13 of the Best Affordable Ski Resorts in Europe

From purse-friendly Polish pistes to budget Bulgarian breaks, these European ski destinations pack a punch – without the hefty price tag.

If the thought of glamorous Gstaad and ritzy Zermatt's eye-watering prices makes you buckle at the knees, you're certainly not alone. Skiing is one of the most expensive pastimes in the world, so it's little wonder that these opulent alpine destinations have earnt themselves a reputation for draining visitors' pockets.

But what if you're in search of a more modest affair? Thankfully, there's a growing swathe of slopes out there offering more affordable options. From fun-fuelled Bansko to a sleepy Slovenian snow town, these ski resorts all offer sky-high peaks at rock-bottom prices.

Snow on a shoestring: the European ski destinations that'll get you the most bang for your buck

snowy trees in pamporovo bulgaria

Pamporovo, Bulgaria

best for: beginners

Reliable snow, sun and space on the slopes are three big ticks that this less-obvious Bulgarian ski town delivers in bucketfuls. Set among postcard-pretty Norwegian spruce forests in the Rhodope mountain range, Pamporovo is one of Europe's most southerly ski resorts, offering uncrowded runs that are excellent for beginners, plus a handful of off-piste trails and advanced slopes for more experienced skiers and snowboarders. The best news yet? This snow haven is also one of the most purse-friendly on our radar, so you can dive head-first into the town's notorious après-ski scene without skimping on ski school, dog sledding or snowmobiling the next day. Bottoms up!

Grandvalira, Andorra

best for: a snow-meets-city staycation

Host of the 2018 Ski World Cup's European Cup Finals, this Andorran snow town's whopping 200km of swoon-worthy slopes make it the largest ski resort in the Pyrenees. But for snow bunnies wanting a day off from the pistes, there's also a zip line, alpine coaster and freeride area to enjoy. And, if access to other tempting destinations comes high on your list of priorities, we'd highly recommend it: not only is Grandvalira conveniently linked to five other ski resorts, it's also only a three-hour bus ride away from cultural big-hitters Barcelona and Toulouse. Snow-meets-city staycation, anyone?

Jasna, Slovakia

best for: seriously cheap stays

Perhaps the cheapest ski resort in all of Europe, Jasna also happens to offer truly excellent skiing. With over 40km of pistes, you'll certainly have enough space to work up an appetite for local potato pancakes stuffed with sheep's cheese. Despite the rock-bottom pricing, the area has some seriously wanderlust-worthy hotels such as Hotel Galeria Thermal Bešeňová. With an ultra-modern aesthetic and a massive glassy thermal bath enclosed within a forest, it could almost be a high-end resort despite costing about as much as your average Barcelona hostel. If you're looking for serious bang for your buck and seemingly limitless options for mountain exploration (there are 23 lifts and cable cars), Jasna is guaranteed to tick the box.

Les Houches, France

best for: gentle skiing with jaw-dropping views

We all know that Chamonix tends towards the pricier end of the spectrum for ski holidays, much like Zermatt, Megève and Kitzbühel. A little-known fact, however, is the existence of Les Houches in the Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley. With the same access to the jaw-dropping views of Mont Blanc piercing the clouds and walks through the adorable hamlets in the area, Les Houches is a cheaper alternative that's also more geared towards beginner and intermediate skiers. So if the thought of accidentally flying off a drop makes your heart stop, this is a great spot for getting accustomed to the mountains (including the après-ski element) minus the fear factor.

Madesimo, Italy

best for: backcountry powder

The Dolomites are perhaps the most famous Italian alps resort area, but don't overlook the mountains of Lombardy - they're more under-the-radar and far more affordable. Bormio is perhaps its most famous mountain town, but others including Livigno and Madesimo are worthy of a look. The latter, just two and a half hours' drive from Milan (passing Lake Como en route) offers varied and extensive skiing, with ample, uncrowded piste terrain and interesting backcountry powder routes. A popular haunt for Milanese snow lovers, Madesimo has lashings of charm and a quintessentially Italian après-ski scene.

