Although there are many good reasons to go with the big name ski resorts there are many lesser-known resorts that can give their bigger neighbours a run for their money when it comes to value and all-round satisfaction. Here, with the help from the guys over at Crystal Ski, are seven magnificent ‘hidden gems’ that are worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a change…
Obertauern is Austria's only purpose-built resort where you can ski to and from the door of most of its modern, chalet-style hotels – and then head out to sample the lively après ski in the resort centre.
Originally just a mountain pass, Obertauern is the highest resort in the Salzburgerland, sitting on the edge of the tree-line, and is now known as Austria's snowiest winter sports destination. The scenic peaks of the Tauern range surround the pass, allowing the lifts to fan out from a central point, creating a superb natural circuit which can be skied in either direction.
Snow conditions are all-important, of course, and so far this winter the snow in Obertauern has been excellent and its snow depths stand at a very healthy 180cm on the lower slopes and 220cm at the top.
With a superb variety of terrain - including great off-piste options - and great childcare facilities, this is an ideal choice for families and mixed ability groups.
- Circle the village clockwise or anti-clockwise on the famous Tauern Circuit, a mix of red, blue and green runs.
- Great for mixed ability groups, with easy blues by the Edelweiss lift and steep blacks by the Gamsleiten lift.
- Celebrate an excellent day’s skiing in one of the many huts and bars, like the famously funky Qu-Bar.
La Clusaz, France
La Clusaz in the northern French Alps is probably one of the prettiest ski villages in France and is quietly climbing to the top of many skiers’ ‘favourite’ list. It’s certainly loved here at Snow! The centre has a range of boutique shops and a 200-year-old church, so there’s bags of character here.
The ski area is pretty special too. It's well-suited to families and beginners, with some good pistes to get you started, as well as some more challenging runs for those who are more experienced. Book with Crystal and you’ll get a local lift pass included with your holiday.
La Clusaz has an excellent snow record and has already has nearly 3 metres on its top slopes. There’s 125km of piste available in the local ski area and a grand total of 210km if you include the neighbouring resort of Grand Bonard, which combined make up the Aravis ski area.
- Authentic and charming village with a lovely community feel.
- Watch for the beautiful pink glow on the Aravis range at sunset.
- Try the free snow-kart sessions or head over to Grand Bornand for a crack at a biathlon – a blend of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
La Tania, France
La Tania is a great family resort and a good-value base for skiing in the Three Valleys. With a perfect location between Courchevel and Meribel, there’s easy access to both resorts.
It’s truly ski-in, ski-out, with snow cannons ensuring that the runs back to resort are kept in good condition throughout the season – not that they are much needed this winter!
There are some good-value bars and restaurants at the foot of the piste where you can enjoy a nice lunch or a quiet evening, along with a deli, bakery and supermarket for everything you might need.
Accommodation-wise, depending on what type of stay you are after, you can choose between a Crystal catered chalet and a handful of self-catering apartments.
- A quieter, cheaper alternative to the better-known resorts in the Three Valleys that’s ideal for families.
- Ski-in, ski-out accommodation close to all the resort’s bars, restaurants and shops.
- A perfect location between the resorts of Courchevel and Meribel, with easy access to both their ski areas.
The drive up to Pila from the Aosta Valley has to be one of the most spectacular in the Alps – as the road climbs, the valley drops away below and the imposing Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Mont Blanc come into sight.
Popular with intermediate skiers, the ski area is mainly made up of red runs, with a few black runs and some good off-piste. It also has superb snow-making equipment and some beautiful tree skiing. Higher up, you’ll find cruisey open areas with great pockets of powder.
Huge recent snowfalls make it a good snow-sure choice this winter.
- Lots of good tree-lined slopes and beautiful views of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.
- Excellent snow record and superb snowmaking.
- A car-free resort with a vibrant après scene.
Considered by many to be Europe's best-kept ski secret, the area of Kronplatz offers world-class skiing for all abilities, with links to the wider Sella Ronda and Dolomiti Superski areas. It’s made up of small villages and towns that surround the ski area’s 'panetone', shaped exactly as it’s named.
The area is extremely well kept and has no fewer than 20 gondolas to whisk you up the mountain. The village of San Vigilio is fairly quiet, with a few shops and some excellent restaurants and just one après bar, all set around a picturesque church. However, you can get the ski bus to nearby Riscone and a taxi back for a livelier night out.
- Long, scenic runs for all abilities, with great snowmaking and grooming.
- Speedy lifts to the slopes, which are generally quiet.
- Access to the 1,200km of slopes on the Dolomiti Superski area.
Serre Chevalier, France
Stretched across three different valleys, Serre Chevalier has more than 250km of varied and uncrowded slopes to suit all ski abilities, from beginner to advanced. Set in the Southern Alps, the resort is packed full of character and renowned for its sunshine record.
Trees cover two thirds of the ski area and the mountain scenery is spectacular, so you can expect some elegant tree-lined runs. Look for accommodation in Chantemerle, Villeneuve and Monêtier les Bains, the three main villages spread across 8km. All are traditionally French and deliver all the character you would expect.
- Pretty, sunny resort that’s full of characterful accommodation and restaurants with great hospitality.
- Large, uncrowded ski area that spans three valleys and has a multitude of runs for all abilities.
- Expert skiers can enjoy an extra challenge with extensive off-piste and the famous Luc Alphand Olympic black run.
Not an obvious choice for a ski holiday, perhaps, as it lacks the big verticals of Alpine resorts. But if you want something genuinely different, Finland has it – the days may be short but the rolling landscape of tundra, bathed in an ethereal Arctic light creates a magical atmosphere.
With the largest beginner area in the country and a huge selection of activities, Ruka has been awarded the title of Finland’s best ski resort. The skiing is excellent with quiet slopes – boasting some of Finland’s deepest snow so far this winter - the village is attractive, and the resort has a welcoming character.
In Ruka centre you’ll find bars, restaurants and good quality hotels within a stone’s throw of the lifts. Just outside the village centre are traditional log cabins, with wood fires and private saunas.
- Loads of activities off the slopes, such as reindeer herding and cross-country skiing.
- Traditional cabins based around a family-oriented, pedestrianised village.
- Largest beginners’ ski area in Finland, along with two snowparks, a superpipe and boardercross course.
For details or to book holidays at any of these ‘hidden gem’ resorts, go to crystalski.co.uk