We’ve asked our writers and others in the know to let us in on their favourite ‘secret’ ski resorts. From far-flung mountains to those just around the corner from some of the most well-known ski resorts – these are the lesser-known ski areas you should definitely be considering for your next trip… Just keep it under your hat!
Morzine’s secret mountains – France
Morzine is full of secret mountains that we all go to when it snows. Both mountains that we are about to mention, at some point in the past five years, have threated to close forever due to how quiet they are!
Mont Cheri (Les Gets) is most locals’ favourite mountain. Cheri has it all, a great north face, and lots of off piste opportunities, great restaurants and no crowds. Cheri is easy to access – just a short walk across Les Gets, or you can take the land train. It is this little hop across Les Gets that keeps the crowds away, as most people don’t do it. The lobster tartiflette at the Grand Ourse is worth the trip alone, as are the BBQs at the Chanterelle.
Down the road in St Jean d’Aulps is the Roc d’Enfer, which translates as the rock of hell, however the service here is heavenly. Where else do you get your skis loaded for you in the telecabine? The Roc has 23 pistes and a glorious 20km loop with acres of backcountry opportunity, and it’s dotted with fantastic refuge-style restaurants. The beignets (local potato rosti loaded with garlic and herbs) at Le Tavaillon will keep you coming back again and again. You can get to the Roc D’Enfer by bus, however if you have your own transport it is easier.
From Dom – head honcho at Skiology, offering catered chalets in Morzine and Les Carroz
Baqueira Beret – Spain
Baqueira Beret is the best resort you’ve never heard of. Easily accessible from the UK (it’s a two and a half hour drive from Toulouse – and an easy one at that) but somehow doesn’t seem to be on the radar for most Brits when they’re thinking about a skiing holiday. It has 156 km of runs divided up into 104 pistes – many are nice, wide motorway runs, but there’s also more challenging terrain for the more experienced, a snow park, Nordic tracks and off-piste terrain.
While the French resorts are packed during the school holidays, Baquiera Beret remains uncrowded (except over New Year, I’m told). It has a nice relaxed Spanish vibe and a huge choice of accommodation – everything from very plush five star hotels through to mid-range ( we like the Tuc Blanc, which is close to the pistes) and budget accommodation down in the valley town of Vielha and nearby villages. Restaurants are similarly varied – you can get everything from basic canteen-style meals on the pistes, through to simple tapas and classy sit-down meals from the 26 cafes and restaurants on the mountain. It’s even family-friendly – there are four nurseries.
Especially if you are skiing at half term, I’d choose Baquiera Beret over any other resort – I’m almost reluctant to share it…
From Catherine Cooper – More information on the resort at www.baqueira.es
Jasna – Slovakia
Jasna is a modern resort with something for everyone. Forget all those Eastern European stereotypes, because what you’ll find is a modern lift system featuring gondolas and high speed covered chairs as good as anything in France or Switzerland. There’s easy access to a mix of terrain that suits first timers through to expert skiers, as well as riders looking for off-piste and freeride action. In fact, many of the freeride areas are easily accessed from the lifts.
It’s easy to get to the resort from the UK and English is widely spoken here too. Poprad Airport is just over two hours from London Luton, and then it’s a 40min drive from the airport to Jasna. So you’ll have one of the easiest travel days to a European ski resort you can get. There are no less than five airports within a 3-hour transfer to Jasna, with various airlines flying from different UK airports, so lots of options.
Skiing in Jasna is great value for money – Slovakia in general is a relatively cheap destination, despite being on the Euro. Always a good gauge, a pint of beer on the mountain costs around £2.70 (and as low as £1 in town). A 6-day lift pass is €170, and you can get a two-hour lesson for just £29. There are lots of fun off-snow activities on offer and you’ll have the opportunity to discover a new culture and cuisine to boot!
From Justin Garrett – owner of Jasna Adventures
Georgia (the country, not the US state)
It’s not the first place that comes to mind when choosing your next ski trip – yes, you might have heard of the Heliskiing available in the High Caucasus Mountains bordering Russia, but for your normal skier, surely it isn’t a destination you’d even contemplate bothering with right? Well, wrong – actually there’s two ski areas that provide modern ski lift facilities and slopes for all levels. Gudauri offers ski in, ski out accommodation from small guesthouses, to international standard four-star hotels, and it’s within a two-hour drive from the capital Tbilisi.
