Three large, but largely overlooked, areas that come to mind are Italy’s Monterosa, Austria’s Hochkönig and Switzerland’s Adelboden-Lenk. All unusually combine attractive villages and lower prices, with extensive slopes that beg to be explored. What’s more, they are easy to reach.
If you find the big name resorts overcrowded, why not give these alternatives a go?
Monterosa, Italy – off-piste delight or relaxed cruising
With two resorts an hour from the Aosta Valley, and Cervinia over the hill, it’s a wonder the Monterosa ski area is not teeming with visitors. Yet, Italy’s three-valley ski area is blissfully quiet mid-week. On a piste scale, it doesn’t come close to France’s monster; but if you want simplicity and a sense of travel the 135km network of satisfyingly long runs is perfect for intermediates.
It stretches 17km between Champoluc and Alagna. Experts swoon at the off-piste possibilities Punta Indren above Alagna is a fine attraction with its smart new cable car; as well as heli-skiing adventures on Monte Rosa – Italy’s second highest peak. Most visitors stay in Champoluc or Gressoney La Trinité. You’ll find relaxed, small-scale farming villages with a decent range of hotels, quiet bars and rustic huts. If you prefer more seclusion, head east to Alagna from Milan. The runs here are the most testing in the Monterosa area.
Another option would be to stay in Champoluc.
Hochkönig, Austria – adventurous intermediates loving the miles, not the crowds
If you want a cheap beer in relaxed surroundings, the Hochkönig-High King Mountain valley is only an hour from Salzburg. The linked ski area is bigger than Schladming and included on the Ski Amadé regional lift pass – yet the 150km slopes and 34 lifts attract far fewer Brits than you might expect.
The mainly north-facing runs span a series of wooded peaks between Mühlbach and Maria Alm. They are reliably snow sure, uncrowded and generally well served by fast lifts. So adventurous intermediates can cover lots of ground here if they wish. The four main villages differ in size and character, but all are unspoiled retreats where you will find simple chalets and quality hotels. For a jolly aprés-ski scene and good restaurants, you’ll want Maria Alm – the most developed village. Tiny Hintherthal is better for those early nights, easy starts.
Adelboden, Switzerland – Love chalet-style villages and best of the three for beginners and children
The Germans love Adelboden, with its wooden chalets beneath impressive scenery, just as the Brits love the nearby Jungfrau. It’s the archetypal Swiss winter holiday for many families; the 185km slopes deserving exploration by all abilities and keen piste bashers.
The resort has a cult following as a World Cup slalom venue too, with some testing descents. The ski area is made up of several areas; the main Geils slopes shared with Lenk in the next valley and a handful of small unlinked sectors worth a look.
While most runs appeal to intermediates best, the few blacks merit their rating and the off-piste potential is hugely underrated. Keep the kids amused too, with the resort’s numerous off-slope activities. Bern is an hour away, the closest airport.
By Wendy King, the web editor/assistant book editor of Where to Ski and Snowboard