Boutique ski

Catherine Cooper checks out the best small resorts in big ski areas across Europe


If you’re planning a ski break, it can be tempting to opt for one of the big-name resorts, whether it’s for the ease of booking or the promise of getting more for your money.

But look just a little further afield, and you’ll find plenty of smaller, lesser-known resorts attached to the same vast ski areas, offering a holiday at a gentler pace and often a lower budget — without compromising on slope access.

Vaujany, Alpe d’Huez, France

This traditional mountain village sits at 1,250 metres in front of the Grandes Rousses Massif, and is linked to the 250km ski area of Alpe d’Huez via cable car.

As well as plenty of charm, sunny Vaujany has top-of-the-range facilities such as an excellent sports centre with a huge pool, bowling alley and ice rink, and is easy to navigate on a series of outdoor escalators.

It’s a great option for different budgets too, with a wide variety of accommodation to choose from, although luxury-lovers might like to opt for Hotel le V with its 21 beautiful rooms and suites (some with fireplaces), a stylish restaurant and bar, plus a spa. Double rooms at Hotel le V from around £165 room only.

Canillo, Grandvalira, Andorra

With a relaxed, Spanish feel, Andorra’s Grandvalira ski area is home to a range of resorts to suit all tastes, as well 210km of pistes and everything from burgers and tapas to pop-up champagne and oyster bars.

But instead of opting for one of the larger and more well-known resorts, such as party central Pas de la Casa or sophisticated Grau Roig, Andorra’s oldest village Canillo provides a more relaxed place to stay, as well as super-fast access to the ski area via cable car.

Hotel Bonavida is a friendly, family-run hotel that is especially good for young families with rooms for up to five available and a play area. Double rooms from around £120 B&B.

Brixen im Thale, SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental, Austria

With its very own igloo village — including ice carvings by international artists and a suite where you can stay overnight — this spot in the Kitzbühel Alps is part of the SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental, with a total of 270km of slopes.

It’s a great destination for eco-minded skiers too, having been powered by 100 per cent green energy for more than 20 years, as well as being home to one of Austria’s first solar-powered lifts.

Traditional in feel with more than 80 family-owned mountain restaurants serving Tirolean favourites, other highlights in the areas include three fun parks and three toboggan runs.

Stay at the family-owned Hubertus properties where you can opt for a hotel room with wellness area or stylish apartments for up to eight people, most of which have private saunas. Double rooms from around £157 per night B&B or apartments for up to four people from around £225 per night.

Orelle, Val Thorens, France

Orelle, the little brother, of the Three Valleys, is better connected than ever after a new state-of-the-art lift opened last winter, linking it to Cime de Caron, the high point of the whole region at 3,200 metres. It is able to whisk 2,500 people an hour from the resort at 880 metres to the peak in just 25 minutes.

Orelle itself is made up of ten hamlets, offering a mixture of chalets and simple apartments, with its first hotel due to open next winter. It’s not the place to go if you’re looking for vibrant night life, but it’s an excellent budget option that gives you access to the 600km slopes of the vast Three Valleys region.

New this year is the Selecticimes apartment for up to 12 people. It has a cool Scandi vibe and is helpfully located above the tourist office and almost adjacent to the main lift. Selecticimes costs from around £1,450 per week.

Manigod, Aravis Mountains

Just 40 minutes from Lake Annecy, the pretty village of Manigod may be small but it has the most night skiing opportunities in the whole of Savoie Mont Blanc, as well as being ski-linked to its bigger neighbour, La Clusaz, creating an 125km area. If that’s not enough, you can opt for the Aravis pass covering 220km.

Most of the runs in Manigod itself are tree-lined, providing sheltered ski slopes, especially suited to beginners and families with young children. Enjoy locally made Reblochon cheese, explore the Caves du Paccaly or hang out in the urban cool Lo Garajo coffee shop.

Brand new this winter, the Hameau de l’Ours residence offers luxury apartments for up to eight people and sits just opposite the base of the ski area, including a wellness centre with indoor swimming pool and spa. Apartments sleeping four cost from £1,272 per week including flexiplus Eurotunnel with Peak Retreats.

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