Poiana-Brasov, Romania

best for: storybook scenery

Straight out of a scene from The Nutcracker, there's something ethereal and utterly fairytale-like about Poiana-Brasov. Home to wooden huts nestled among pines heaving under snow and grand old hotels that glow from within, it's an enchanting option for an inexpensive ski getaway. Book into the five-star Hotel Aurelius for as little as £55 a night (unbelievable, we know). Not only does it look and feel like a castle, but it's even surrounded by a moat, so call us Rapunzel and catch us never actually leaving the hotel.

Vogel-Bohinj, Slovenia

best for: crystalline lakes and cross-country skiing

The ski area of Vogel-Bohinj gives new meaning to the word "breathtaking". With a gondola that climbs almost vertically up the enormous peaks dropping into a crystalline lake, you could almost swear you're in New Zealand rather than Eastern Europe. Thanks to its positioning on the lake, there's also an air of St Moritz, minus the hefty price tag. Gather a crowd of real winter sports lovers for this trip to make the most out of the resort's cascading slopes and cross-country skiing trails.

Les Menuires, France

best for: groups and down-to-earth charm

Les Menuires is without a doubt the cheapest way to do Les Trois Vallées. It shares a skiing area with Courchevel and Méribel, but with cheaper accommodation and less of a focus on glamour. Built right into the mountainside, the resort area is great for groups of friends who are keen to rent a traditional chalet and party on the slopes by day but return to their cocoon for homemade fondue and vin chaud come dinnertime.

Borovets, Bulgaria

best for: fair-weather skiers

Set on the northern slopes of Bulgaria's Rila mountain range, Borovets spills down the side of the Musala Ridge. With a practically balmy average temperature of five degrees in January and near guaranteed powder through April, the £144 week-long lift ticket feels pretty modest (especially when compared with a pass for a week in Aspen, which is almost quadruple the price). The clean and spacious hotels such as the Samokov and the Rila are also only around £40 a night, making this an absolute steal for a snow holiday.

Livigno, Italy

best for: alpine Italian fare

For an injection of Italian spirit into a ski holiday that isn't in the Dolomites, look into Livigno, right on the Swiss border. With consistent powder, a good balance of partying and chilling, as well as cheap takes on northern Italian food, we're sold. After a long day on the slopes, book into Angels & Demons (make sure to get a seat on the ground floor, which has a view of the mountain) for an Italian meal with Alpine influences including homemade salami, mushroom-saffron risotto and bucketloads of Tuscan red, all of which will only set you back by about £20. A lift pass at Livigno will also score you a free half day at otherwise wallet-draining St Moritz, just over the border. Livigno is somewhat tricky to reach from Italian airports such as Milano, so we suggest arriving from Innsbruck.

Flachau, Austria

best for: uncrowded pistes

Part of the Ski Amadé network, one of Europe's most expansive skiing areas, Flachau is a favourite among Austrians that has been sheltered from a heavy influx of tourists thanks to buffering from Kitzbühel and St Anton. With wide-open cruisers weaving between thickets of pines and huts dotted across the sprawling pistes serving up crispy rösti and cheap pints, it's an authentic Austrian skiing experience without the cost that's impossible to avoid somewhere like Lech. The Ski World Cup is held here in January, further proving its credentials as a seriously good ski resort.

Serre-Chevalier-Briançon, France

best for: peace and quiet

Surrounding Briançon, the highest-altitude French town, as well as an agglomeration of other pocket-sized villages, this area is exactly the place to go for a relaxed holiday with friends and family, away from the après-ski buzz typical of French resorts. Rather than eating out, make like a local and stock up on cheese, wine and chocolate as well as glass pots of yoghurt for breakfast, all from the quaint wooden shops in town. Time feels slower here, and that's exactly what you should come here for. Make the most of the glades tucked away across the mountain during the day, and get cosy with a Scrabble board by the fire come nightfall.

Bansko, Bulgaria

best for: après-ski

Home to picturesque pine forests and surprisingly high peaks, Bulgaria's Bansko has been one of the top budget destinations on our radar for a little while now. Ripping through glades and watching the surrounding icy mountaintops from the gondola make for a wholesome day out, while evenings are spent partying with the Euro crowd at EDM-fuelled Happy End by the base. Despite Bansko's smaller presence on the ski scene, Happy End hosts performances from the likes of Eva Mendes and Baccara. For something more chilled, jet out to the hot springs at nearby Dobrinishte.

This article was updated on 6 January 2022.

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