Stress-free ski: alternative resorts to get you off the beaten track

Seated couple in ski wear, alone, enjoying mountain viewWe love the Alps. Really. Nowhere in Europe says ‘skiing’ like the Alps. They’re deservedly popular, year after year – so majestic, so popular, so … comfortable. But if you’re an independent-minded soul, looking for new horizons and fresh snow, maybe Bulgaria, Norway or the Black Forest will be just the ticket. Here we present three of Europe’s other perfect pistes …

Black Forest, Germany

Top of piste with cobalt blue sky, deep drifts and ski lift
Feldberg is the Black Forest’s best known ski resort, with 28 ski lifts and 36 slopes

Who is it for?

In a word, everyone. The resorts of southern Hochschwartzwald have everything from family runs to expert and pro-level pistes and ski jumps.

Where to go

Around the highest peak, Feldberg, are 36 slopes, 28 ski lifts and 120km of cross-country tracks.

What else is there?

Christmas markets, snowshoeing, sledding, hiking, spas, museums (from clocks to clothes to mineral mines) and on-mountain après that’s not just cosy but positively gemütlich.

How to get there

From Stuttgart it’s just under two hours on the A81 Autobahn to Feldberg, the largest ski area in the Black Forest. Fly from Heathrow with Eurowings or British Airways.
Stuttgart itself has plenty to detain travellers, including Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums, mineral baths, world-class galleries and a zoo/botanical garden.

Travel guides on Heathrow.com

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Book with Eurowings

Pirin Mountains, Bulgaria

Bottom of ski run with lifts and blue sky
Perfectly manicured piste at Bansko, in Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountains

Who is it for?

Beginners and intermediates. Anyone looking for breathtaking mountain vistas that won’t cost the earth.

Where to go

Bansko is the top resort in the stunning Pirin Mountains. There are 14 lifts starting from the popular resort village with its stone buildings and cobbled streets. There are nursery and intermediate slopes.
It’s claimed that on a clear day you can see the Aegean from the mountains’ upper regions. Certainly, what they lack in stature they more than make up for in wild beauty. Meanwhile there’s après aplenty in Bansko’s pubs (mehanas), boutiques, wine bars and pizza parlours.

What else is there?

The wider Pirin region is rightly famous for its hundreds of glacial lakes, lush valleys, rugged peaks and waterfalls – as well as for the hospitality and warmth of the locals.

How to get there

Bansko is a little over two hours south of the capital, Sofia, via the A3 motorway and Route 19. Fly from Heathrow with British Airways or Bulgaria Air.

Sofia is a laid-back city with plenty of walkable attractions – including historic churches and museums – and stands at the base of Bulgaria’s most-visited mountain, Vitosha.

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Book now with British Airways

Norway

Lower slopes with skiers, piste machinery and pine trees
Skiing doesn’t stop at sundown for Norwegian resorts like Trysil

You don’t have to go far in Norway to find skiing opportunities. Oslo’s Vinterpark is just a 20-minute metro ride from the city centre. It has 10km of pistes, from green to black, and stays open until 10pm most days (floodlights help get around the short winter days). Nearby there’s a ski jump and the city also offers a free 2km corkscrew sledge run and open-air ice rink.

But you’re looking for adventure, no? So we’re off to Trysil.

Who is it for?

Families; anyone (of any ability) who wants to avoid overcrowded pistes.

Where to go

Trysil is Norway’s largest ski resort, but it’s less crowded than the big Alpine centres. It offers a long season (November to April) and caters for all abilities. There’s plenty of ski-in, ski-out accommodation and English is widely (and fluently) spoken. The floodlights enable night skiing three nights a week, lifts are modern and plentiful, and there’s even a “snow guarantee”.

What else is there?

How about a sleigh ride through the forest? Or ‘indoor surfing’ in the pool at the Radisson Blu? It’s a family-friendly kind of place so the après isn’t exactly riotous but there are plenty of relaxed restaurants and bars in the villages.

How to get there

Trysil is two-and-a-half hours by road from Oslo. Fly direct from Heathrow with SAS Scandinavian Airlines or British Airways.
Oslo itself is vibrant and cosmopolitan, mixing medieval buildings with modern architecture and green spaces. There are plenty of cultural attractions (art lovers shouldn’t miss the Munch Museum) as well as nightclubs, cafes and chic boutiques.

Travel guides on Heathrow.com

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Book now with SAS Scandinavian Airlines

Have you found an unsung gem of little-known skiing nirvana? Want to share your favourite hotspots and notspots? Let us know in the comments.

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