There are many advantages to heading to a smaller resort over a large one, and yet many stunning ski areas get overlooked for the big numbers on offer in the more commercial resorts. With generations of skiing holiday experience to draw on, this week we’re discussing why the size of your piste map matters less than how you use it.
I think most skiers and snowboarders have been there at some point, scanning through resorts looking at nothing before you’ve made sure there are ‘enough’ runs available. It’s something that can blind us to the other fantastic benefits of a particular resort and limit our options unnecessarily, and often arbitrarily.
“Bjorkliden in Lapland has just 5 lifts, but is one of the best off-piste ski regions in Europe with an unbeatable snow record and a vibrant après ski atmosphere.”
A well-rounded ski area that is suitable to your abilities and interests is important of course, but actually how often do you ski every run on a piste map? Some of the largest ski areas are so big that they literally take half a day to ski to the other side of, so you probably paid a premium to ski a third to a half of that 400km ski area, while the other two thirds to a half you probably only skied down once.
“Smaller ski resorts are exactly that, smaller; there are less hotel beds, less carparking and therefore there are simply less people on the slopes.”
And then of course, because it’s far more enjoyable skiing when you don’t have to get a damp piste map out of your pocket every five minutes, you might decide to head back to that same monster resort next year. But then if you’re coming back to the same resort, those big numbers don’t really matter, do they? You could ski two small resorts and end up skiing the same number of runs as if you'd done the same big resort two years in a row, while the smaller resorts are much easier to navigate and have much less risk of ending up stuck in the wrong valley when the lifts close!
Still not convinced you should ditch your triple figure ski map that you need a degree to unfold and can only be navigated by someone who has been to the resort at least 3 years in a row? Read on...
1. Small resorts are often quieter
Smaller ski resorts are exactly that, smaller; there are less hotel beds, less carparking and therefore there are simply less people on the slopes. Whether you’re a beginner on the snow, or an expert looking to carve up the slopes or surf the champagne powder, less people is always going to be a win. Plus, less people on the slopes means less people on the lifts, which means less time queuing and more time skiing.
Take Levi ski resort in Finland, Levi is Finland’s most popular ski resort and yet even in half term the slopes are quiet and lift queues are unheard of. Or Hemsedal ski resort, one of Norway’s most popular ski destinations, where you can still ski fresh powder after lunch if you know the right spots.
2. A smaller resort means less distance to the slopes
No one wants to walk far while wearing ski boots and carrying skies. Even snowboarders will admit it isn’t fun, because skiing and snowboarding gear is designed to keep you warm while you glide down a mountain, not slog across town to get to the slopes. A small resort usually means a small resort village which means you’re never far from the slopes. Not to mention that because all the accommodation is close to the slopes, you’re less likely to have to pay a premium for a ski-in/ski-out location.
With 68 slopes, Trysil ski resort is Norway’s largest ski resort and you can enjoy a luxurious, 4* ski-in/ski-out apartment with spa access from just £724 per person including flights and transfers!
3. Modern lifts and high-quality accommodation
Scandinavia’s ski resorts are perfectly sized to offer exceptional skiing experiences. The resorts aren’t managing sprawling slope areas and so they can invest in modern lift systems and the latest snow making facilities to get you to the top of the mountain faster and to guarantee slope conditions. The purpose-built resort centres have been designed with care and offer high-quality ski-in/ski-out locations or at most a couple of hundred meters to the nearest slope or lift.
4. A resort designed for you
Want great family facilities? Looking for dream off-piste conditions? Want a sumptuous spa to relax in after you finish skiing, or a vibrant village to explore, or activities to do alongside your skiing…? By choosing a small resort you can choose one that is best suited to you. Some big resorts are okay at everything, but a small resort is usually an expert in its field and can offer you exactly what you’re after.
Bjorkliden ski resort in Swedish Lapland, with just 5 lifts and 28 slopes it would be overlooked by many advanced skiers, when it is actually one of the best off-piste ski regions in Europe with an unbeatable snow record and a vibrant après ski atmosphere.
All of these attributes are things that you can’t discern from looking at a number of slopes, or kilometres of runs, so next time you’re looking for a new resort, ignore then numbers and thing about what really matters to you.
If you're not sure what would suit you best, or you're short of time to do the research, just get in touch and one of our experts will be more than happy to offer you tailor-made suggestions.