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Swap the Alps for Slovakia’s Tatras mountains for affordable skiing

Simon Calder’s Travel

It’s usually the ultra-rich who touch down at 10am to be on the slopes by 11am. But skiing in Slovakia is so affordable that the rest of us can feel part of the jet set too.

True, the new, twice-weekly flights from London Stansted to Poprad-Tatry are on Ryanair, not Learjets. But this is hardly mass tourism – the new route has doubled the number of flights to the tiny airport (the only others being the long-standing twice-weekly Wizz Air flights from Luton).

In just 15 minutes my husband and I were in Slovakia’s second biggest resort, Tatranska Lomnica. It has just nine lifts and 12km of pistes, but is high, stretching up to 2,200m. The rides are mostly fast, and modern lifts cost from €24 a day, not the usual €50 starting price in the Alps. So, with snowcapped peaks behind us and a dramatic view of the vast plain below, we swooshed down the blue and red runs that were so flattering of our technique.

The view from the top of the Lomnica cable car, at 2,634m

(Marek Hajkovsky)

Sadly the winds were so strong that the highest slopes were closed (as in the Alps, wind is often more of a problem than lack of snow). Fortunately, Slovakia’s Tatras mountains have the most diverse range of non-skiing alternatives I know of. And all at a reasonable price.

At Lomnica you can ride a snowcat to the old cable car station for a four-course, fireside, candlelit dinner for €52 at the Retro Station. Then there are the spas, often set in half-timbered, Art Nouveau hotels, with their steep roofs and fairytale-like conical turrets. The opulent Grand Hotel Praha, with doubles from €162 a night including ski passes and breakfast, is definitely worth a look.

More affordable lodging is in Poprad itself, reachable by tram (€1.50) or bus. Many B&Bs (doubles at around €50) are not far from the old town, with its 12th-century church and clock tower, restaurants, theatre and museums lining a cobbled boulevard.

Tourists relax at the Horizont, one of Lomnica’s many spas

(High Tatras)

Otherwise, Poprad is a fairly industrial city, producing many freight wagons. Its rail connections mean it can be reached by train within 23 hours from London with just three or four changes.

There are two other ski resorts reachable by tram from Poprad. Starý Smokovec, sitting among more Hapsburg-era spa hotels, has just three lifts and 4km of pistes, so is for…

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