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The best value ski resorts in Europe | Ridestore Magazine

Skiing is the most magical, fun, and exhilarating pastime, but it can also be one of the most expensive hobbies you could choose to enjoy. As such, you might often find yourself searching for insider secrets and hacks to save money in order to facilitate even more time on the slopes. If you love googling tips for skiing on a budget and discovering the best value ski resorts in Europe, then you just hit the jackpot. We have put together an article to help answer all your questions and point you in the right direction of the cheapest ski resorts to visit this season. 

No matter your budget, you can always dress like you have endless sums of money without the cost; check out our ski jackets and ski pants.

Table of contents

Skiing on a budget

Skiing on a budget may seem like an impossible task, like you need to consider remortgaging your house or you’re just not going. However, we're here to spread the good news: it is possible and more than achievable! It’s all about being smart, doing your research, and perhaps aiming for something a little more rustic. You may be surprised to learn that many resorts are great value for money if you appreciate the virtue of quality cheap eats and flexible ski passes. With a few small changes to your ski holiday, you’ll be surprised to see how much money you can save while still living the high life on the slopes. 

What to watch out for

What stings people the most when booking a skiing holiday is the long list of additions that inflate the overall budget. These small yet seemingly important extras add up and may have you considering melting snow to save money on buying water (not recommended, by the way). For example, unlike a beach holiday, you may require extra baggage or weight to be added when booking your airfare. Plus the actual rental or purchase of the ski equipment — everything from socks to ski poles. 

In the resort, you need to factor in buying more food and drinks than normal. You are burning calories all day and will need regular pit stops to warm up, so watch out for those small costs that add up from all the extra mountainside coffees and snacks.

skiing on a budget

Flights

Flying is the most popular way of getting to the Alps or most other ski resorts, mainly because, unfortunately, they’re the cheapest and quickest. Flights to Geneva from London, for example, can cost around €100 return, or Paris to Turin as little as €50 return. Many budget airlines run these regular short-haul flights all winter long across the major airports in Europe. Bear in mind budget airlines don’t always have hold luggage included, so you will need to add that on, plus any heavy/ large items such as skis or snowboards — this is usually around €50 return. 

Transfers

There are endless options to choose from that will suit any budget. To save on the pennies, we have a couple of recommendations: a shared shuttle or coach service. You can pre-book a shared transfer that takes you to the resort centre and usually has a few stops the way. Many coach and shuttle services can cost as little as €60 return. Of course, the closer the resort is to the airport, the cheaper it will be, so consider this when choosing your resort. 

Self-drive from the airport can also be a budget-friendly option, but only if you fill the car and split the cost evenly. For example, for seven days car hire, including petrol/ diesel, can cost around €450 and the more people, the cheaper this will be per person. 

You  might also want to consider driving the entire way from home. If there are three or four of you, this quickly reduces cost on fuel vs flights/luggage and airport costs like snacks etc. Stick your favourite playlist on and start your vacation on the journey.

Accommodation

Look for self-catered apartments, which can cost as little as €500 a week for 2-4 people for a basic room, sofa bed, and kitchenette. You will be spending most of your time on the mountain or at apres, so a fancy room isn’t needed and this way you can save money on eating out. Or a basic B&B can get you a hearty breakfast included for not much more, which will set you up for the day with lots of carbs and coffee. 

Some of the larger, best value for money resorts have hostels. This basic accommodation option can offer shared dorm rooms for under €30 a night, and they often serve up a buffet breakfast.

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Food & drinks

Many mountain cafes and restaurants will have self-serve or takeaway options where you can get cheap eats like paninis and chips for around €5-8. Down in the town, there are often pizzerias, so that can be your hearty dinner sorted for under €20. 

You can also head to a local supermarket, stock up on fresh bread and meats and cheeses, and make a picnic to have alfresco style. Good quality wine and beers in the supermarkets can also be purchased inexpensively. Finally, make sure to Google the resort’s happy hours to get cheap apres drinks, with a large beer often starting at €5-6.

Gear

Hit the spring sales where many ski and snowboard brands will massively discount everything from ski jackets and pants and socks and thermals to make way for summer clothing, meaning you can often pick up gear for a steal compared to the RRPs if you don’t mind wearing last season’s fashions! 

