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Secret ski resorts in Europe

Seasoned skiers and novices alike often head to the usual suspects when it comes to their break on the piste. But the popular resorts can be expensive and busy. We take a look at the lesser known spots with charm and great skiing…

Les Houches, France
An authentic French village complete with narrow cobbled streets, a picture postcard-perfect clock tower, and pretty tree-lined runs, skiers lured to this part of the Alps are all too often distracted by neighbouring Chamonix and disregard this humble little resort as a holiday option. But Les Houches is not to be underrated. The resort offers some fantastic skiing and hosts the World Cup downhill, and while it doesn’t keep up with the après scene of other French Alpine resorts, it’s got its own intimate feel with a handful of lively bars, restaurants, and cosy cafes.

Schladming, Austria
With a mighty Olympic black leading into the heart of the resort, and fantastic connections to three other mountains, Schladming is a spectacular Austrian resort for keen skiers who feel at ease gliding down a red run. The resort has hosted ski championships over the years, but remains relatively undiscovered by British skiers and instead is favoured by Austrians, but this adds to its authentic and traditional charm. It’s a relatively low-level resort at tree line and provides a scenic wintry backdrop to your ski holiday. By night the town transforms into an atmospheric hub where you’ll find Austrian revellers out and about until the early hours crawling the streets in their clunky ski boots.

Pamporovo, Bulgaria
Set amidst a magical winter landscape of pine trees, Pamporovo sits on the Bulgaria-Greece border and is an enchanting resort ideal for skiers keen to get to the slopes but avoid the high fares of western Europe. Pamporovo’s location means it benefits from 270 days of sunshine, and while this means the resort becomes heavily reliant on snow machines towards the end of the season, the visibility makes for a great day on the pistes. The resort’s gentle runs and laid-back atmosphere attracts first-time skiers and is a fab option for families who are perfectly happy to take to the slopes in the morning and potter around town and soak up the stunning mountainous backdrop for the rest of the day.

Les Carroz, France
A tranquil little resort found in the heart of France’s Grand Massif, Les Carroz offers something for all types of skier with excellent links to Flaine, as well as other mountain ranges that make up Le Grand Massif. Families are tempted by the slopes with their wide and gentle pistes that run into the charming French village, and there are an abundance of great facilities from crèches to ice skating to kids clubs on offer to keep little ones entertained while you sip a chocolate chaud on the slopes. Those keen to find a vibrant après scene in Les Carroz will be able to locate it if they search hard enough, but if the buzzing bars of La Folie Douche are what you’re looking for, you won’t find it in Les Carroz.

Alagna, Italy
Italy’s mountain ranges on the border of Switzerland offer some top class skiing. The picturesque village of Alagna sits right on the border and boasts a quaint stone church and wooden farmhouses for an authentic touch. The skiing here has a big reputation for some of the best powder in the country, and the resort is also linked to Champoluc and Gressoney, but lacks in crowds, despite its near-vertical runs. For those keen to continue the holiday feeling well into the evening, Alagna may not be the spot for you, with a limited offering of après bars, but if you’re serious about your skiing, you’ll be more than happy with an early night.

Murren, Switzerland
This top resort shines in both winter and summer months, as skiers who want to get their dose of adrenaline sport in the summer can still enjoy skiing on the glaciers of Wetterhorn and Monch. Its views are unrivalled in Switzerland, with vistas gazing over the valleys to craggy rock faces and glaciers. There is also the notorious Schilthorn run which is a 1,300m vertical black and a setting for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which offers an exhilarating run and spectacular views. It’s well connected to Wengen and Grindelwald across the valley and so is an excellent choice for some serious skiing.

Baqueira Beret, Spain
The Spanish Pyrenees is typically associated with its extensive hiking routes, quaint Spanish villages, and relaxed lifestyle during the sleepy summer months. But come winter time, when it is blanketed in thick snow, this part of the Pyrenees transforms to a fantastic ski destination, and best of all, while it is popular among Spaniards, it’s almost unknown among skiers outside of Spain and hardly frequented by Brit skiers. With wide slopes where the piste is your own, cheaper rates than the top French destinations, and a piste map boasting 146km of runs, it’s a hidden gem of the Pyrenees with great skiing for anyone who fancies themselves an intermediate.