Chalet White Eden – Sainte Foy Tarentaise – Chalet Review 2016

Now here’s a couple of questions for all you ski holiday enthusiasts to ponder. Put to one side the resort and the weather, what are the ingredients that make a great chalet holiday for you? Is it the food, the location, the other guests, the rooms, the facilities, the price; or is it a combination of all these things? And how many truly great chalet holidays have you been on? There’s a lot of variables to take into account, and as a chalet company, a lot to get right if you want to run a successful business in a crowded market place. Hats off then to Small Wonders, who have got a very good handle on the majority of these factors, and tie them all together in a great venue that is Chalet White Eden.

The winner of the Ski Club Ski Holiday For Life competition, Rob Wycherley, has been in Sainte Foy Tarentaise this year.  He gives us his review for Chalet White Eden, Small Wonders.TheLodgeexterior4skiinout Everyone at Small Wonders, from the Managing Director down to the chalet staff in resort, hold the same philosophies regarding genuine hospitality, taking pleasure in looking after their customers, the enjoyment from being in a wonderful environment and that crucial aspect, attention to detail. All this became evident in the week that I spent as their guest in Chalet White Eden, tucked nicely in against the Home Run in the small resort of Sainte Foy in the Tarentaise, close to Bourg St Maurice and within striking distance of the Paradiski and Espace Killy. We’d chosen to hire a car and drive the just over 2 hours from Grenoble, giving us flexibility during the week, but the chalet will arrange a minibus pick up from the station at Bourg, as well as run you to other resorts should you choose to stretch your ski legs. After a short drive up the mountain from the Bourg to Tignes road you arrive in the resort of Ste. Foy, a collection of modern, tastefully presented, chalets and residences. Chalet White Eden is in the upper part of the village, and has the benefit of an underground car park, that proved to be an absolute godsend due to the levels of snow that we had during the week.

The chalet itself is only a few years old, and unlike a lot of its competitors in this price bracket spread across the Alps, it is not lacking for space. Aside from the underground car park there is room for a separate ski and boot room (equipped with powerful heaters and a sofa to change your boots on, heaven, and a massive tick from me!) as well as a sauna, a lift, generous living areas, a

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Jacuzzi on the balcony (great fun to bubble away in as the snow falls) and large bedrooms and en-suites, where you don’t have to trip over you and your companion’s gear as you get ready in the morning.

White Eden is set up in a style of what is best described as boutique chalet-hotel, with Savoyard architecture, and a smattering of art and carvings, making for a sophisticated but relaxed environment, with subtle lighting and a welcoming log fire in the hearth. Twice a week there are “Le Chic” Happy Hours, where champagne and mouth-watering canapés are served up, however outside of these times there is an honesty bar, which also includes quality teas and coffees. Although the hosts are generous with after dinner drinks, at this level of service with typical properties in the Alps, local beer and wine runs free of charge throughout the stay.


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Now on to the food; one word, wow! Expertly cooked and beautifully presented, with a wonderful repertoire and great matching wines. My mouth is still watering from the thought of it all after 3 weeks. Local produce is high on the list, and after an initial foray into gauging the right amount to serve for the guests on the first night, we settled into a well-balanced and perfectly timed series of dinner parties with our fellow holiday makers. Unusually for chalets in the Alps, during the week that I stayed it was a cosmopolitan mix of Europeans, with guests from France, Luxembourg, Ireland and Switzerland; and myself and my buddy were the only Brits in the mix. As the French were the most numerous, it was their language that dominated at the table, which might be a bit intimidating if you don’t speak the lingo, but everyone made a real effort and we all learned more about each other and had a lot of laughs in the process.

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For those of you interested in bringing children, as after all the resort is fabulous for families, there was a first sitting for dinner, and plenty of space for the kids to retreat to so that they can watch television and access the free wifi.

So, back to those questions I posed at the start. Small Wonders have that combination right, and it is testament to the company and their product that there was an almost unanimous re-booking for 2017 from the guests that stayed. This was a great chalet holiday, oh, and the snow played its part too!
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Have you heard of this resort? If you have, you’re in the minority. There might be a number of reasons why you could have, either you’ve passed through the main village on the road from Bourg St Maurice to Tignes and Val D’Isere, you might have a young family and wanted something quiet and safe, or lastly you’re a back country officianado who has heard whisperings of the awesome off-piste, and acres of powder that remains untouched days after all the other nearby major resorts have been skied out.

