Big-name resorts boast vast ski areas that undoubtedly look impressive on paper, but even experts in the best shape of their life would struggle to cover this much terrain on one ski holiday.
There is a tendency to gravitate towards huge ski regions with their hundreds of kilometres of piste, pricey mega resorts, large outdoor events, and top-notch international advertising campaigns.
Some small ski resorts may lack the huge variety of terrain, but in reality only a portion of vast areas are ever used. Instead, smaller resorts focus on the essentials of skiing: well-groomed slopes, affordable lift passes, and a family-friendly atmosphere.
Andreas Kleinlercher, manager of the lift company St. Jakob im Defreggental in the Tyrol says small resorts are eager to provide good quality slopes, in fact they put the same effort into grooming as bigger resorts. The small resort of St. Jakob im Defreggental, with its 54 kilometres of slopes, was awarded the Tyrolean seal of quality for excellent piste conditions.
Many smaller resorts may lack the huge variety of terrain, but in reality only a portion of vast areas are ever used
Many skiers, particularly families, appreciate the convenience of small ski resorts. Marlene Hechl, hotel manager of Hotel Hechl at Tauplitz, explains, “It is easy to meet and find people even without making appointments. Parents may leave their kids alone and they don't get lost, which is definitely a great advantage for them.”
The resort of Tauplitz in Austria features 40 kilometres of slopes and 19 lifts. It is a small, charming all-round ski resort with reliable snow conditions, a good variety of gentle and challenging runs, and proves particularly popular with families.
Short distances between accommodation and the lifts is a major advantage. In small resorts, runs end directly in the villages and all the amenities are within short walking distances, so there is no need to get in the car. Regular visitors also appreciate the more personal approach and they often get to know their waiters, receptionists, and lift assistants by name.
Many skiers, particularly families, appreciate the short distances between accommodation and the lifts
Elm, located in Eastern Switzerland, has a reputation for its friendly, laid-back atmopshere. It boasts 35 kilometres of well-groomed slopes. Beginners, families and first-class ski racers find excellent conditions.
Families feel particularly welcome in smaller, relaxed resorts such as Rotwand in Italy. Christian Tschurtschenthaler, marketing manager of the lift company Sextner Dolomiten AG, explains, “Over the years we have developed services for families in Rotwand, such as our reindeers (the only ones in Italy), gigantic snowmen, winter playgrounds, and kids’ menus.” More than 16 kilometres of gentle and intermediate slopes make up the intimate family resort, which is also within easy reach of the Dolomiti Superski with its 1200 kilometres of pistes.
Smaller resorts don’t necessarily mean smaller ski areas: Montgenevre, on the Italian border, is one of France’s smallest resorts and is directly linked to the Milky Way ski domain, with its 400 kilometres of pistes, and offers a wide choice of terrain for all levels of skier and snowboarder.
Smaller resorts don’t necessarily mean smaller ski areas . . . one of France's smallest resorts has access to 400km of terrain
On the whole, smaller ski areas offer a good value for money with affordable lift tickets, accommodation, and dining out at restaurants or mountain huts. Attractive discounts for children, families or other groups are offered, and sometimes kids ski for free.
One-day lift tickets for adults cost € 31,50 at Montgenevre, €32 at Elm, €33 at Tauplitz, €36 at St. Jakob im Defreggental and €37 at Rotwand. In contrast, Chamonix charges €49,50, Soelden €52,50, and Gstaad €59. The cheapest season pass of the featured resorts is available at Tauplitz and St. Jakob im Defreggental for €335, while Ski Amadé, Austrias biggest skiing area, sells it for €455.
Younger crowds may find smaller resorts less attractive. Après-ski is limited, concerts and lively nightclubs are rarely found, but most small resorts do have a couple of late-night bars and even a disco.
Top Five small ski resorts:
1. Montgenevre, France
2. Tauplitz, Austria
3. Rotwand, Italy
4. Elm, Switzerland
5. St. Jakob im Defreggental, Austria
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