A guest post from Corina David.
Think of winter sports in Europe and you’ll likely think of Austria, Italy, France and Switzerland. Thanks to the glaciers, these countries offer some spectacular sights and unforgettable memories.
But the truth is that unless you live in the area, opting for a ski holiday in these Alpen resorts can be rather costly, making it difficult to return year after year.
The good news is that Europe has more to offer in terms of skiing than the already famous resorts. There’s a certain charm and authenticity that surrounds lesser known European resorts, but it may take a genuine ski lover and an adventurer to understand it.
Before I launch into descriptions of Europe’s lesser known resorts, here are 6 main advantages I think they offer, for all skiers, regardless of level.
- They are less crowded, making them ideal for families with children or beginners.
- The whole experience is cheaper – from ski passes to accommodation and food.
- The altitude is not as high as in the Alps, but whizzing down on slopes guarded by snowy fir trees is just as spectacular.
- European standards are European standards: you will have a safe experience, no matter the country’s level of popularity.
- They are ideal for ski-touring – if you’d like to have your level of fitness tested.
- The local restaurants will take you by surprise: they are clean, offer great service and delicious food at very affordable prices. Food is a serious matter in each of these countries and what you’d call a main dish may well turn out to be just the starter. Also, cash is preferred to credit card and leaving a tip is customary.
Due to its proximity to Bucharest, the capital, Poiana Brasov is the most visited Romanian resort at an altitude of 1200 m (3937 feet).
There are 12 slopes for skiers and snowboarders, two 80 meters high ski-jumps, artificial snow and a skating rink as well. Floodlights extend skiing until 9:00 in the evening. Those who love medieval castles and cobbled streets can easily choose to visit the Bran and the Peles Castle, both of which are nearby.
Poiana Brasov can get pretty crowded, so if you’re up for an adventure or fancy something quiet, you may as well choose a “non-branded” location.
Straja is the second most popular resort while Transalpina is one of the newly opened resorts, owing its fame to the highway with the same name (also known as the DN67C) which reaches an elevation of 2,145 m (7037 feet) above sea level.
You can find more info about the Romanian ski resorts and the accommodation available on the Ski-in-Romania.com site but make sure to use a currency converter when looking at the prices. Also, for those of you who speak Spanish, the transition to Romanian is very easy.
If you’re up for some ski touring, the hills and mountains are all yours. It’s not suitable for beginners and it’s recommended that you go with an instructor or find a group. The scenery and the level of satisfaction you’ll get out of this is something you’re sure to remember.
While I have skied Romania, I’ve not yet skied Greece.
While Greece is usually known as a summer destination thanks to its sandy beaches and blue waters, I’ve wanted to visit the country’s spectacular mountains (and eat the country’s fantastic olives and cheese) ever since I read Zorba the Greek in my early 20s.
I’d say you can’t go wrong with Greece: beach relaxation in summer and skiing and snowboarding in winter.
This article on the Top 3 Winter Destinations in Greece will give you more details about the country’s most famous ski resorts, what levels they are suitable for and what else is to be done in terms of après-ski. Feel free to check the resources at Visit Greece as well.
Just like Greece and Romania, Bulgaria offers a great skiing experience at affordable prices. Again, suitable for beginners and intermediate skiers, the most well-known resorts are Bansko (with its World Cup racing), Borovets and Pamporovo. This site, Bulgariaski.com is a great resource for more info about all the Bulgarian resorts.
No matter the choice, all of these less-skied European destinations offer adventure and unique experiences to all skiers and snowboarders. Where ever you go, you’ll find fir trees covered in snow, safe slopes, friendly faces, good food and cheap prices.
Flying to Europe is straight forward from North America. Popular gateway cities for Romania, Greece and Bulgaria include Paris, London or Budapest.
Once you’re in Europe, consider a low-cost airline like WizzAir and EasyJet,. With advance booking, your ticket to Bulgaria, Greece or Romania can be as cheap as £80 – return! Just be aware, that like many “no-frills” airlines, there are often unexpected additional charges. This doesn’t mean you won’t get a great deal — just go in with your eyes open.
Happy Skiing in less-skied Europe!
Adept of the “all that glitters is not gold” philosophy, Corina David has always found more pleasure in following the untrodden path and discovering authentic beauty and happiness. She’s got a penchant for outdoor sports and when she’s not doing that she likes meditating on life and other such topics.
All photos provided by Corina David from personal stock or from Shutterstock.
- Ski Europe: Unique Destinations and Family Value, October 22, 2012.
- Ski Resorts in Norway, the French Alps and Italy to Visit Next Season, April 30, 2013.
- Why Ski the Alps? October 18, 2011.
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