The rise of the DIY holiday has shaken up the ski industry in the past few years, and there has been a corresponding increase in the number of independent companies and one-off boutique hotels being set up.
As a rule, these places are run by passionate ex-seasonaires or natives intensely familiar with local resorts and determined to offer a unique experience far removed from that of the main tour operators.
The advantages for the customer are obvious. Not only are you likely to be in the hands of people who know their ski area well and have a direct link to the mainline of resort life, but you’re also likely to have more in common with your fellow guests.
DRAGON LODGE, TIGNES, FRANCE
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Grenoble
DETAILS: This independently owned and run lodge in Tignes has a great reputation, and has been setting the pace for over a decade. The chalet is in the Les Almes area of Tignes Le Lac, so it is about a minute’s walk to the nearest piste and all amenities. Dragon Lodge tailors each guest’s ideal holiday by starting with a basic B&B or half-board service, then adding on required extras such as kit hire, off-piste guiding and transfers. The most laid-back snowboarding holiday in the Alps? We reckon so.
PRICE: From €28pp.
SKI LODGE, ENGELBERG, SWITZERLAND
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Basel
DETAILS: Throw together a bustling communal vibe, a unique Swiss restaurant and five Swedes with an enviable knowledge of their chosen resort and what have you got? One of the finest ski hotels in the Alps – the Ski Lodge (pictured above). The atmosphere at this hotel really is unique, and you’re based right in the centre of town. Comprising 34 rooms, it offers mod cons such as wi-fiand cable TV, and a bar you won’t be able to drag yourself away from.
PRICE: From 90CHFpp (€59), including breakfast.
HOTEL NIVES, VAL GARDENA, ITALY
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Milan (Bergamo)
DETAILS: Hotel Nives opened in January last year and strikes a nice balance between flash boutique number and family run secret. The stone, wood and glass materials give it a lovely feel, and there are 11 luxurious suites. One of South Tyrol’s finest hotels, it boasts a spa and gourmet restaurant, and the Sella Ronda and Dolomiti Superski areas are both close at hand.
PRICE: From €130pp, half-board.
3 Best Resorts For Families
ST JOHANN, AUSTRIA
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Salzburg
DETAILS: When a place has more mountain restaurants than black runs, you can expect a gentler type of skiing. The lifts, ski school and creche are all within 100m of the town centre, and only an hour from Salzburg.
CLOSEST AIRPORTS: Oslo (Rygge and Torp)
DETAILS: This lovely little resort is worth the trek from the airport. The pistes are mellow and there are special family rates – kids under six ski free. The northern latitude also creates a unique winter wonderland atmosphere.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Pau
DETAILS: Arguably the best resort cuisine in Europe, just the right blend of expert and beginner terrain, and some great deals for kids. The best resort you’ve never heard of ?