To be honest with you, I was very fortunate to find it, being given the opportunity as a guest of Small Wonders, staying in Chalet White Eden which I was reviewing for the Much Better Adventures website. Like you, I went online and checked out the usual sites for a review of the resort, full of statistics and mouth watering photos taken on bluebird powder days. I was apprehensive, as for a week’s skiing I normally plump for large ski stations with excellent links, miles of piste, ample eating and drinking opportunities with access to a range of off-piste opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, I love a smaller resort, and have been fortunate enough to ski in plenty across the globe, but normally from a larger centre, or for a long weekend or day trip. Ste. Foy however lends itself to do things the other way around, so you can stay at a smaller, more intimate resort and then use it as a base to explore other larger ones that are nearby. In my case, and having the benefit of a hire car, I skied in Val D’Isere and then a day in Meribel where I caught up with friends, though there are other resorts nearer such as Les Arcs, La Plagne, Tignes and La Rosiere within 40 minutes or so.


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For those with family, or with more intermediate desires, then the resort offers ample skiing with accessible pistes from a handful of well linked chairlifts. This makes it easy to navigate for those inclined to use piste maps, and gives reassurance that older children won’t get stuck in the wrong valley when they pester to go off with friends. There are a small number of restaurants to rendez-vous at, all serving good mountain fare, but in busier periods, or with inclement weather it is best to book for meals. My stay co-incided with European half term, but it never felt too busy or crowded on the slopes, and lift queues only became apparent when bad weather forced the closure of the two top lifts due to high winds and avalanche risk.   

So then, what about the off-piste opportunities? Well, if you catch the weather right and you have fresh snow, you’ll think you have won the lottery. The top lifts open up a significant amount of area, from the unpisted blacks through to tree skiing and itineraries, it is all here, and what’s more there are only a small number of like minded individuals doing the same, so it is possible to make fresh tracks for a number of days after. My friend and I cut first lines on an epic run of 1,300m of vertical from the top of the lifts via the deserted hamlet of Le Monal down to the village of Le Miroir. For a long time we were following the hoof marks of a small deer, which met an unfortunate demise on the path with only its head left on show in a pool of red snow! Eeek! We didn’t hang around long to look for the culprit, but safe to say we asked locals from the safety of a bar about the likely wildlife able to carry this ambush out. At Le Miroir there is a handy bus service that takes you back to the main resort. To get the best from the off-piste then, hire a local guide, gear up and get stuck in.

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Safe to say that the nightlife in Ste. Foy is pretty quiet, but there are a small number of bars and eateries, including a pretty decent wine bar that has some atmosphere, so you can venture out on the chef’s day off. We ate at the Maison a Colonnes at the base of the slopes, and thoroughly enjoyed a “Witch’s Hat” pierrade (see pic) with all the theatre of cooking your own grub.

Well then, there you have it, a super little destination that is becoming increasingly better known in skiing circles, and ticks a lot of boxes for a wide range of needs. It’s a relatively new resort that retains a lot of charm, and for those that have found it there are enough compelling reasons to keep coming back, and to keep it as quiet as possible from the rest of the skiing fraternity.

Damn, I’ve let you into my secret.

Want more of Rob? Check out his review of Go Ski Meribel Chalet Review 2015

 

10% off Exclusive Val D’Isere chalet (sleeps 10)

Weekly rental now from £15500 for the week commencing 25th Jan or 22nd March 2015.

Includes:

  • exclusive use of property
  • private chef
  • sleeps 10 adults in 5 bedrooms

Deal Code: MBD002

View chalet details

How to book?

Email
deals@muchbetteradventures.com
with the deal code.

We will send more details and introduce you to the provider so you can book direct.

Discount valid on bookings before 15th June 2014

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Ski Lift Opening and Closing Dates 2014/15

We thought it might help you ski chalet hunters to know when the ski lifts open and shut for the forthcoming 2014-2015 ski season.

The below dates are subject to change based on snow conditions so it’s best to double check the local tourist office for your chosen resort before booking near the start or end of season.

