On the hunt for budget-friendly European ski destinations, we’re venturing out east this year. While Courchevel, Verbier and co. guarantee a top-tier holiday both on and off the piste, there’s something about no lift queues and everything from your bedroom to the beer being cheap as chips in a lesser-known resort that makes for a wonderfully cheerful change. Throw in the smug factor that you’ve found your own little secret at a fraction of the price and you’re likely to become a permanent convert. We’ve rounded up a list of the coolest budget ski resorts in “alternative destinations”, as well as our top picks for a wallet-friendly getaway closer to the classic skiing hubs.

Step aside Verbier, these are Europe’s most budget-friendly ski destinations

1. Poiana-Brasov, Romania

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.

2. Vogel-Bohinj, Slovenia

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.

3. Les Menuires, France

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.

4. Borovets, Bulgaria

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.

5. Livigno, Italy

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.

6. Flachau, Austria

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.

7. Serre-Chevalier-Briançon, France

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.

8. Bansko, Bulgaria

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.

9. Jasna, Slovakia

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.

10. Les Houches, France

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 you heart stop, this is a great spot for getting accustomed to the mountains (including the après-ski element) minus the fear factor.

11. Madesimo, Italy

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 lashes of charm and a quintessentially Italian après–ski scene.

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