Across in the stunning Svaneti region in the North West of the country, a new resort (Tetnuldi) has four modern chair lifts that whisk you right up to over 3,000 metres – the slopes are good for intermediate skiers and there’s also plenty of lift access off-piste skiing too. Local, qualified, mountain guides are available, and essential when skiing off-piste of course, and the ski touring possibilities are endless. Currently accommodation is available in the town of Mestia down in the valley, about 30 minutes drive from the ski station – but it’s an amazing place to stay. Medieval buildings unique to this area make you feel like you’re in a real life ‘Lord of the Rings’ scene… and don’t even get me started on the amazing food and the wine…
From Rob Stewart who travelled to Georgia in April 2017 to visit ski areas across the country, as well as the capital city, Tbilisi. More on this next season…
Kappl, Paznaun – Austria
You could be forgiven for thinking that the village of Kappl is just a clutch of hotels and a gondola station as you drive on the B188 valley road on the way to Ischgl. But if you take a right hand turn at Lochau and follow the steep and winding road you’ll find a busy and charming community.
Sitting on a sunny plateau at 1258m, Kappl is the largest of the four main Paznaun villages with a permanent population of 2,700 and approx. 4,700 guest beds. Compare this with Ischgl’s 1,500 inhabitants and 11,000+ guest beds!
Kappl’s ski area – aptly named Sunny Mountain – is a cosy 42km, with 10 ski lifts and a fun park. Perfect for children, adult beginners and improvers to hone their skills on skis or snowboard. And if powder hounds look a bit deeper into Kappl, they will find the biggest ‘trade secret’ of all – an endless area of backcountry skiing and riding.
Visitors who just can’t resist the pull of Ischgl can take the ski bus from the valley road for the 15-minute drive and explore the extensive 238kms of piste served by 44 skilifts.
From Sue Freeman – More information on the resort at www.kappl.com
Ax les Thermes – French Pyrenees
Just 1.5 hrs from Toulouse airport in the French Pyrenees, Ax-les-Thermes, in the Ariege, is well worth a visit for a long weekend or mid-week ski. With only 80km of pistes is isn’t a massive ski area, but what it does have is exciting tree skiing when the snow comes down, and some unexpected long and steep descents. Plus there’s easy access off-piste within just a short hike.
Families who are looking for a great value budget break, with plenty of skiing for a beginner or intermediate ability group would be perfect here too. Don’t miss the thermal foot spa just opposite the gondola base. Skiers take their boots off and relax in the natural sulphuric waters which are pumped up from the ground at 77°. You can enjoy a mix of French and Spanish food in the pretty town, which is close to the Spanish and Andorran border.
Worth a visit too – take a day trip (by public bus or an easy drive if you have car rental) to Ascou-Pailheres ski resort – 20mins from Ax. It has just six lifts and with beautiful forests to ski through it is peaceful and pretty. With over 25million euros investment planned for Ax-les-Thermes in the next three years, the lifts are being modernised and this resort is definitely one to consider for an off the beaten track adventure.
Folgaria – Italy
The ski resort of Folgaria is only an hour and a half from Verona airport making it a great choice for a ski holiday and for a short break. It has a good-sized ski area (104km) which links together the resort of Folgaria and the villages of Luserna, Lavarone and Fiorentini – the ski domain is known as Alpe Cimbra.
With an excellent variety of slopes it’s ideal for mixed ability groups and perfect for beginners. As with many lesser-known ski resorts the prices are more affordable too. This winter a six-day pass for the ski area was 190 € (and only 163€ for most of January), plus children under 8 ski for free. As well as the ski area, which has 2 snow parks, there are loads of winter activities to try – snowshoeing, fat biking, tubing, dog sledding, ice skating and ice karts are all possible.
For accommodation you can choose between staying in the main resort of Folgaria or being slope side in either Costa or Serrada. Folgaria is larger and has more shops, restaurants and bars and there is a free navette system to access the lifts in Costa. Both the Folgaria Post Hotel and the Hotel Villa Wilma are good options. Alternatively, the Muu Village Hotel is just 100m from the lifts in Costa.
From Katie Waddington – www.zenithholidays.co.uk
Manigod – France
One of four resorts of the Lake Annecy Ski Resorts region in the Aravis mountains, Manigod is just 20 minutes from the pretty town of Annecy and its beautiful lake. It is also under an hour from Geneva airport – so this is a real hidden gem.
Manigod is a small traditional village with skiing that taps in to the better-known ski resort of La Clusaz with its 130km of slopes. In Manigod itself, there are 25km of slopes, many of which are tree lined – ideal for bad visibility days and great fun on a powder day. The night skiing area is also one of the biggest in Savoie and is open most Friday and Saturday nights through the main season.
Off the slopes, the area is famous for its Reblochon cheese or you could take a ride on a ‘paret’ – a traditional wooden sledge that derives from the old village. There are many beautiful chalets available to rent just above the village and close to the main starting point for the skiing at Col du Merdassier. Alternatively, try the romantic Hotel de la Croix Fry with its renown 3* Gaut-Millau restaurant ‘Chez Marie-Ange’ serving gourmet food.
Manigod is ideal as a romantic and quiet base for skiers or snowshoe walkers, families or those looking for a tranquil break from hectic lives.
From Vanessa Fisher – More information at www.en.manigod.com