If you’re looking for a chalet, broadcast your requirements here and have chalets make you their best available offer.

Portes du Soleil

Morzine

Partially opens: 14th of December

Fully opens: 21st of December

Closes: 27th of April


Chamonix Valley

Argentiere

Partial opening: 7th of December

Fully opens: 21st of December

Closes: 4th of May

Les Houches

Fully opens: 21st of December

Closes: 13th of April


Grand Massif

Samoens

Opens: 21st of December

Closes: 21st of April.


3 Valleys

Courchevel, Meribel and La Tania

Opens: 7th of December

Closes: 25th of April

La Tania is scheduled to open one week later on the 14th December.


Paradiski

Les Arcs and La Plagne

Partially opens: 14th of December

Fully opens: 20th December

Closes: 26th of April


Espace Killy

Val D’Isere and Tignes 

Opens: 30th November 2013

Closes: 4th May 2014.

The Tignes glacier is already open, closing on the 11th of May.


Tarentaise Valley

Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise

Opens: 21st of December

Closes: 21st of April


Austria

St. Anton

Opens: 7th of December

Closes: 27th of April


Switzerland

Zermatt

Opens: 1st of June

Closes: 31st of May

Verbier

Opens: 30th of November

Closes: 21st of April

10% off Exclusive Val D’Isere chalet (sleeps 10 +5)

Weekly rental now from £20000 for the week commencing 25th Jan or 22nd March 2015.

Includes:

  • exclusive use of property
  • private chef
  • sleeps 10 adults and 5 children in 6 bedrooms

Deal Code: MBD001

View chalet details

How to book?

Email deals@muchbetteradventures.com with the deal code.

We will send more details and introduce you to the provider so you can book direct.

Discount valid on bookings before 15th June 2014

Subscribe to our Thursday deals email

Get deals like this straight to your inbox!

Snow HQ independent chalet review

‘You could not wish for a more conducive environment in which to eat, drink and make merry, and discuss your day’s exertions and achievements.’

Rob Wycherley, winner of our Ski Club Ski Holiday for Life competition gives us his independent review of Chalet Algonquin, Snow Hq, Les Arcs.
Rob has taken at least one ski holiday every year for as long as he can remember, incorporating most of Europe, and as far afield as The States, Australia and Japan. He took this trip in March 2014 with his wife and two kids. He’ll back with another review for us next year!

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Chalet review

The sense of anticipation was rising in the car as we climbed steadily from the valley floor up the remaining few kilometres to the small hamlet of Moulin, just below the resort of Peissey Vallandry, and almost directly under the Vanoise Express cable car (or handbag as my four year old son called it) linking Les Arcs to La Plagne. This is the location of the two Snow HQ chalets, and as a family we had been looking forward to this holiday for a good few months, with our expectations high following excellent communication with Ben from Snow HQ and a user friendly, comprehensive website, that leaves other chalet companies looking drab in comparison.

chalet interior

We were staying in the Algonquin, hosted by Fanchea and Andre, and as we pulled up outside the chalet the sun was glinting off the snow covered peaks in the distance and swallows were flitting around the collection of traditional stone buildings that made up the hamlet, and spring had most definitely sprung, with a pleasing warmth already in the air. This warmth was extended by Fanchea as she met us at the door and helped us disgorge the contents of the hire car into our family room, and then set about providing baguettes, cheese and ham for a simple yet delicious lunch that was readily demolished.

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We were instructed that everything was at our disposal, and we wandered around the living area of the chalet, checking out the books, DVDs and games, as well as relaxing on the sofas and standing out on the balconies, drinking in the views and getting our bearings.

chalet lounge

The shared portion of the chalet was not large, and apart from one other delightful couple for the first two nights we had the place to ourselves, just the four of us with the rule of the roost, but it did leave me feeling that it would be quite tight with a full chalet of 14. On that theme the entrance to the chalet is also narrow, with a small bench to put your ski boots on, and when a number of you are getting geared up and waiting for the complimentary minibus, congestion and overheating will likely occur.

