TOP 5 UNDISCOVERED EUROPEAN SKI RESORTS
Betony Garner, Dynastar & Lange ambassador
If you are looking for somewhere new to ski or a change from the big resorts, there are hundreds of smaller resorts across Europe with something a little bit different to offer. Here are five of my favourite undiscovered resorts:
Although popular with the Swiss, Grimentz is still relatively undiscovered by Brits, despite now sharing its ski area with neighbouring Zinal to offer over 70 kms of runs.
Located above Sierre in the Val d’Anniviers, Grimentz is a pretty Alpine village, which is growing all the time. The village is a real mix of traditional chalets and new accommodation but the resort still has a great atmosphere with much of the new accommodation close to the main gondola, the Bendolla.
The best thing about Grimentz is the extensive off-piste options, including some tree skiing runs if the weather is bad. Away from the skiing, Chez Florioz on the piste just above the village is the place for a drink for après-ski, getting pretty lively especially at weekends. The staff are friendly, and it is the perfect place to share your ski day stories.
Closest airport: Geneva
Ax les Thermes, French Pyrenees
Just 1hr 30 from Toulouse airport in the French Pyrenees, Ax-les-Thermes is well worth a visit for a long weekend or mid-week ski.
With only 80km of pistes it isn't a massive ski area, but what it has is exciting tree skiing when the snow comes down and some unexpected long and steep descents. For families it has plenty of mixed ability runs and safe beginner areas.
There is some quirky additions to the resort - a thermal foot spa just opposite the gondola base with natural sulphuric waters for warming up skiers feet! And for something different, you can head for a day of cross country skiing in nearby Chioula or Beille.
Closest airport: Toulouse
Narvik is a small ski area in Norway, with stunning views on the groomed pistes. There are many good off-piste skiing options and one of Scandinavia's largest vertical drops.
What makes it special is that the skiing starts right in the town of Narvik with the main lift taking you up to a spectacular view from the top of the ski area. From this area you can walk up to the Tredjetoppen (third peak), the starting point for many of the off-piste routes.
A trip to Narvik is very different from any holiday in the Alps and can be combined with ski touring in the mountains nearby. On the Narvik mountain you can also join in organised toboggan rides or watch the Northern Lights from the top of the ski resort.
Closest airport: Harstad/Narvik Airport (Evenes)
Manigod is one of four resorts of the Lake Annecy Ski Resorts region in the Aravis mountains; just 20 minutes from Annecy, this is a real 'hidden gem'.
Manigod is a small old village where skiing taps in to the better-known resort of La Clusaz with its 130km of slopes. In Manigod itself, there are 25km of slopes, many of which are tree lined for those bad visibility days. The night skiing area is also one of the biggest in Savoie.
Off the slopes, the area is famous for its Reblochon cheese or you could take a ride on a 'paret' - a traditional wooden sledge which derives from the old village.
Closest airport: Geneva
Gressoney, in the Asota Valley is a great low-cost skiing option with some great freeride terrain.
With a cappuccino setting you back less than two euros and mouth-watering pizza and pasta just a fraction of the price of the big European resorts, it is a great option for a short break or week-long trip.
Gressoney is part of the Monterosa ski area - with 180 kilometers of groomed runs – and is 1 ¼ hours from Turin airport. The pistes are great for intermediates, with some spectacular scenery, and the off-piste will whet any freerider’s appetite, especially the routes from the Indren lift which go up to 3,275 meters.
The two villages, Gressoney-La-Trinité and Gressoney-Saint-Jean are both quiet places, but still have good options of hotels, restuarants and a few bars.
Closest airport: Turin