With Christmas a distant memory and Spring still weeks away, thoughts inevitably turn to holidays in the sun. And despite the doom and gloom of the evening news, now is in fact a great time to book. With the pound’s recent rally and all kinds of uncertainty around life beyond March 31, the next couple of months are a great opportunity to get away from it all.
Skiing is the perfect winter escape. Sun, fun and plenty of exercise is always the best way to start the year as you mean to go on. And the emergence of low-cost resorts in Eastern Europe (alongside the less glitzy spots in France, Italy and Spain) means that it needn’t cost the earth.
Here we’ve assembled some of our favourite snow-covered holiday locations. All are a short haul flight away, with most charging less than £200 for a week’s ski pass. So what are you waiting for? Banish those winter blues, blow off the cobwebs and begin the year with a bang!
Best for… beginners
Borovets is the oldest ski resort in Bulgaria. With wide open, gently sloping pistes mainly above the tree line, it’s the ideal place to learn. And with an average drink costing just £1.50 it’s also a great place to party with friends old and new.
Poiana-Brasov is the most popular place to ski in Romania. It’s small, with just nine miles of marked terrain, but beautifully formed (floodlit night skiing lets you make the most of your time there). A six day lift pass costs less than £100 and there’s plenty more to do if you need a break from the slopes.
Best for… families
Overlooking Lake Bohinj in Slovenia, Vogel is the perfect place for parents and young children. Largely treeless terrain means a safe, relaxing environment to learn and the night life is low key and light on drunken revelry. The nation’s capital Ljubljana is just an hour away for those interested in the local culture.
With its relaxed vibe and easy slopes, Ellmau is a traditional Austrian village that’s perfect for families. The well-maintained nursery slopes on either side of the village are a great place to learn and the laid-back apres ski means party-goers tend to steer clear.
Best for… fun lovers
Italian ski resorts aren’t known for being easy on the pocket, which makes Livigno a welcome exception. An easy bus trip from Milan Bergamo airport, it’s tax-free which makes the price of food and drink more reasonable than elsewhere in the Alps. This attracts a young, party-hungry crowd who flock during the day to Livigno’s terrain park to watch the pros, brave and foolhardy sail off the house-sized ski jumps.
Pas de la Casa, or ‘Pas’ to locals, is neither the best looking nor best maintained resort, but that doesn’t stop thousands coming every year. Thanks to its duty-free status you can buy a bottle of vodka for the same price as a coke and its Monday night pub crawl is the stuff of university ski-club legend.
Best for… experts
If you like a challenge, and prefer to avoid the crowds and cost of the Alps, Slovakia is well worth a look. The authorities have recently invested €130m in Jasna, a resort just 45 minutes away from the airport at Poprad. With three quarters of the runs graded as advanced or intermediate, and two terrain parks to test your mettle, it’s enough to keep even the most advanced skier occupied.
Mayrhofen in Austria is hardly off the beaten track. Neither is it known for its low prices. But there are good deals to be had, along with several self-catering apartments to keep costs down. The Vans Penken Park is a mecca for freestylers and there are quieter slopes adorned with deep powder for the adventurous off-pister.