Taking your family on a European ski holiday doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. There are plenty of family friendly resorts outside of the Alps with fantastic snow and facilites that cost a fraction of the more famous resorts in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland.
Facilities might not be on par with resorts in the Alps or North American but considering lift passes, accommodation, food, lessons and gear rental cost a fraction of the price you won’t mind. Speaking of gear, be sure to sort out your clothing before you go. Outfitting a family with all their ski clothing and winter layers in a city you don’t know your way around is a lot of hard work. The one thing you’ll definitely want to have right is ski gloves. You can layer less than ideal ski jackets and pants, provided they are waterproof, but it’s harder to fix ill-fitting, cold gloves.
Borovets and Bansko, Bulgaria
Bulgaria has grown into one of the top budget skiing destinations in Europe, particularly since budget airlines like WizzAir have started flying there directly from the UK.
Two of the most popular resorts are Bansko and Borovets. Borovets is on the northern slopes of the Rila Mountain and at the base of Mount Musala, about two hours from the capital of Sofia. Bansko, also two hours from Sofia, is a newer resort and is quickly making a name for itself as a fantastic budget resort with better infrastructure than most resorts in the Balkans.
Six-day lift passes at Borovets are 290 BGN (145€). A ski package, which includes equipment hire, ski lessons, lift pass and 4 hours of ski lessons a day for six days, is 500 BGN (250€) for adults and 300 BGN (150€) for children under 12. Ski passes in Bansko are more expensive at 180€ for a 6 day lift pass but then the facilities and lift infrastructure are better. Rental hire, lessons and other costs are on par, it’s just your lift passes that are more expensive.
There are a variety of accommodations to choose from in both Bansko and Bovorets, such as hotels, self-contained apartments or guest houses. At the Hotel Rila, the average price is 94€ (£74) per night and includes breakfast. Many places offer even lower nightly rates. Self-contained 1-2 bedroom apartments through websites like AirBNB, Enrout and VBRO start at 35€ per night, while you should expect to pay 70€ a night for a 3-4 bedroom apartment.
Dining options are plentiful, with restaurants offering everything from local cuisine to pub fare to Mexican specialties. Don’t worry about the kids – there are some great kid friendly Bulgarian dishes and most offer child friendly options such as pasta, pizza and burgers.
There are plenty of stores selling clothing on the mountain but you’ll get better value for money buying it before you arrive. Make sure you have good quality, waterproof ski gloves and warm layers as it can get really cold at these resorts.
Nestled in the Pyrenees mountain range between Spain and France, Andorra is another European ski destination that has grown in popularity over the years. Despite its lower cost in comparison to Western European ski areas, Andorra still offers visitors ideal ski conditions, new hotels and lifts.
Lift passes are 240€ for six days for adults, 216€ for junior pass for ages 12-17, and 162€ for children. Equipment rentals range from 65€ (£51) to 192€ (£151).
Lodging can be found for as low as 50€ (£40) a night. Several restaurants are in the area, offering visitors a variety of meal options.
Slovenia is located in the Julian Alps, where skiers can take in stunning views, relax in one of several cafes and ski some of the best slopes in the area. There are slopes of different degrees of difficulty. Compared to larger resort towns in Austria and France, Bohinj sets a more relaxing environment to enjoy a family ski holiday. You can dine on traditional local fare or a variety of other culinary favorites in the area.
Ski packages, including accommodations and flights can be found for as little as £650 per person.
Semenic is in the Banatului Mountains and is known for its clear skies and great snow. There are three different ski slopes, each one for a different level of experience. Rooms can be found for as little as 40€ (£32). Ski passes are 40 Lei (£7) per day. Many of the hotels also have their own restaurants on-house with various dining options.
South of Krakow, Zakopane is the most popular resort in Poland. The region gets fantastic snow, although perhaps one of it’s best features is the gorgeous towns and a huge range of alternative snow related activities.
Thanks to a recent upgrade of the infrastructure the facilities are great, although not quite on par with resorts in Austria and Switzerland. Zakopane is actually a collection of privately owned small resorts. Each have their own lift passes and while individually they are small, if you spend a day visiting each of the different resorts there’s plenty of terrain to keep you entertained. Lift passes range from £10-25 per person per day, depending on the resort and £30 will easily buy dinner for the whole family, including more than a few drinks.