Once in the resort, you will need to hire skis/snowboards, boots, poles and helmets if you didn’t bring your own, which cost anything from €100-200 euros a week, depending on spec and skill level. On this front, definitely visit AlpinResorts.com to compare local stores (usually the ones closest to the lifts carry a premium!) and see what kind of discounts you can score on your rentals by booking ahead of time.

Although it may cost a lot upfront to buy your own ski/snowboard boots and board or skis in the long term, you will end up saving money per holiday. Ski boots, for example, can cost around €300+, but within 4 to 5 trips, you could start to save money on the cost of the rental. 

To keep costs down, you can also look at second-hand boots, goggles, and even jackets and pants. Lots of riders will upgrade after a year or two, so you can grab a bargain for a great price if you know what to look for.

Ski pass

Many resorts now offer flexible passes, so you only pay for what you use. The best value for money ski resorts will have half-day pass options, daily passes, and everything up to a full season pass. The more days, the better value for the money you get in general. For example, a day pass can cost €40 while a 7-day pass can cost €250. You may also have the option to pay for another nearby resort included within the week pass, so you can explore more areas without having to pay for an expensive day pass. 

Resorts with large ski areas and lots of km of slopes can cost €300+ for six days, so consider this when choosing your resort.

10 money-saving tips for skiers

Need some quick-fire tips? We have created ten easy to follow money-saving tips to help the cash-conscious traveller get the best value for money on their ski holiday this season. 

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Travel in low season

The prices of flights, accommodation, ski passes and sometimes even food and drinks fluctuate throughout the season. The high (and most expensive season) is during school holidays and festive periods, such as half-terms, Easter, and over Christmas and New Year.  However, early December, January, March (not during Easter) and late spring, you will find the best deals and prices overall. You can also avoid manic queues and being cornered by a long line of ski schools, so definitely a win-win.

Carry a reusable water bottle

Carry a water bottle in your rucksack that can keep you hydrated throughout the day and avoid paying over the odds (often up to €4) for bottled water in a mountain restaurant. Tap water in the mountain is usually the freshest you will get, so fill it at your accommodation or seek out a water fountain in the village. 

Flights with ski carriage included

Some airlines, such as Swiss Air, have ski carriage included in the price, along with hold luggage, so you can bring your ski or snowboard with you without having to pay for the additional extra. This sometimes can work out cheaper as a budget airline once you have added all the additions onto the final price, so make the comparison before buying! 

Explore package holidays 

After you have booked your flights, transfers and accommodation, you may find a mid-range package holiday will work out cheaper. They often have great deals and run sales throughout the year, which could save you hundreds of euros. They also may have discounts on equipment hire, ski passes and ski school if you book through the operator. Check out Secret Escapes if you’re travelling from the UK, and look for deals that include flights, transfers, accommodation, passes, and rentals to save the most.

The more people, the better value for money

Skiing holidays with a large group is fun but can save you money. The more of you for the shuttle transfer or car/van hire, the less it will work out per person. Or the more people booking an entire apartment and making the most of the sofa beds will work out less per person. 

10 money saving tips for ski resorts
Aperitivo hour

Many bars in the resort will have happy hour or aperitivo hour between 3 pm and 5 pm, where they will discount drinks and provide nibbles at your table. Italian resorts are famous for this, with some bars providing full buffet tables of cured hams, bread, cheeses and little mini dishes.

Full board deals

We all know one of the best things about a skiing holiday is eating, drinking, and exploring, but it is worth checking out the full board or catered chalet options. You can get a catered chalet which includes a big breakfast, afternoon tea, 3-course dinners and all alcoholic and soft drinks for around €1000 a person (some companies also have flights and transfers included with this cost).

Bring snacks on the adventure

Head to the local supermarket in the town and stock up on chocolate bars and cereal bars for lightweight, small, energy-packed fuel. Pop these in your rucksack or your pockets with ease and tuck in on the chairlift without having to pay €3-10 every time you stop for a break.

Give your old equipment some love

Instead of buying new equipment after a few seasons, try maintaining it so it lasts longer. Local ski and snowboard shops can remould your boots to your feet and will fully service your skis or boards, all for a minimal cost, making them feel as good as new.

