How to Ski European Pistes for Less
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How to Ski European Pistes for Less

Can’t stomach the price of staying at Zermatt? One expert suggests staying on the Italian side of the Matterhorn and transferring to the Plateau Rosa cable car to ski down to Zermatt. You’ll be on the same ski pass.
Can’t stomach the price of staying at Zermatt? One expert suggests staying on the Italian side of the Matterhorn and transferring to the Plateau Rosa cable car to ski down to Zermatt. You’ll be on the same ski pass.Credit…Josef Polleross for The New York Times

By Amy Tara Koch

Skiing in Europe can cost a pretty penny, especially if you stay at marquee resorts. Happily, the Alps are home to hundreds of ski-centric accommodations, many with budget-friendly price tags.

Here, experts offer up lesser known but equally charming destinations in Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria, with lodging suggestions and approximate nightly rates. Many are family-run hotels, offering “half-board” pricing that includes both breakfast and dinner. And remember, traveling midweek and during off-peak times is always the way to nab the most affordable lodging.


In Zermatt, at the foot of the spectacular Matterhorn Mountain, you’ll find an idyllic village, fine-dining options and some of the longest runs in the Alps. You’ll also find sky-high prices. A rental chalet or a five-star hotel, like Cervo Zermatt, could easily run you$1,212 a night.

For a less pricey way to access Zermatt, Dan Sherman, chief marketing officer of, suggests staying on the Italian side of the Matterhorn in the Breuil-Cervinia ski area.

“Since Cervinia is lift-linked to Zermatt, skiers can simply travel to the top of the Plateau Rosa via the Plan Maison gondola and then transfer to the Plateau Rosa cable car and ski down to Zermatt on the same ski pass,” he said.

Chris Epskamp, European director of the ski-focused website Powderhounds, agrees that Cervinia is a cost-effective way to ski Zermatt. He added that some of Europe’s best off-piste, free-ride ski terrain is also in this region.

In town, you’ll find hotels like Hotel Edelweiss ($222) and the just-renovated Hotel Europa ($238). A few miles away, Les Neiges D’Antan ($199) is a stylish destination tucked into the pastoral forest of Valtournenche.


The land of World Cup descents and alpine eateries, Cortina d’Ampezzo is considered by many to be the jewel in the Dolomites’ crown. But you don’t need to stay in this tony enclave to tap into splendid alpine culture.

Pete Kovacevic, international director for the tour operator Alpine Adventures, favors Trentino’s Val di Fassa region, specifically the town of Canazei.

“Canazei is a great base to tackle the Sellaronda circuit, the iconic 40-kilometer circular ski route around the Sella mountain range,” he said, adding that quality lodging can be found at Hotel La Perla ($155) or Hotel Astoria ($286).

Mr. Epskamp also likes Val di Fassa, particularly for the groomed runs of the Catinaccio and Ciampac-Buffaure ski areas, and the access to off-piste ski routes that run down the side of the Sella massif into Passo Pordoi and the village of Colfosco in Alta Badia.

His lodging of choice? A farm stay. “Agriturismo is a superb way to have a cultural experience whilst skiing in Europe,” he said. For $75 a night plus breakfast, he said, “the cozy Agritur Majon Da Mont near Pozza di Fassa is a perfect example.”


Skiing France’s 3 Vallees means tapping into 372 milesof interconnected ski runs that weave through eight resorts — from the glaciers in Val Thorens, through the frosted pine forests of Meribel and over to Orelle — with a single lift pass. Courchevel is where the posh perch — think $1,878 for a night at L’Apogee or $2,044 at Cheval Blanc.

Our three expects concur that Brides-les-Bains, the region’s lowest altitude resort, is a less pricey way to access this scenic terrain.

Mercure Brides Les Bains Grand Hotel des Thermes ($122) and cheap and cheery Savoy Hôtel ($99) are walking distance to local restaurants and Le Grand Spa Thermal, a wellness center with pool and massage treatments. In the morning, board the Olympe gondola (Brides les Bains housed the Olympic Village in 1992), which will deposit you in Meribel, a gateway to the larger 3 Valles area.

St. Anton am Arlberg offers the same big-mountain terrain without the cost of nearby Lech.
St. Anton am Arlberg offers the same big-mountain terrain without the cost of nearby Lech.Credit…Getty images


A favorite of the international glitterati and royalty (Princess Diana famously taught her sons to ski here), Lech am Arlberg wears its ritziness like a glittering tiara. Properties like Hotel Almhof Schneider ($1,1240) and Severins ($1,094) dazzle with five-star amenities.

Mr. Sherman likes St. Anton, which is also connected to Lech on the same ski pass.

The largest mountain in the Arlberg region, St. Anton combines big-mountain terrain with one of Europe’s rowdiest après-ski scenes, he said. “The party at Mooserwirt and Krazy Kanguruh can go well into the evening.”

Best lodging bets: The centrally located Hotel Ehrenreich ($125), the modern Hotel Anton ($175) or Hotel Post ($220), in the heart of the pedestrian zone

To Mr. Epskamp, old fashioned ski-in, ski-out inns like Hotel Edelweiss ($299) in Zürs — only 300 meters, or about 985 feet, above Lech — deliver excellent value.

“From Zurs, you can tackle the famous White Ring circuit [a 22-kilometer route moving from the picturesque peaks of Zug and Oberlech] and avoid the crowds that congregate in Lech.”

This story originally appeared in the New York Times on January 29, 2020.