ITALY may once again be cheaper than its Alpine neighbours, and you can certainly economise up to a point by heading for Andorra or for the unfashionable parts of France and Spain.

But for really cheap skiing you have to head for Eastern Europe. And for the best combination of low prices, reasonable facilities and a degree of political stability, the best current bet is Bulgaria.

Borovets is the most popular destination, with a fair range of skiing for novices and intermediates.

PLUS POINTS: unbelievably low prices; beautiful scenery; friendly people; good ski school.

MINUS POINTS: grinding poverty in the country as a whole; primitive medical facilities; dreary food; not very much else to do besides ski.

Photograph: Bulgarian National Tourist Office

(Photograph omitted)