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The chalet itself, much like other properties in the hamlet, is a converted barn, which has been undertaken sympathetically with plenty of bare wooden floors, exposed beams and large windows upstairs to make use of the natural light and views.

chalet kitchen

The heart of the chalet though is most definitely the kitchen, and this is where the magic takes place on a daily basis, with Andre as chef extraordinaire, and Fanchea as his willing accomplice (and no mean cake baker in her own right.) Andre has lashings of talent, looking completely at ease in his domain, and focussing intently on producing the perfect plate, using local ingredients and varying his menu accordingly. As guests the table is positioned similar to a chef’s table at a top restaurant, so that you can see the courses taking shape, and for those gastronomes interested in learning more, Andre is happy to pass on tips and knowledge, chatting happily at the end of the meal, glass of wine in hand.

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You could not wish for a more conducive environment in which to eat, drink and make merry, and discuss your day’s exertions and achievements. For the two nights when we had company at the table it felt like a dinner party with best friends, and the conversation and wine flowed easily, and when it was just my wife and I it was like an evening tete a tete at an exclusive restaurant. Tasty nibbles and starters were followed by such delights as Charolais steaks, coq au vin and herb crusted salmon, with just enough room for wicked desserts. I only managed a cheese course once all week!

This is not a chalet that has it’s accommodation clinically cleaned to within an inch of its life every day, with all your toilet paper and towels folded back, but that’s part of the charm; you can treat it like home, a home in which you have a professional chef and sous chef, where your child’s fish fingers are hand cooked, and where there’s a free supply of local wine and a chauffeur to drive you to and from the slopes, all in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Oh, and the skiing is fabulous too, and I haven’t got enough room to tell you about that!

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What to wear skiing or boarding? A Beginners guide

Preparing to go skiing for the first time? Just booked a snowy winter break but have no idea what to pack? If you’re baffled as to where to start with your ski wardrobe, you aren’t alone.

Ski group Les Arcs (c) SCALP - Les Arcs
Looking good in Les Arcs

Luckily, it’s pretty simple once you have the basics sorted. But we’ll say it: the newer to skiing or snowboarding you are, the more prepared you should be. Starting out, you’ll probably fall a little bit, repeat your newly acquired techniques a lot – it’s all part of the fun! All this extra activity will keep you warm at first, but sweaty clothes get really cold on the chairlift…

Here are the things you should prepare before you head off on your first ski or snowboard holiday.

Takeaway advice

Thin layers are better than thick. Insulation is much better – keeps warm in, adjusts to temperature, less bulky. Cotton isn’t a great idea – it holds water and sweat (gross) and doesn’t keep the heat in well. Thin merino wool or polyester does this much better.

Base layer – Always choose thermal. The sun does not necessarily counteract the fact you’re on the snow, and you will be cold if you scrimp on your base! Go waffle for the warmest and – weirdly – the most stylish. A polo neck option will also keep your neck warm, eliminating the need for a scarf which will only flap around and get caught on things (think: trees, passing skiers, your own face).

Middle layer – Choose fleece or other insulating sweater for additional warmth and protection. Don’t think that skipping this option is okay! A ski jacket too close to the skin is not comfortable or warm.

Insulating pants – Thermal leggings or long johns are an option. Moisture wicking is a better option. But really, anything to protect you a bit more than just your trousers is great. A warm bum = a happy, chicer skier.

Winter jacket – Your outerwear is where you can really choose to express yourself: there are plenty of sweet options around. Also choose practical where you can, meaning vents for body heat are a good idea, as is some decent padding for cold days.

Outer pants – Ah, the most important piece of gear! Choose ones you love, but make sure they’re waterproof and toasty warm too.

Ski socks – When it comes to socks, bigger is not better; boots are insulated already. Instead, go for a thinner and longer option in an insulating fabric like acrylic. Longer means that they have further to fall before they’re bagging around in your boots. Thinner means both warmer and less sweaty: the perfect combination for a foot.

Winter gloves – Because frostbite is the definition of pain, and since you probably find your hands and fingers to be quite useful on a daily basis, you’ll want to keep them. Go for the best glove insulation you can – if you don’t want to invest in leather versions like the pros, Gore-Tex is also infinitely preferable to hands of ice.