Free shuttle service

Many resorts have bus services that run throughout the town from the early morning through to the evening, and most of them are free. Head to the lift pass office and enquire about which neighbouring resorts you can get a free bus to and from, too, as they may be included on your ski pass. Just remember to grab a timetable, so you don’t miss the last bus back!

Best value ski resorts in Italy

Livigno, Italy

Mottolino Snowpark Livigno
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Just over the border from pricey Switzerland, you'll find the tax-free heaven of Livigno. The resort has so much to offer, it's rather astonishing. Firstly, there are 115 km of slopes available and 32 lifts to keep you entertained. However, if piste skiing isn't what you're after, never fear. There are world-renowned snow parks where you can brush shoulders with the best riders in the business. Plus, Livigno is part of Stelvio National Park, so simply enjoying the unbelievable beauty of nature, which is totally free, should surely keep you occupied. And if the nature plus the riding isn't enough, the fact Livigno is a duty-free haven means the cost of food, drink and activities are much more affordable than other resorts.

Sestriere, Italy

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Sestriere is located in the Milky Way ski area, which includes Sestriere, Sauze d'Oulx, San Sicario, Claviere, and Montgenèvre. In this valley, you'll find a whopping 400km of interconnected slopes available and 69 lifts that serve them. Basically, this means a lot of skiing for your money. You can enjoy skiing in France but base yourself in Sestriere, Italy, which is generally more affordable than neighbouring France. There's also a great variety of eateries, meaning you can actively manage costs. Opt for pizza instead of steak and eat on the Italian side after exploring the French side after a long morning of riding.

Bardonecchia, Italy

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The charming and traditional Italian town of Bardonecchia has a modest but respectable 100km of slopes available and 17 lifts. The town is full of Italian beauty and offers a more affordable getaway compared to bigger resorts in the area. You'll find plenty of cute little B&Bs which offer reasonably priced beds where you can rest your head after a great day skiing. You'll also find that the restaurant prices don't reflect the big cities nearby, and instead, the prices are much more in the ‘small Italian village’ range. 

Pila, Italy

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Pila is one of Italy's best-kept secrets for many reasons. The first is that skiing is of the highest quality, and frankly, we're glad the word hasn't gotten out yet! The slopes are wide, steep and expertly looked after. So if you like riding both on and off-piste, Pila, albeit a small resort, is a must-visit. Plus, with it being such a small resort, where most Italian tourists visit, the prices remain unspoilt by mainstream international tourism. A good tip is to stay down in Aosta, a relatively large city and just a cable car away. In Aosta, you'll find really cheap hostels and self-catered apartments.

La Thuile, Italy

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La Thuile is an excellent resort for the cash-strapped traveller. The resort was developed and expanded over the years thanks to the many competitions hosted there (you'll find a world cup run to challenge yourself on, too), which means there are plenty of affordable accomodation options. In addition, the ski pass, which is also reasonably priced, gives you access to the French resort of La Rosiere, meaning you can enjoy the French mountains on a more affordable Italian price tag.

Best value ski resorts in France

Morzine, France

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Morzine ski resort is an excellent choice for families or groups of skiers looking for an all-around ski resort. Morzine has sensational skiing from the resort of Avoriaz, which perches on the mountain above and is just a gondola ride away. Avoriaz happens to be the snowiest resort in the Alps, too, and thanks to Morzine’s charming hotels and lively après, it’s a true all-rounder that leaves no boxes unchecked. Moreover, Morzine is linked with the enormous Portes du Soleil area, which is home to 650km, hundreds of miles of unforgettable skiing. But what makes Morzine a fantastic cost-effective option (not only is it super close to Geneva airport — offering plenty of budget airline flights and direct public transfers), Morzine is a chalet/self-catered accomodation hotspot. This means your stay can be cost managed really easily! After a long day skiing, why not eat in?

Les Deux Alpes, France

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Les Deux Alpes is a popular, snow-sure resort well-loved by locals and tourists alike. Les Deux Alpes — or Les 2 Alpes as it’s known, is home to varied, high-altitude slopes, including a glacier, 220km of them. Unlike many French towns that require transport to the lifts, Les Deux Alpes was designed to be easy to access, with many of the accommodations within a few minutes walk of the lifts. The best part is there are plenty of great-value half-board hotels here, which work out to be excellent value. You can simply have a snack on the mountain for lunch but enjoy breakfast and dinner in the hotel. 

