When it comes to great-value family ski holidays, it’s hard to beat Eastern Europe. In years past, the resorts there might have been cheap because of poor lifts and food that was always running out (apart from the potatoes). But all that has changed – huge investment in hotels and lifts, and even the construction of whole new resorts, means they’re worth a visit. The mountains are very different from the craggy Alps, the resorts are colourful in a mid-European way, the ski schools are proudly English-speaking, and transfers tend to be short.
You won’t find huge ski areas like in the French Alps, but they can be perfect if you like to potter about pleasant slopes, and if you want the children to learn at a modest cost. There are very cheap lift-passes, and through tour operators you can get learner ski-packs (lift-pass, lessons, skis/boots) at a price way below what you’d find for the component parts elsewhere. And with the exception of Slovenia, the following countries are all outside the Eurozone, which is currently expensive for holidaying Brits.
On the edge of the historic town of Bansko in the south-west of Bulgaria, the newly developed resort of the same name has a growing selection of smart hotels and apartments, almost all of them slope-side. Our pick is the swanky Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena with its lovely spa. Alternatively, Borovets is a popular modern resort with runs for all levels and some great ski schools; for accommodation, try the Hotel Rila.
Skiing and Dracula – a perfect combination for ghoulish-minded but sporty kids! This is where the count is said to have lived, and children love the trip to his supposed home, spooky Bran Castle. The resort of Poiana Brasov in the Transylvania region has limited but pretty slopes that are perfect for youngsters to learn on. Of an evening, there’s child-friendly fun such as rustic barbecues, gipsy music and sleigh-rides. The Sport Hotel & Spa, right by the nursery slopes, has a free children’s club for ages 3–7 afternoon and evening five days a week. Note that the transfer time from Bucharest airport is not far short of three hours.
This country has entered the fray as an international ski-haunt. In the past decade the resort of Tatranska Lomnica in the High Tatras Mountains has invested €11m in adding pistes, including Slovakia’s longest run (6.5km), a chairlift, snow-making, a children’s ski school and slopes, rental facilities, night-skiing and bars. There are pretty runs through the trees and a good learning area. It's just a 20-minute drive from Poprad airport and has budget flights, so it’s easy to do it yourself with a hire-car.
Just south of the border with Austria, and little more than an hour from Ljubljana airport (served by easyJet, among others), the pretty resort of Kranjska Gora, Slovenia’s biggest ski area, sits in the beautiful Julian Alps. Its hotels are right on the slopes, which are geared towards learners, though there’s a World Cup run for better skiers. The Hotel Kompas has an indoor pool and children’s pool, a playroom, a games room and a free Mini Club for 4-12-year-olds.
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