Livigno in Italy
Livigno in Italy

Best budget ski resorts for a cheap winter holiday

Save on your next snowsports break by swapping the French Alps for pastures new

Mary Novakovich@mary_novakovich
Monday 28 October 2019 13:18

Skiing isn’t exactly a cheap activity, but there are ways of making a winter holiday more affordable. While some European ski resorts will make your eyes water at their prices – €49 for a burger and chips at a mountain restaurant, anyone? – there are still plenty where you won’t have to spend a fortune.

Lift passes and ski hire can be considerably cheaper at certain resorts, as are restaurants and bars. Self-catering is an economical option, and if you find a ski package that includes half-board or a catered chalet, then you’ll have a good idea of how much extra you’ll have to budget for food and drink. Here’s a list of some of the best budget ski resorts in Europe.

The Independent’s ski recommendations are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and book, but we never allow this to affect our coverage.

Livigno, Italy

It might be a bit awkward to reach at times, but Livigno is worth the effort of getting to this corner of the Italian Alps near the Swiss border. Unusually, it’s been a tiny duty-free enclave since 1840, which helps to cut down on costs. Its high-altitude pistes cover 115km (71 miles) and offer great skiing for all levels, and your lift pass even gives you the chance to ski in St Moritz across the Swiss border. Just don’t buy lunch while you’re there.

Staying there

Inghams has a week’s self-catering at Al Gar Apartments in Livigno from £659pp, including flights and transfers, departing 4 January.

St-Lary-Soulan, France

The French Pyrenees can’t compete with the Alps in terms of size, but they’re certainly much cheaper. St-Lary-Soulan is the largest resort, with 100km of slopes that suit intermediates and beginners best. Eating out is cheaper too, leaving you more cash to enjoy southwest France’s superb duck dishes.

Saint-Lary-Soulan is the French Pyrenees’ biggest resort

Staying there

Lagrange has a week’s self-catering at the four-star Domaine de l’Ardoiserie from £282. Lourdes is the nearest airport, which is served by Ryanair.

Alpbach, Austria

Alpbach in Austria’s Tirol region is one of the prettiest, as well as economical, places for a winter holiday. It’s full of cosy Austrian charm, and is also part of the large Ski Juwel area, which gives you 145km of pistes to play with. Its sensibly priced ski pass gives you a lot of ground and varied terrain to cover, helped by speedy lifts.

Alpbach is a pretty and sensibly priced resort

Staying there

Crystal Ski has a week’s B&B at the Pension Furstenhof from £350pp, including flights and transfers, for a 4 January 2020 departure.

Val Cenis Vanoise, France

Three laidback villages make up the ski area of Val Cenis Vanoise in the Haute Maurienne valley, which give you 125km of pistes to explore. Many of the non-ski activities, including a spa centre, are based in the village of Lanslevillard, although it’s easy enough to walk to its neighbour, Lanslebourg.

Val Cenis Vanoise is comprised of three villages

Staying there

Peak Retreats has a week’s self-catering in a one-bedroom apartment in Les Balcons de Village from £584, including Eurotunnel crossing, for a 4 January departure.


Bansko, Bulgaria

For years, Bankso has been a favourite among British holidaymakers who want to give skiing a go but don’t want to fork out huge amounts. Bankso is the biggest of the Bulgarian ski resorts, but it does have only one gondola that takes you to the ski area, so be prepared for long queues.

Bansko is a good-value resort and a favourite among Brits

Staying there

Crystal Ski has seven nights’ half-board at the Hotel Lion from £479pp, including flights and transfers, departing 4 January.

Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

Small but beautiful, Kranjska Gora covers only 20km of pistes in the Julian Alps, but is still immensely charming despite its size. It’s best suited to beginners and cautious intermediates, as well as families who enjoy its friendly atmosphere, low prices and cuisine that blends Slavic with Italian. There’s also the very tempting option of a 40-minute drive for a day trip to enchanting Lake Bled.

Winter wonderland: the charming Kranjska Gora is perfect for beginners

Staying there has a week’s half-board at the Hotel Lipa departing 11 January from £515pp, including flights and transfers.

Passo Tonale, Italy

You get the extremes in Passo Tonale – high-altitude slopes but low prices. While it’s not the most attractive of ski resorts, you’ll have 100km of pistes at your feet – and the bonus of skiing over to tree-lined slopes of Ponte di Legno for more variety.

Branching out: try the tree-lined slopes at nearby Ponte di Legno

Staying there

Crystal Ski has a week’s half-board at Hotel Eden from £482pp, including flights and transfers, for a 4 January departure.

Ellmau, Austria

You’ll have Austria’s largest ski domain, SkiWelt, on your doorstep when you stay in Ellmau, as well as lovely views of the Wilder Kaiser peak. That means 280km of slopes to get to know – many of which are a joy for intermediates who like gentle cruising – while staying in one of the country’s cheapest resorts.

Ellmau has lovely views of the Wilder Kaiser peak

Staying there has a week’s half-board at the three-star Hotel Claudia from £689pp, including flights, transfers and two-for-one ski/snowboard hire, for a 4 January departure.

Arinsal, Andorra

Despite price rises in recent years, Andorra is still an economical place to ski, especially for beginners who can take advantage of a low-cost daily pass. Between Arinsal and its neighbour Pal, you have 63km of slopes, with the more challenging terrain found at Pal. For a change of scenery, a 10-minute bus ride takes you to the capital, Andorra La Vella, where there’s duty-free shopping and the largest thermal spa in Europe.

Andorran resort Arinsal offers bang for your buck

Staying there

Neilson has a week’s chalet board at the Chalet Hotel Micolau from £545pp, including flights and transfers, departing 19 January.

Les Carroz, France

Les Carroz is part of the vastly underrated Grand Massif ski domain, and has bags more traditional Savoyard charm than its better-known neighbour Flaine, which is a bit of a modernist blot. It’s a sweet, low-key place with access to 265km of pistes as well as ice-skating and a large sports/spa complex.

Les Carroz: France, but not as we know it

Staying there

Erna Low has a week’s self-catering at the four-star Residence Léana from £338pp, including Eurotunnel crossing, for a 4 January departure.

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