Flaine, France

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Flaine is the first place you should look to when considering cost-effective family-friendly ski resorts. If you want to take your family on a snow-covered adventure, this is the spot. Flaine is a Bauhaus-inspired man-made resort that forms the jewel of the crown that is the very snowy Grand Massif ski area, less than an hour’s drive from Geneva airport, making it one of the most easily accessed resorts in all of the Alps for international visitors. The best way to book a ski holiday for Flaine, and therefore save the big bucks, is to book a package that includes hotel, food, and childcare. This will often include ski hire and ski passes for children, which are always discounted. This means your children have an unforgettable experience, and you get some much-needed calm in the mountains. 

Serre-Chevalier, France

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Proudly boasting cheaper prices than their Northern neighbours, Serre Chevalier is a fabulous Southern-Alps resort choice for the cash-conscious traveller. The ski area is made up of a dozen villages, including Briançon, Chantemerle, Monêtier Les Bains, and Villeneuve, which are connected by a bus service. So why not consider staying in one of the smaller villages rather than Serre Chevalier itself? This way, you can still enjoy skiing in Serre Chevalier and the greater Grande Galaxie ski area (530km of groomed slopes) without the price tag!

Les Houches, France

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Les Houches is Chamonix’s younger, lesser-known sibling and sits just a short [free] bus ride down the valley. While Chamonix is home to some of the most stunning chalets and hotels — with price tags to match — Les Houches affords you the chance to ski on the sensational slopes and off-piste of Chamonix and the surrounding ski areas while enjoying a slower pace in this much more cost-effective village. Enjoy 360-degree views on the Mont Blanc, delicious restaurants, and top-level pistes for skiers, boarders, telemarkers, and cross-country skiers alike with much better value for money.

Brides les Bains, France

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Are you looking for a little money-saving hack to enjoy the world-famous Three Valleys? The answer is simple, stay in the lovely little resort of Brides-Les-Bains. This town is a great value pick in the world’s most extensive ski area of the Three Valleys. Unfortunately, there is a 30-minute cable car ride up to Méribel, a tad inconvenient, but it’s worth the compromise if you want somewhere quieter and cheaper than other resorts in the area. In addition, accomodation options are much easier on the piggybank than other Three Valleys resorts like Courchevel or Val Thorens.

Best value ski resorts in Austria

Niederau - Oberau, Austria

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Niederau is an excellent choice for cash-conscious first-time skiers and snowboarders. Niederau is a picture-perfect Austrian village set in a wooded valley with classic chalets. It’s a cute and quaint place, with many accommodation options only metres from the piste. So you can enjoy the world-famous Austrian hospitality, with the added joy that comes with a small, quiet, affordable resort. You only need to pop into St Anton on a Friday night to know why we’re counting quiet as a positive here! But if you do want to venture further afield, jump on the free ski bus to nearby Auffach to explore the rest of the 109km Ski Juwel area and experience a more lively apres scene.

Ellmau, Austria

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Ellmau is an authentic Austrian village full of charm and is another fantastic beginner-friendly resort in the varied SkiWelt area. Pricing for accommodation in the area is pretty reasonable, and there’s a bus service that runs to the nearby village of Söll, which is a little more expensive and lively. So you can take advantage of the cheaper food and hotels here and then head there for a little treat, enjoying the best of both worlds.

Axamer Lizum, Austria

Axamer Lizum Unsplash
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Axamer Lizum is the cash-strapped freeride snow lover’s dream. Make the most of the freeride zones around this great value little village while enjoying access to more terrific ski resorts in the region. If you don't mind commuting, you'll have a fantastic time. Be sure to get the Olympia Pass that covers nine local resorts and 300km of slopes. The resort itself has many affordable hotel options with half board availability – so all you'll have to buy is lunches. And with mains like Wiener Schnitzel costing under €10, this can be done on a shoestring budget, too. You can get to the resort for cheap, as well, with it being only one and a half hours from Innsbruck, an airport where many low-cost airlines fly to for a reasonable price.