Goggles / Sunglasses – We recommend goggles over glasses, which protect against the wind and snow as well as the sun. There are some really cool options available at the moment, which is fortunate as they will most likely be covering half your whole face. Going with a mirrored, coloured lens keeps up with civilian (non-skiing) sunglass trends and look more fun than a plain old mirror or tint. Even if you don’t think they look that great (are you mad?), we bet you’d prefer them to snow blindness.

SunscreenPeeling cheeks aren’t chic. We recommend you pack your sunscreen at home, instead of leaving it to buy there; sunscreen can be pricey in the mountains. Go for a high factor.

Where to buy – Sail and Ski offer a great selection of skiwear for new skiers and those more experienced.

Where to go – Try Les Arcs, Courchevel or Morzine – with plenty of nursery and intermediate slopes at these resorts, they’re great options for beginners. Alternatively, if you want to sneak some practice in before you commit to a mountain, try an indoor ski slope such as Chill Factore in Manchester.

Booking your holiday – Clearly there is no better place to start than our wonderful time saving service. Why search? Just let chalets make you offers. Enquire now!

Tracks of the day

Some seriously good looking tracks from CTO Guy this morning in Morzine:

skiing in Morzine in March

Back in work by 11 and on inspired form. Now that is what we call a good working environment!

The Alps had an awesome dump of the snow this weekend, and there are plenty of great deals still to be had…can we tempt you? Check out chalets now.

Most Memorable Ski Resorts

As any avid skier can tell you, it is all about location. Unfortunately many ski resorts around the world feel all rather the same, as if you have been there before, many times. As an avid skier myself, I like to find ski resorts that offer something a bit different to hang in the memory. There are a number of resorts I would recommend to anyone looking for something similar. Here goes with a few of my most memorable ski resorts.

Sainte Foy, France

Located in the French Alps, not far from Val d’Isere and Tignes, Sainte Foy de Tarentaise is a small, quiet, perfectly formed resort. It has gained a bit of a reputation recently as a powder heaven (thanks to the miles of un-pisted but very accessible terrain, and general lack of crowds). The ski pistes are actually perfect for skiers of all ages and experience. Likewise, the resort itself is charming, and features plenty of private chalets, offering the experience of a quiet, isolated retreat amidst the scenic backdrop of the French Alps. Whilst some people prefer active, busy ski resorts, I sometimes prefer this quiet retreat for a family getaway.

Cerro Catedral, Argentina

cerro catedral argentina If you’re not a highly active skier, there are probably a few places around the world you’re not aware of. In this case, I’m referring to Cerro Catedral, near Bariloche in Argentina. It’s understandable, of course; few people would consider a South American country such as Argentina for skiing. Nestled amongst the stunning lakes of Nahuel Huapí National Park, this is a truly stunning ski setting. Cerro Catedral is a popular resort for students and gap year travellers as well as ski adventurers, and the resort buzzes with the vibrant, lively Argentinean lifestyle, making it feel totally unique. The Andes of both Chile and Argentina is littered with good ski resorts, so you might find it is soon time to swap that summer holiday for a winter one!

Zermatt, Switzerland

zermatt ski chaletsUnlike Argentina, I’m sure you’re not surprised by the ski opportunities in Switzerland. I would definitely recommend Zermatt. There is miles of glacial skiing, and terrain to challenge all levels of skier (consider a guide to get the most from it). If the slopes themselves don’t excite you the unique buzz of the village has plenty to offer, be it quiet shops during the day or a great night-life with a range of highly acclaimed restaurants, bars and cafés. If all that fails, the sights speak for themselves. Zermatt offers multiple viewpoints of the wonderful, dominating Matterhorn.

These are just three locations that spring to mind if I am asked to name ski resorts that stick in the memory, but they should hopefully show you some of the variance and great holiday potential that comes from skiing. Skiing is an adventure; it definitely rewards the bold and daring who are willing to think outside the box, even a little bit.

Like any resort, you’re dealing with locations away from major cities. As such, I’d also recommend you hire a vehicle for your winter break too, with a good hire car insurance policy in place of course, to help you get around if needed. Also, don’t forget to dress warm!

This is a guest post from Mark Bower, skier, managing director of car hire insurance and niche money saving website www.moneymaxim.co.uk.

Don’t forget you can use our ski chalet hunting service to save yourself loads of time and effort getting your group sorted this winter!

