Why Europe should be your next winter sports destination

If you thought heading to Europe for winter sports would break your meagre backpacker budget – then you’re in for a surprise.

Central and Eastern Europe boasts a handful of ski resorts offering cheap lift passes and lessons for the beginner skier or snowboarder.

Read on to find out my selection of the best backpacker friendly options for winter sports in Europe.


Zakopane, Poland

Poland is one of the cheapest places in Europe for winter sports. It’s also the perfect place for beginners to give skiing and snowboarding a go.

Head to Zakopane and check out the Nosal Ski Resort if you’ve never hit the slopes before.

Here you can pick up a beginner skiing lesson for 115 PLN ($30 USD) per person for two hours, and hire gear from 40 PLN (€10) for four hours.

Lift passes start from 60 PLN (€15) for four hours and you will get 10 PLN back when you return the card.

A number of outlets at the base of the slopes hire out gear including ski, snowboards, boots, ski poles, goggles and helmets.

How to get there

You can reach Zakopane easily from Krakow. Buses leave at least once every hour for the two-hour trip from Krakow’s central bus station. There’s plenty of accommodation options in Zakopane, ranging from guesthouses to hostels.


Zdiar, Slovakia

The small quaint village of Zdiar boasts two popular ski resorts nearby – Strachan and Bachledova.

Strachan is well suited to beginners with one 2km run. The views at the top alone are worth the chairlift up.

Lift passes start from €14 for two hours and you can choose from the chair lift or the pommel lift.

Bachledova also has a range of runs so skiers and snowboarders of all levels can have a go, however the lift pass is more expensive than Strachan and costs €24.

You can hire gear in Zdiar from €15 per day. A free shuttle bus services both ski resorts starting from Zdiar centre.


How to get there

Zdiar can be reached via Krakow on the Leo Express Bus.

If you’re coming from Zakopane, you’ll need to catch a local bus headed to Morskie Oko, get off at the border (Lysa Polana) and catch the connecting bus to Poprad.

From Bratislava, take a bus or train to Poprad and a connecting bus to Zdiar.

There’s many accommodation options in Slovakia – but my pick is the Ginger Monkey Hostel. The hostel has retro ski suits available for free so you can put your money towards a bottle or two of Tatra Tea instead!

Use the free shuttle bus service to get to and from the Strachan and Bachledova ski resorts.

Bansko, Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s Bansko Ski Resort is another budget friendly place in Europe to try your hand at winter sports.

The resort caters for all levels with long runs and a modern network of gondolas and ski lifts.

The cost of gear hire starts from 20 BGN (€10), and a one-day lift pass is 65 BGN (€30).

Gear can be hired in the main street leading up to the ski resort. Prices and quality vary between equipment rental shops, so shop around.

How to get there

Buses run between Sofia and Bansko but if you have a group, it may be better to hire a car as car hire is cheap in Bulgaria. The drive from Sofia to Bansko takes about 2.5 hours by car, three hours by bus.



Georgia straddles the continents of Europe and Asia – bordered by Russia to the north and Turkey to the west.

Georgia has three popular resorts – located in the western and eastern corners of the country.

In the west – near the town of Mestia sits two ski resorts – Hatsvali and Tetnuldi.

The cost of a one day lift pass at both these resorts is 40 GEL (€13). Hatsvali (which is located just outside of Mestia’s centre) has some small beginner runs, while Tetnuldi is better suited for the intermediate and advanced winter sports enthusiast. But even if the runs at Tetnuldi are too hard for you – it is definitely worth going up on the chair lift to check out the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.


If you’re a beginner skier, Gudauri Ski Resort is your best option in Georgia, with some great beginner runs.

The cost of a one day lift pass at Gudauri is 50 GEL . Gear hire ranges from 40-50 GEL (€13-€16).

Expect to pay between €10-15 for gear hire in Georgia.

How to get there

Gudauri is located about a two-hour drive from Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi. To get there, take a marshrutka (mini bus) from the bus station outside Tbilisi’s Didube Metro Station. You can catch a marshrutka bound for Gudauri or Kazbegi (and ask to be let off at Gudauri). Marshrutkas usually leave on the hour, and the cost is 10 GEL (€3.30). It’s also possible to get a shared taxi at the bus station for 15 GEL (€5) but you will have to wait for the taxi to fill up, so best to head there in the morning.

Hatsvaldi is located just outside of the town of Mestia and is within walking distance of most guesthouses. Marshrutkas run regularly to Mestia from Tbilisi’s Didube Bus Station (9 hours) or Kutaisi (6 hours). You can also catch an overnight train from Tbilisi’s Central Railway Station to Zugdidi (10 hours) and then a marshrutka to Mestia (3 hours).

Tetnuldi is located about a 45 minute drive from Mestia. You can book a seat in a shared taxi to Tetnuldi for 25 GEL return (€10) in Mestia.


Not in Europe but…

Iran isn’t in Europe but it’s pretty close and has become a popular winter sports destination for Europeans in recent years.

The Dizin Ski Resort is located about a two hour drive from Iran’s capital of Tehran, via Karaj.

The resort has plenty of beginner and intermediate runs, in addition to advanced and many off piste routes.


How to get there

You can take a bus from Tehran’s Western Bus Terminal near Azadi Square to Karaj, then take a taxi to Dizin. Expect to pay around 1,500,000 Rials (€10) for a one way trip. from Karaj. Accommodation is available next to the ski resort, or the town of Veleyat Rud. My recommendation is Joyja Hostel in Velyat Rud, run by a lovely Iranian couple.


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