Cash-strapped skiers given lift by cheap Bulgarian resorts

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The Independent Travel

Families wishing to hit the ski slopes without breaking the bank should slalom around France, Switzerland and Austria and swerve to a halt in Bulgaria, according to new research.

While hotels and ski lifts can be more basic in Bansko, the Bulgarian resort has come out the cheapest in the Post Office's survey of 10 European and North American resorts.

A week's lift passes, equipment hire and instruction for a family of four at Bansko came to £974 and living expenses were cheap too: £28 for a family meal, drinks and a cup of coffee.

After Bansko's £1,002 total, the next-best bargain resort (excluding hefty costs for travel and accommodation) was Kranjska Gora in Slovenia (£1,101) followed by Ellmau in Austria (£1,378). The US was the most expensive, with Colorado's Winter Park totalling £2,639.

Overall, ski resort prices in Europe and North America have risen by 15 per cent since last year. Switzerland has also become more expensive because of sterling's 9 per cent fall against the Swiss franc and rises in the cost of food and drink, making Wengen, the highest-priced European ski resort surveyed, 14 per cent more expensive than last year. An estimated 40,000 families are expected to head for the slopes this winter, an increase of 20 per cent over the past five years.

"Although resort prices have risen across the board this year, there is still good value to be found if parents plan trips carefully," said Sarah Munro, the Post Office's head of travel money. She suggested travellers look at Bulgaria and other former Eastern Bloc countries.

The Ski Club of Great Britain cautioned that eastern Europe was less suitable for skilled adult skiers. Its PR manager Betony Garner said: "Quite often the terrain is not difficult or extensive enough, so people should be aware that, while resorts may be cheap, they may not enjoy their time of the slopes as much as if they had paid a little bit more. But it's really strong for beginners and families with children."

Italy offers good value premium resorts, according to a Post Office survey last month of six "world-class" destinations in Austria, Canada, France, Italy, Switzerland and the US. Cervinia in Italy cost the least, 26 per cent cheaper than Zermatt in Switzerland, the most expensive in Europe.

Chris Gill, co-editor of Where to Ski and Snowboard, which supplied prices for that report, said: "Italy's winning position was helped by the fact that drinks prices have drifted down this year while its costs for major ski items are traditionally lower than in Austria, France and Switzerland."

How prices compare

1 . Bansko, Bulgaria £1,002 (all prices for six days)

2. Kranjska Gora, Slovenia £1,101

3. Ellmau, Austria £1,378

4. Baqueira-Beret, Spain £1,588

5. Soldeu, Andorra £1,591

6. Les Menuires, France £1,680

7. Selva, Italy £1,851

8.Wengen, Switzerland £2,015

9. Fernie, Canada £2,329

10. Winter Park, USA £2,639

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