The big match: Ski resort v’s snow leopard in Kazakhstan

A sadly familiar and frustrating story coming from Kazakhstan this morning. Mass protests have broken out against plans to build a mega ski resort, complete with luxury hotels and golf courses in the National Park above Big Almaty Lake. The National Park is home to a number of endangered species, and the plans make something of a mockery of the country’s National Park laws should they be pushed through.

The government have thus far ignored a letter signed by 7000 people, and business interests are reportedly lobbying the government for a change in the law so they cannot be found to be doing anything wrong.

To keep up the pressure and raise further awareness, campaigners took to the mountains to spell out ‘Kazakh Snow Leopard’ in a human Flesh Mob.

You can find more info and sign the petition here.

Video: Massive Glacier Collapse in Greenland

Ever wondered what a massive glacier collapse looked like? Wonder no more. A team from the Chasing Ice project were in Greenland when they caught the moment that an area of glacier the size of Manhattan disintegrated into the sea. Simply stunning.

This glacier has retreated more in 10 years than it did in the previous 100. Judging by this footage, it isn’t hard to appreciate that fact.

Top 5 Unusual Skiing Destinations

If you are an avid skier or snowboarder, you will know only too well how costly the popular resorts can be and all too familiar with the crowds they welcome!

Why not avoid both of these downsides and take to the pistes at one of these comparatively quieter, cheaper and altogether more unusual skiing destinations

1. Iran

When you think of a skiing holiday, Iran certainly wouldnt be the first destination in mind. In the midst of the Middle East, flanked by Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, it has the stereotype of a desert country with towering sand dunes.

In fact, the landscapes of Iran are beautifully diverse and it has many a mountain, in fact, more than half the country is comprised of mountains that are ideal for skiing! At a rough count, there are around 20 different ski resorts meaning you are almost spoilt for choice.

As one of the highest altitude ski resorts in the world, Dizin welcomes wonderful powder and you can get stuck in with few crowds and cheap prices!

2. Cyprus

Another surprising skiing destination comes in the form of the sun loving isle of Cyprus which floats among the waves of the Mediterranean Sea.

Travel to the Troodos Mountains and during the winter months, you will find a very healthy covering of snow indeed.

Head here and indulge in some beach relaxation in the morning and then let loose atop the four slopes of Mount Olympos in the afternoon; it really is the best of both worlds!

3. Morocco

A far cry from the camels and souks that you are currently picturing, venture across the Sahara Desert to the High Atlas Mountains where a snowy wonderland awaits you.

Ski passes here are exceptionally cheap but dont expect things to be done by the book; there is one ski lift but most of the time its pretty unreliable so you will find yourself transported around the resort by donkeys!

If you tire of the one resort, fear not, for there is another on offer in the Middle Atlas Mountains! Wonderfully uncrowded, these resorts are a top pick for cross country skiers in particular.

4. South Africa

If South Africa is known for one thing, its safaris, not skiing! Most people have absolutely no idea that it is possible to go skiing here but in the midst of the country lays the Drakensberg Mountain Range where you can do just that.

The resort, Tiffindell, is by no means large, but it offers breathtaking views and at a relatively high altitude, welcomes a healthy dousing of snow each winter. The fun loving locals ensure that aprs-ski is all part of the experience too!

Combine wildlife watching with adrenaline fuelled fun on a holiday here.

5. Macedonia

Sadly, there are many people in this world who havent even heard of Macedonia, let alone gone skiing there. Its by no means as well developed as Italy or France but the resorts Macedonia offers are perfectly petite.

Favourable prices only enhance the appeal of the resorts buried among the snow fall in Mavrovo National Park.

Beautiful scenery is the backdrop to quite a long ski season which usually runs from November through until April and occasionally even as late as May. Enjoy an uncrowded but fun skiing holiday here without breaking the bank.

If you are in the midst of planning a trip, consider somewhere a bit different for some R&R amid some stark white snow. As well as enjoying fantastic skiing, you can travel home with a quirky tale or two!

About the author: Kerri Ware is a travel blogger and writes for EconomyCarHire.com, a car hire broker offering great deals for car hire across Europe and beyond. Consider car hire in Macedonia for your next skiing holiday.

Have you played in the snow somewhere unusual? Add it to the list in the comments below or tweet us!