As every skier knows, there's something more fearsome than the iciest cliff face: the price of a ski trip. A week's lift pass in major European resorts may cost around EUR300, with some rising to even dizzier heights. Add accommodation fees and the breathtaking prices for bog-standard burgers and flat beer is enough to send shivers down your spine.
But it does not have to be by doing this! We slalomed across the European continent to seek out the snowy grail: well-sized ski areas where a high-season six-day lift pass is cheaper than EUR250.
Be sure to check Lonely Planet's up-to-date guidance on travel as COVID-19 travel bans continue to adjust to case rates across Europe. Recently, France imposed a travel ban on UK travelers. With regards to COVID-19 safety compliance, what's much better than social distancing on a ski slope?
Here would be the top ski resorts in Europe for budget travelers.
Borovets, Bulgaria: best for the party crowd
Borovets is a winter playground because the late 19th century. Hemmed by evergreens, its 36 miles (58km) of mostly blue and red runs weave beneath Bulgaria's mightiest peak, Mt Musala reaching a height of 8398ft (2560m).
For better or worse, Borovets can be a favorite among snow-bound stag (bachelor party) groups who thunder down Borovets' pistes before stamping their ski boots in bars and basement clubs. Follow them towards cheap beers, but beware drinks promos involving rakia (potent fruit-based firewater).
Cost of accommodations: Budget accommodations often involve boxy hotels or basic apartments, but it's hard to fault a week's remain in a double room for around EUR300.
High-season lift pass price: 300 lv (EUR153) per six days.
How to get to Borovets: Your way from the capital city Sofia is about 90 minutes, with various companies running transfer services, starting at EUR30 (with no extra charge for ski carriage). Even cheaper is really a bus to Samokov a shuttle
Vogel, Slovenia: perfect for beautiful views
Beneath Slovenia's mythic Mt Triglav, believed by early Slavs to be the home of a triple-headed deity, lies low-key Vogel Ski Resort. With 13 miles (22km) of blue (beginner) and red pistes, it's hardly certainly one of Europe's biggest resorts, nor is it reliably snow-sure: but Vogel's a bargain, with unforgettable views from the Julian Alps.
After arrival, transport costs zilch if your guesthouse has signed up to the bus scheme across Bohinj valley. Also free are beauty spots within close driving distance: Lake Bohinj (40 minutes) and ethereal Lake Bled (1 hour), looking all of the prettier within dusting of snow.
Cost of accommodations: Some guesthouses shutter their doors for winter, but nightly rates in Ukanc, downhill of the ski lifts, skirt around a budget-friendly EUR75 per double (with more options in Ribcev Laz).
High-season lift pass price: EUR153 per six days.
How to get at Vogel: Vogel is really a 90-minute drive from Ljubljana Airport, or keep costs down with a train ride to Bohinjska Bistrica.
Sauze d'Oulx, Italy: best for intermediate skiers
Sprawling over the France-Italy border, the gargantuan 273 mile (440km) Via Lattea (Milky Way) ski area has sheltered, tree-lined runs galore. The lion's share is on the Italian side, easily reached from Sauze d'Oulx. With two-thirds of posted areas rated red (intermediate), this really is prime terrain for intermediate skiers; as well as in a resort of this size, there's always somewhere to determine from the crowds.
Despite as being a well-oiled machine of the winter sports industry, the core of Sauze d'Oulx village has kept its charm: cobblestoned and lined with trattories pouring out Piedmont wine to accompany polenta with rabbit, deep-fried vegetables and other northern Italian fare.
Cost of accommodations: Self-catering apartments provide the cost effective, with week-long stays near to Clotes chair lift costing under EUR600.
High-season lift pass price: EUR208 per six days (Via Lattea Italian side).
How to get to Sauze d'Oulx: 90-minute private transfers from Turin Airport to Sauze d'Oulx cost around EUR40. Halve by using a bus to Porta Nuova followed by a train to Oulx station.
Jasná Nízke Tatry, Slovakia: perfect for night skiing
Slovakia's largest ski resort has high peaks and low prices. Jasná is really a 30 mile (49km) spider's web of pistes astride Mt Chopok (6640ft/2024m), with around 20 speedy lifts, snow-making across more than half its area, a freeride zone and night skiing.
Jasná's also in the centre of Slovak highland culture, meaning fireside yarns about folk heroes accompanied by hearty shepherd cuisine. The latter adapts well towards the budget skier's table: a whopping serve of national dish bryndzové halusky (gnocchi-sized dumplings with sheep's cheese and bacon) leaves enough vary from a EUR10 note for a couple of Zlat'y Bazant beers. For additional mountain magic, Vlkolínec is only Forty-five minutes away, a fairy-tale 14th-century hamlet roosting on a hillside.
