Are you tired of going to the same ski resorts in the Alps for every ski holiday? Looking for something a bit more unique? Along with the reduced lift queues, unspoilt mountain scenery and relaxing lack of crowds, the lesser-known ski resorts in Europe often have the added advantage of being more affordable. Visiting ski areas like France's Sainte Foy Tarentaise or Norway's Trysil guarantees a much more down-to-earth experience, where you'll likely have more interaction with the locals and enjoy the fresh powder all to yourself. Sold on the idea? Here are ten European ski resorts off the beaten path to try for your next ski holiday.
The inhabitants of Les Carroz used to earn their living making clock parts, until one day a local man had the brilliant idea of building a ski lift. Today, Les Carroz is a family-friendly ski resort with a jam-packed event calendar and access to the 260km of slopes in the linked Grand Massif ski area. Snowboarders especially will appreciate the snow park, which has floodlit slopes for night riding.Photo: © OT Les Carroz
Baqueira-Beret is a hidden gem in the Catalan Pyrenees, so good the Spanish royal family keeps a holiday home here. Baqueira-Beret has a great snow record and 146km of pistes, and all that at a far more attractive pricepoint compared with upscale French and Swiss resorts. Powder hounds can dive into the off-piste routes or jump in a helicopter to explore the neighbouring terrain, and beginners can take advantage of the British Ski School
An old church watches benevolently over the small ski resort of Ellmau, nestled in a relatively remote corner of Austria’s massive SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser Brixental. Ellmau’s wide, gentle slopes make it an excellent choice for skiers and snowboarders who want to practise their turns. When you want to grab a snack or a mid-morning hot cocoa, the SkiWelt is full of atmospheric mountain restaurants to choose from.Photo: © TVB Wilder Kaiser
This charming Italian ski resort with views of the Monte Rosa still has traditional wooden farmhouses and balconies brimming with geraniums. Although it is popular with families thanks to the abundance of blue and red slopes, Gressoney also boasts incredible off-piste skiing, some of it accessible by helicopter. The linked ski area of Monte Rosa has high-altitude slopes with modern infrastructure, coupled with an incredible lack of crowds.
This hidden ski resort at the end of the Grandvalira ski area in Andorra is a pleasant surprise after the institutional feel of bigger Grandvalira resorts like Pas de la Casa or Soldeu. The immediate terrain mostly comprises gentle runs through the trees, but it’s not difficult to make your way (by ski lift) over to Grandvalira’s more challenging slopes. While you won’t find many rowdy après-ski bars here, Canillo is the perfect location for a quiet ski holiday among family or friends.Skiing in Grandvalira near Canillo
This well-kept secret won’t be so secret for long, as the Grand Tourmalet Barèges La Mongie ski area is currently in rapid development. Fantastic off-piste routes off the Pic du Midi de Bigorre and 100km of well-groomed slopes make this an apt ski resort for skiers and snowboarders of any level. La Mongie itself has modern infrastructure and a lively après-ski scene.
The largest of Norway’s ski resorts, Trysil boasts snow-sure slopes at low altitudes which can be easily reached from the multitide of ski-in, ski-out hotels. Families will be in their element here, with a generous offering of easy slopes, kids’ areas and even barbecue huts on the slopes! Cross-country skiers will also enjoy it here – like most ski resorts in Norway, Trysil has access to some 100km of cross-country ski trails.Photo: © Ola Matsson, SkiStar Trysil
Grimentz is a traditional 16th century farming village that has yet to be invaded by the masses, making it a popular choice with families looking for a relaxing ski holiday. Located in Switzerland's Val d’Anniviers, Grimentz offers high-altitude skiing on 215km of slopes, especially well-suited to intermediate skiers. For a true off-the-beaten-track experience, expert skiers can head to the Val d’Anniviers’ unique, specially designated freeride area.Photo: © Grimentz/St Jean Tourisme
A down-to-earth mountain village in the heart of the Tarentaise, the unspoilt ski resort of Sainte Foy Tarentaise is the ideal choice for those who want to improve their skills – whether general foundations of skiing or more specialised areas such as off-piste or telemarking. Indeed, the off-piste area here is very approachable. The setting is also very picturesque, with snow-sure runs winding through larch forests.Photo: © OT Sainte Foy
La Grave is an anomaly among ski resorts: just one lift brings passionate freeriders to the top of a towering cliff, where they can make their way down one of many challenging off-piste routes. This is skiing at its rawest – don’t expect to find any frills in the stark village, just the bare minimum to get you up on the slopes. But despite the inhospitable welcome, expert skiers and snowboarders at La Grave will find some of the best off-piste terrain in Europe here. Anyone skiing here should be properly prepared for an avalanche – ski with a guide if it’s your first visit.
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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