Best value ski resorts in Spain & Andorra

Sierra Nevada, Spain

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Spain isn't just for beach holidays and culture — you can have all the excitement of Spanish hospitality in the mountains too! Sierra Nevada is Spain's highest and most snow-sure ski resort and the best value location. There are over 120 pistes of varying abilities, totalling 106 km, with plenty of variety to cater to beginners through to experts. And the pistes are always, famously, perfectly groomed. So the skiing will keep you well and truly occupied, and that’s not even mentioning the ski passes, which are generally cheaper than their French counterparts.

Arinsal, Andorra

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Arinsal is a traditional, quaint village filled with stunning buildings and friendly bars and restaurants. But not only that, it’s an excellent family-friendly location for families who want to make those pennies go further, enjoy free lift passes for kids and a top-rated ski school at a really competitive price for both group and private lessons. 

Pas de la Casa, Andorra

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Pas de la Casa is the perfect choice for young and vibrant skiers looking for a place to get tasty drinks for the best price. The town is full of lively and welcoming bars at great prices — the perfect location to wind down and dance the night away after a long day skiing with your pals. With an après scene to rival the Alps, and knowing your money will go much further, Andorra is skiing’s best-kept secret. And just to top it off, Pas De La Casa is the highest resort in the Pyrenees, has a good snow record, and forms the final part of the Grand Valira, one of the largest interconnected ski areas in the world with more than 575km of groomed pistes. Five resorts lie along a single valley and can be skied in one day. There’s also a free bus service that runs down to the major towns in the lower valleys, and you’re on the French border, too, so you can pop down to the French side for some raclette if the mood strikes. Equidistant from Toulouse and Barcelona airport, Pas De La Casa is well worth checking out for those looking for bang for their buck!

Best value ski resorts in the rest of Europe

Bansko, Bulgaria

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What do we love more than resorts with fast, modern lifts, extensive snowmaking, delicious food, drink, and new luxury hotels? Well, it has to be prices significantly lower than the Alps, of course! However, Bulgaria isn't just a cheap and cheerful cost-effective resort; it’s Bulgaria's largest with plenty of infrastructure plus stunning traditional buildings offering a charming village feel. However, this resort gets lively with plenty of young groups coming for the colourful nightlife. So if bustling, loud, and busy isn’t your scene, check out the more family-friendly alternative of Borovets just a few miles away, which offers a more subdued Alpine feel compared to the unique Bansko, with the same small price tag!

Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

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Kranjska Gora is the first name in Slovenian ski resorts. The resort is located close to the Austrian and Italian borders, And is a beginners paradise, with plenty of easy runs to flex your skills on. But be aware that it's best for new riders who aren't too concerned about a lively town. Kranjska Gora is a great spot to conserve funds as there simply aren't many places to spend your hard-earned cash. So enjoy the quiet life instead and embrace long, chilled out evenings watching the sunset over the most Eastern ridges of the Italian Alps. 

Brauneck, Germany

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Brauneck is the ideal cash-conscious weekend getaway. If you happen to be in Munich (only 60km away) or around Bavaria, head to Brauneck to enjoy a short ski trip that won't break the bank. A quaint village with all the charm of a traditional mountain village, You can enjoy wide-open runs and tasty restaurants that offer easy-going and cheap German fare. 

 Zakopane, Poland

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Zakopane is an up and coming Polish ski destination and is home to several small ski areas. Kasprowy Wierch, 3km from the town centre, has high alpine skiing in two treeless bowls, which will keep riders of all abilities occupied for a day or two! Look after the pennies with top-level hospitality and purse-friendly accommodation in the form of hotels, hostels, private guesthouses, and pensions to suit all tastes and wallets.

Pamporovo, Bulgaria

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Pamporovo has a whopping 270 days of sunshine, so if you love bluebird skiing, this is the spot for you, but don't worry about snow quality; they have plenty of snowmaking machines, so you've always got top quality pistes on which to practise your skills. Pamporovo is an intermediate skier’s paradise, and there won't be much temptation to spend a fortune at apres-ski, what with there being only a few really reasonably priced bars and restaurants in the whole resort. Still, a good choice for those looking to get off the beaten track.

Wrapping up

So that’s a little overview of the best value ski resorts in Europe. What do you think? Are you ready to raid the piggy bank and spend only a few pennies on a fantastic holiday to one of these incredible destinations, reserved only for the most discerning, cash-conscious travellers? We’ll see you there for sure. Until then, happy planning!

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