Five ‘Off Piste’ Luxury Skiing Destinations & Holiday Ideas
When you think of a ski holiday the glitzy destinations of Klosters, St Moritz, Chamonix, or Courcheval come to mind. Names synonymous with the rich and famous, glamour, celebrities and pots of cash! The French and Swiss Alps are great places to experience some of the best skiing and are only a short flight away. Unfortunately this is also reflected in the price and the length of the queues around each resort. If you don’t have pots of cash lying around, heading ‘off piste’ to a less popular ski resort could give you a different experience, more space to practice your slalom and more for your money.
Why go : Great for families, stunning natural beauty and magical nights
Best resort : Vihti
If you want a winter holiday that offers you much more than just skiing, Finland is great. You can try dog sledding and experience an array of wildlife, which is excellent for younger members of your party, as well as those young at heart.
Most ski resorts are in Lapland – Father Christmas Country – and reindeer can often be seen wandering about, depending on where you choose to stay. The country is littered with charming log cabins to give a picturesque and photo worthy holiday. Though it’s not all about Father Christmas; when the sun goes down you might catch a glimpse of the amazing Northern Lights. The stunning landscape and permanent blanket of snow make for magical night time displays.
The skiing in Finland tends to cater for less experienced skiers. The mountains are lower, making runs shorter, which is excellent for giving children their first taste of skiing or snowboarding
Why go : Excellent shopping, food, après ski and great skiing
Best resort : Zoldo Alto
Italy also compares well in terms of price to France and Switzerland. Its major advantage is that while you will be skiing on less famous turf (or snow) you will still be in the Alps with a similar glamorous feel.
Italy’s Dolomiti and Milky Way regions offer typical alpine runs and have considerably improved their facilities. Add delicious Italian food and après ski to rival the French, not to mention shopping, and you can’t go wrong.
Italian ski resorts focus on skiing and socialising with a stylish laid back atmosphere (it’s not unusual to find the slopes empty after lunch as the Italians are busy socialising, eating and relaxing) and are not all geared towards a family ski holiday. It’s perfect for couples, singles and groups of adults who want to relax and enjoy this up and coming skiing region.
Why go : Great skiing, facilities and access to the rest of the country
Best resort : Garmisch
The main ski resort in Germany is Garmisch in Bavaria. It is situated amongst Germany’s highest mountains, and overlooks traditional German fairy castles. The resort lies close to Munich, one of Germany’s most popular cities, filled with historical sights and attractions, Christmas markets, shopping and restaurants. Skiers can pop down to the historic town to have a typical German beer after a long day skiing or take a few days out during the holiday. The location also makes it extremely convenient for access to the city’s airport.
Garmisch hosted the Winter Olympics in 1936 and it is still a World Cup venue. The resort is recommended for its fast and reliable ski lifts and high quality cross country skiing, as well as night floodlit skiing, toboggan runs, ice galas and an International New Year’s ski jumping competition.
Why Go : Avoid the crowds for some peaceful and relaxing skiing
Best resort : Bled
Perhaps the least obvious ski destination in this list, Slovenia is a bit of a hidden eastern European gem. Slovenia is home to a number small resorts, with well groomed slopes, perfect for the less experienced skier. The country boasts lovely log cabins perfect for warming yourself around the fire to warm up.
The stunning lakeside town of Bled is a great gateway to relatively unknown ski resorts. The local skiing is based at Straza. The skiing here only has two slopes, but they are maintained by snowmaking facilities and open at night. In addition, one lift pass allows you to ski in four other areas: Zartnic, Pokljuka, Vogel and Kobla, which have a combined skiable terrain of 88km, served by 22 lifts and can be reached by free ski bus.
While you’re in Slovenia, it is definitely worth visiting the capital city, Ljubljana. The cobbled streets, boutiques and restaurants will provide something a little bit different on your skiing holiday.
Why go : Cheap and cheerful for less advanced skiers
Best resort : Pamporovo
Bulgaria is ideal for a value ski and snowboard holiday. Skiing here is an absolute bargain when compared to more popular resorts and with beautiful scenery and friendly locals, Bulgaria is becoming a popular place for bargain hunting skiers.
Beginners and intermediates will find themselves challenged but not put off by the narrower ski slopes of the Bulgarian resorts, while junior skiers and snowboarders will find the tree lined runs excellent for weaving through. The facilities are fairly basic when compared with the mega resorts of France but many have undergone modernisation recently, meaning you can find real value for money.
Images courtesy of: Kaster Andreas, Merten Hans Peter and Castor Dietlind
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