Whether you’re an après-ski party animal or an adrenaline-seeking snowboarder, it’s the question on everyone’s lips this winter. While nobody knows exactly what’s around the corner, we’ve looked at current guidelines and regulations to help you consider, plan and book your winter 2020-2021 ski holiday. We’ve also added a few recommendations on where to go. We might be in lockdown now, but it’s always nice to dream and plan ahead.
It’s likely that ski resorts will be open in 2021. At the moment, Germany, France and Italy are seeking a Europe-wide agreement to keep slopes closed until 10 January at the earliest. Austria and Switzerland are against the idea, however, with the Swiss Health Minister saying that they will keep resorts open as long as they have strict safety measures in place.
Unfortunately, an intercontinental ski break looks unlikely – even in 2021. The USA, which is famous for resorts like Aspen Snowmass, Telluride and Breckenridge, is closed to UK tourists. Canada is also closed to Brits, so we’ll have to wait a little longer to visit resorts like Whistler, Banff and Tremblant.
One of the best bits of a skiing holiday is the after-party. This year après-ski is going to look a bit different. Skyscanner reports that the slopeside cafés in Austria, usually known for their buzzing parties, are now ‘more like coffee bars with subdued music.’ Most resorts are offering a reduced programme. Instead of packed bars and lively DJ sets, think relaxed outdoor gatherings and small indoor events with limited capacity. Every resort will have safety measures in place to keep the virus at bay, following government guidelines in their own country. The best way to work out if your resort is safe is to visit the official website and find out what they’re doing.
Limiting the spread of COVID-19 is all about avoiding big crowds. If you usually go to a popular ski resort, why not choose a smaller, lesser-known one this year? Smaller resorts in lesser-known regions are likely to have the best ski deals for 2021. As they’re less popular than the Alpine ones, they’re also likely to have fewer crowds.
Val Thorens, in Les 3 Vallées, is an example of a resort that’s going above and beyond. As well as winning the title of Europe’s best ski resort for the fifth year running, it’s also implemented a “Clean United Label” across the resort. Hotels and accommodation displaying this label show a commitment to respecting coronavirus-fighting measures.
Another French resort, Pays de Gex, has partnered with the French safety label COVID-FREE. Two of its hotels have already been certified and it hopes to become the first fully accredited ski resort. Meanwhile, Austrian ski areas like Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn have been regularly testing their staff since September.
Smaller resorts in lesser-known regions are likely to have the best ski deals for 2021. As they’re less popular than the Alpine ones, they’re also likely to have fewer crowds. Bansko is renowned for its reliable snow and excellent value for money. The atmosphere is more light-hearted and cheerful than glamorous, so it’s a great option for families. There are 18 ski slopes in the resort, with a good selection of blue and orange for beginners as well as challenging red and black pistes for adrenaline hunters. You can read their COVID-19 guidelines on the official BanksoSki website.
Along with its cousins, Bansko and Pamporovo, the ski resort of Borovets is a great choice for the bargain hunter. A lively, cheap and cheerful town, Borovets is the oldest ski resort in Bulgaria. Nestled at around 1,300m in the Rila Mountains, it’s comprised of three separate zones. The upper half of the mountain is largely above the tree line and offers plenty of wide open pistes, most of which are fairly gentle – ideal for beginners and intermediates. The ski instruction here is top notch and the après-ski is lively, so it’s particularly popular with party animals.
The oldest ski resort in Bulgaria, Borovets is huddled in pine forests among the highest mountain range on the Balkan Peninsula. The largest Alpine resort in the country, it boasts the wide, open pistes, which become tree-lined as you descend. The town is lively with bars generally catering to a mass-market crowd, (there’s plenty of happy hours and ‘two for ones’). Overall, Borovets is cheap and cheerful; a ski resort that will appeal most to beginners and early intermediates – along with those who enjoy a good knees-up after dark.
One of the largest ski resorts in the Pyrenees, Baqueira/Beret is quickly developing a reputation as an excellent winter fun destination. As well as plenty of snow – yes, in Spain – you can also enjoy delicious Catalan cuisine. Another great value resort, it has plenty of great beginner zones on the Bosque plateau. On days with heavy powder, the bowls here could easily give the Alps a run for their money. Snowboarders, take note. Read more on the official Baqeuira/Beret blog.
Poiana Brasov, Romania
The most popular resort in Romania, Poiana-Brasov offers around nine miles of marked terrain. Its small size means it’s best suited to beginners or families, and with floodlit night skiing on offer too, you can maximise your time on the snow. Off the slopes, you can try winter camping and snowshoeing in the surrounding forests and after dark the bars offer cheap and cheerful food and drink.
Poiana Brasov is the biggest and most luxurious mountain resort in Romania. Poiana Brasov was voted the most affordable European ski resort in 2008. Tens of millions in investments in recent years. Total length of ski domain is 24.5 km. Located deep in the Carpathians, yet very close to a major city, for easy access. The best known and internationally visited ski resort in Romania, close to Count Dracula’s castle. Purpose built in the communist era to bring in hard currency with more pleasant apartment blocks than in many French resorts. Find more on the official site.
The pistes of popular Poiana-Brasov are perfect for beginners and intermediates, and the recently added eight-seater gondola has improved the somewhat dated lift system. The resort may be small and somewhat rough round the edges, but it’s cheap and cheerful and has been popularised by budget package holidaymakers. Advanced skiers won’t find much to challenge them here, but away from the piste you can relax in a horse-drawn sleigh, or hit the numerous bars and restaurants.
Turkey isn’t all golden beaches and buzzing cities. It also has ski resorts like Uludağ – the country’s oldest Alpine resort is sometimes known as the St Moritz of Turkey. The season is quite short, lasting from December to late March, but during that time it gets the most reliable powder in the country. There are 28km of slopes, with 24 lifts moving guests up and down the mountain. The smooth, tree-lined slopes are best for intermediate skiiers. There’s also a terrain park and 20km of cross-country. Ski run tickets are limited to 3,000 for the year, and you can buy them from their online shop.