after a hard day’s skiing. Legs are aching, tummies are rumbling – crackling fires, steaming hot tubs and a ready-cooked four-course feast provide the perfect tonic. Whether you want to stay as a couple of book the whole chalet for a large group, The Ark in Morzine ticks every box. Impeccably styled, mixing rustic traditional with a few modern industrial quirks – think exposed brick walls, spiral concrete stairs and quirky graffiti artwork – this is the ultimate in chalet cool. There are five bedrooms, which sleep 12 in total, a lounge space with two fireplaces and a spa area with hot tub – essential après.
Rates start from £799 per week, fully catered – includes four-course evening meal with wine, breakfast, high tea, airport transfers, and daily pick-up and drop-off service to and from the slopes.
The glitziest and most glamorous of French resorts, this flashy celebrity favourite usually comes with a pretty hefty price tag. But if you want to dip into the luxury without dipping too much into your bank account, Courchevel 1650’s prices are a little easier to swallow. Each of the villages are connected, so you still get to experience all the allure of 1850 and its staggering 600km of pistes, without breaking the bank.
Stay here: Farenheit Seven
With its handy piste side location, Farenheit 7 is located at the foot for the slopes giving skiers and boarders instant access to the snow. In just a few steps you can hop on the new Ariondaz bubble, which connects to the local slopes, Courchevel 1850 and the rest of the Three Valley skiing area, whilst beginners can congregate at the foot of the bubble before ski school. Swish interiors run throughout with luxe leathers, distressed woods and sumptuous colour schemes, and balconies boasting views of the slopes or stretching out across the entire valley. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the resort, but the hotel’s dining space, Le Panoramique, which serves up tasty Alpine and Savoyard specialities is a welcome feat. Be sure to head to Le Pub for a lively après session.
Rates from £980pp B&B for 7 nights including flights and transfers
Samoëns, Grand Massif, France
If your love affair with Val d'Isère and the Trois Vallées has started to waiver – extortionate accommodation costs and premium-priced mountain lunches are reason alone to hang up your expensive ski boots – Samoëns could well rekindle your romance. An hour by car from Geneva, Samoëns’ ancient village forms part of the Grand Massif – one of France’s biggest and brightest ski resorts – and, at high altitudes, promises excellent snowfall. Consisting of five resorts, Flaine, Samoëns, Morillon, Sixt and Les Carroz, the Grand Massif offers 265km of piste, and with 80% of the slopes north facing, each resort holds the snow well. Best-known for its traditional, pretty architecture, Samoëns is a quaint, picturesque and romantic resort that’s still relatively under-the-radar, so anyone wanting guaranteed snow, without hoards of tourists, this is the place to head. It’s much less expensive than the larger Three Valleys resorts, so not only are you guaranteed more snow, you’ll get way more bang for your buck.
STAY HERE: Samoëns Chalet
Bedecked in rustic woods, this cosy self-catered chalet sleeps up to 12 guests, making it the perfect base for larger groups. Unwind in the lounge after a day on the slopes, or take a dip in the indoor Jacuzzi to warm up from the icy cold. There’s a huge kitchen for budding chefs, whilst the spacious dining area and beautiful outdoor terrace – that boasts the most stunning sunset backdrop – is fabulous for après and dinner soirées.
4 Bedrooms (sleeps 12), from £783 per night /£65 per person per night
In a continent teeming with chic ski options, Bulgaria's Bansko is distinguished by great value for money and a lively, cheerful atmosphere. This is place to head if you want luxury for less. Beginners and intermediates will have a ball breezing down the beginner slopes and dizzying challenging descents, and when the snow is plentiful, there are some great off-piste options for seasoned snow bunnies; even when it’s not, more than 90% of the runs are full equipped with snow-making facilities, so the slopes are always kept well-groomed and powder friendly. The charming old town centre is a bit of a walk from the main gondola, but frequent shuttle buses run from many of the hotels, giving access to the resort’s eclectic array of delicious food and buzzy après-ski options.
