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Skiing holidays are notoriously expensive. From accommodation and eating out to hiring your skiing or snowboarding equipment, popular ski resorts are often ridiculously overpriced and absolutely packed.
And I suppose that’s one of the reasons I’ve never been drawn to a winter sports trip. I have a finite budget and try to make it stretch as far as possible, so blowing all my cash on one expensive holiday ain’t my idea of fun!
But, when my husband went snowboarding with friends last year and came back raving about the cheap ski resort and the beautiful scenery, I knew I’d have to see it for myself!
The budget ski resort in question was Foppolo, located in the province of Bergamo in northern Italy. And at the end of February, we headed to Foppolo for a budget snowboarding trip with a group of our closest friends. After visiting myself, I can say that if you’re looking for a cheap ski resort in Europe, you should definitely check this out.
While I can’t categorically say this is the best budget ski resort in Europe (it’s the only one I’ve ever been to), I can say that my ‘pro-snowboarding’ friends were highly impressed and very keen to return. And that says a lot in itself.
Perfect for budget-conscious travellers, Foppolo has everything you need to enjoy a ski trip on the cheap. Cosy Italian restaurants with huge pizzas for 8-9€ and beers for 3-4€, budget accommodations and cheap ski hire make this a fantastic European budget ski destination. Add to that outstanding scenery and extremely friendly people and you have yourself a winner.
However, giving both sides of the coin is only fair so I will tell you realistically that this is not an upmarket place. Many of the apartments we looked at are quite dated and I get the feeling that there hasn’t been a lot of money invested in the resort.
In addition, the resort was deathly quiet during the week, which is perfect if you’re a beginner as we pretty much had the slopes entirely to ourselves! And, although it was definitely busier at the weekend, it had more of a family-friendly vibe to it. Drilling it down, this is more of an under-the-radar locals weekend resort, as opposed to a popular party destination.
Having said that, if what you’re after is a cheap snowboarding holiday and you’re not so fussed about the apres-ski and nightlife, then Foppolo would be ideal for you.
Getting to Foppolo
Located about two hours drive from Milan, Foppolo is easily accessible via car. We used Autoclick car hire at Milan Malpensa airport and hired a 7-seater mini-van for a very low price. Flying into Milan is the obvious option, with both Milan Bergamo and Milan Malpensa providing easy access to the resort. However, flying into Bergamo will cut your driving time down by about one hour as it’s much closer to the mountains.
As stated before, the infrastructure in and around Foppolo seems dated, but perfectly manageable for a one week trip. We arrived at our very cosy (and cheap) Airbnb apartment at around 6pm and headed out for dinner at one of the traditional trattorias nearby. If you’d rather opt for a hotel over self-catering, there are a few options to choose from.
Foppolo is by no means a large resort, with only a couple of blue, several red and a two or three black slopes. However, there is definitely enough to keep you entertained for a week.
As a beginner snowboarder, I stuck to the nursery slopes for the first day, getting the hang of falling leaf and eventually starting to link turns.
Don’t forget your ski gear! It’s worth investing in some high-quality pieces, as they do take a bashing. I bought some cheap salopettes from Mountain Warehouse and the seam split after two days. Check out my recommendations below:
With my confidence soaring, the next day I decided to attempt the blue slopes and much to my dismay found myself being talked into descending the other side of the mountain into Carona, the next resort. All was going well until we realised the only way back to our apartment in Foppolo was via a black slope. If you do decide to head down into Carona, this is definitely something to be aware of.
Having survived to tell the tale, I can confidently say I don’t ever wish to experience a black slope again (wimp!). Not my finest hour!!
Food and drink
We ate out for lunch every day, enjoying the amazing views from the rustic restaurant at the top of the mountain. Stopping periodically throughout the day for food and drinks, we found the restaurants and bars located at the base of the slopes were reasonably-priced. I’m talking 5€ for a huge baguette and 8-9€ for a pizza.
To further save money, we had decided to each cook on a designated night, rather than eating out. One important thing to note, however, is that the resort is significantly lacking in shops, with only one small store selling basic supplies. So, if you’re planning to self-cater, I’d suggest stopping off at a supermarket on your way to Foppolo to stock up for the week.
I’ve provided an approximate guide as to what this trip cost per person to give you an idea of budgeting and expenses.
Flights: £50 each for flights from London Gatwick airport to Milan Malpensa airport
Five nights accommodation: £100 each for five nights in a self-catering apartment
Car hire (incl. pre-bought excess waiver insurance): £9 each for hire of a 7-seater minivan for five days
Spending money: £100-150 each, mainly for food and drinks over the five days
Equipment hire: £35 for three days (board, boots and helmet, booked in advance online)
Ski/mountain pass per day: €10 for only nursery slopes, €22 for only Foppolo, €30 for Foppolo and Carona.