Cost of accommodations: Double rooms can be found in Jasná starting from EUR100 every night.
High-season lift pass price: from EUR136 per six days (via Gopass).
How to get at Jasná: Budget flights reach Poprad-Tatry Airport, which is under an hour's drive away. Direct transfer by private car may cost from EUR30 per person. Alternatively, taxis, train and bus combo (via Liptovsk'y Mikulás) costs less than EUR10.
Boí -Taüll, Spain: perfect for après-ski culture
Boí -Taüll towers at 6626ft (2022m)… and that is its lowest point. Some of the Pyrenees' highest pistes are here, draped across a resort that's crowd-free, family-friendly and north-facing – crucial for long-lasting snow.
Once you are in, this can be a sweet ski area with 28 miles (45km) of mostly red and black (advanced) trails. From the slopes, Catalan warmers like spiced snails and trinxat (potato-cabbage hash) fend off the cold, while a chocolate-oozing crepe from Ca la Pepa makes for a delectable low-cost desert. The region's architectural riches also buoy picking a budget après-ski activities available, with visitors in a position to spend lazy afternoons ogling world-famous frescoes within the Vall de Boí's nine Unesco-listed Romanesque churches.
Cost of accommodations: Move fast to secure an apartment or hostal (guesthouse) for less than EUR450 a week.
High-season lift pass price: EUR175 per six days.
How to get to Boí -Taüll: By road, it's quicker from Toulouse-Blagnac than from Girona or Barcelona-El Prat airports. Change buses in Vielha to achieve Taüll.
Bialka Tatrzańska, Poland: best ski resort for beginners
Poland's biggest skiing resort, Bialka Tatrzańska, is really a concoction of beginner ski terrain, country hospitality and views from the Carpathian Mountains. Kotelnica, Bania and Kaniówka form one interconnected ski area (11 miles/18km in most) that's well suited for skiers still finding their feet. Once confident, exactly the same lift pass grants access to neighboring resorts where harder challenges await. For that perfect après-ski treat visit Terma Bania for toasty-warm outdoor bathing with views from the Tatras.
Cost of accommodations: Private rooms, often dressed with wood-carved furniture and grandmotherly lace, are a snip at around EUR40, usually including a monster breakfast. Speaking of food, traditional Polish pierogi (dumplings) and zurek (sour soup) cost less than EUR4, and shots of Zubrówka (bisongrass-infused rye vodka) are generously free-poured.
High-season lift pass price: EUR112 per six days for the multi-resort Tatry Super Ski Pass.
How to get at Bialka Tatrzańska: Private transfers from Kraków Airport are good-value for groups (EUR105 for four people) while public buses from Kraków Glówny stop (two hours) is great value (EUR8).
Sudelfeld -Bayrischzell, Germany: best for experienced skiiers
Compared to expansive resorts in neighboring Austria, 19 mile (31km) Sudelfeld -Bayrischzell is modest – but so are its prices. There is extensive use of snow canons throughout the season, giving skiers use of a swathe of exciting red runs and a freeride area that's well suited for experienced riders. Meaty Bavarian dishes aren't always cheap, but low-cost mainstays like currywurst and flammkuchen (baked flat-breads slathered in sour cream and onions) could keep you full and mean funds could be reserved for sampling a stein or a couple of Weissbier.
Cost of accommodations: A week's stay in a snug guesthouse will set you back EUR550 each week (a significant saving on the big-name cross-border resorts). Those wanting to slash costs further can opt for dormitory-style accommodations, for example that available at Jugendherberge, where bed and breakfast measures an incredible EUR25 a night.
High-season lift pass price: EUR222 per six days.
How to get to Sudelfeld -Bayrischzell: From well-connected München Hauptbahnhof you will find regular trains (EUR22, 1 hour 30 minutes) to Bayrischzell.
Val Cenis, France: best for long blue runs
Who needs Val d'Isère's glamorous ski scene once the French Alps could be yours for a très petit price tag? The five villages of Val Cenis access 78 miles (125km) of velvety trails. Beginners can roam far, with blue runs extending from village level to the surface of the resort – a sky-scraping 9186ft (2800m) in altitude – plus you will find abundant red along with a number of black runs. You're additionally a mere schuss from the Italian border, meaning authentic pizza at moderate prices – also would you request?
Cost of accommodations: Apartments that sleep four to six people regularly choose EUR550 per week; per person, those are hostel rates for any balcony view of the Alps.
High-season lift pass price: From EUR160 for six days.
How to get at Val Cenis: Turin, Grenoble and Chambéry airports are under 2 hours away. By trains and buses, TGV (fast train) hub Modane is really a 45-minute bus ride in the valley (from EUR13.50).