Stay here: Bankso Hotel Premiere
Promising five-star luxury on a modest budget, this Bulgarian bolthole – and one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World – ticks every box. Book for March and you can bag luxury lodgings for two at Bansko Hotel Premiere for less than £500 for an entire week’s stay. Interiors are tastefully decorated, and there’s a luxurious spa (access is included in the weekly rate) with an indoor pool, sauna, fitness studio and relaxation area, and a choice of two restaurants – buffet-style at Dionyssos (which is including in half board rates) or fine dining at Amvrosia (for an extra surcharge) – and a glamorous bar area where you can curl up besides the crackling fire listening to live jazz and piano.
Rates from £458.05 (or £687 half -board) for a week’s stay in March 2018
Set in the deep inlets of the Italian mountains, the charming resort of Folgaria offers fabulous beginner and intermediate skiing in a relaxed small-town atmosphere. Conveniently connected to neighbouring resorts Lavarone and Fiorentini, skiers and boarders will be spoilt for choice with endless terrain and perfect snowy conditions. Easy to reach – Folgaria is a short 90-minute transfer from Verona – this snow-specked gem promises lower prices, quieter slopes and charming bars and restaurants, that don’t require a waiting list. Your budget will stretch much further here, with low-cost packages and enviably affordable lift passes – around half of what you’d expect to pay in a big resort in the French Alps – in authentic, unspoiled and uncrowded surroundings.
STAY HERE: Muu Village
Set less than 100 metres from the Costa Moretta ski slopes, Muu Village’s slick apartments mean that guests can enjoy optimum time on the slopes – you can pretty much grab your skis and go. The pistes are literally on your doorstep. Rooms are minimal and contemporary in style – expect crisp, soothing whites and rich dark floorboards – whilst the trendy wellness area, complete with hydromassage, hot tubs, a Turkish bath, sauna, solarium and indoor and outdoor pool, provides a soothing sanctuary to relax and unwind.
Rates from £590 B&B for 4 nights including flights and transfers
This fantastic resort is situated in the southern Austrian region of Carinthia, next to the Italian and Slovenian borders. There are plenty of varied runs, mainly reds and blues for intermediates, but there’s a great ski school for those just starting out. Off the slopes there are 80km of cross country trails where you can try snowshoeing or take a romantic ride on a horse drawn carriage, and in the resort there are plenty of delicious restaurants serving up hearty local cuisine. With over 100 days of sunshine and stunning Alpine views, there’s every reason to consider Nassfeld as your next winter adventure.
Stay here: Hotel Franz Ferdinand
Nestled at the foot of the mountain – you couldn’t get a better spot, this hotel is a mere 50-minute stroll from the Millennium Express gondola – you’ll be spoilt with instant access to the slopes, meaning you’ll get way more time on the mountain. But for downtime, this trendy, modern hotel provides welcome respite. Rooms are comfy and spacious, and there’s a great range of facilities, including a private ski store with boot warmers, a Finish steam room and sauna, and its own lively nightclub for boozy après.
Rates from £745pp for a week’s stay including flights and transfers
Val Cenis, France
Just over the mountain from ski giant Val d'Isère, lies Val Cenis – a peaceful, charming resort nestled in the unspoiled Haute Maurienne valley, on the Italian border south of Val d'Isère. With low prices and low-key ambience, this picturesque village is one to watch if you’re looking for somewhere to escape the glitz-following hoards. Skiers and boarders of all abilities will love the quiet runs – there are never queues – and varied terrain, as well as the reasonably priced mountain restaurants, where you can easily grab lunch for around €10 a head.
Stay here: Hotel Saint Charles
This super slick, lodge-style hotel situated on the edge of Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis, comes with bags of rustic, modern style. It’s the only luxury hotel in the resort, so guests are guaranteed the five-star treatment. Ski-in, ski-out access allows optimum time on the slopes – you can literally ski from the door – and there’s an indulgent spa area with indoor swimming pool where you can wind down after hitting the slopes. There’s a restaurant inside the hotel serving traditional Savoyard cuisine, but the centre of Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis is just a few minutes’ walk, where you’ll find plenty of restaurants to whet your appetites.
Rates from £995pp for 7 night B&B including flights