Family skiing © iStock/Imgorthand
Most look to Chamonix or Courmayeur for soaring slopes and pristine pistes. However, Hungary, with its picturesque powdered peaks, is nudging in as the destination of choice for skiers with a taste for something different – at a very reasonable cost. There are a fair few of the country’s dozen ski resorts that are within driving distance of the Hungarian capital, making for a rewarding day out in some majestic snow-swept landscapes. Allow us to introduce some of the best skiing around Budapest.
Nagyvillám & Nagy Hideg-hegy
With eight runs and beautifully groomed gentle slopes, Nagyvillám ski resort, an hour’s drive north of Budapest, is a popular choice for families. Potter about on the gentle tobogganing slopes or get away from it all on forested cross-country ski trails. The snow coverage here is generous, but during lighter days, snow cannons provide powder top-ups when necessary. Rent some skis from the cute ski hut and, if your zig zag is a little rusty, sign up for a class. A little further into the hills is Nagy Hideg-hegy – it includes a variety of pistes for beginners and intermediate skiers, but the stars of the show are its vertiginous 1.3km black and 1.6km red runs.
At 39km from the capital, Budapest’s closest skiing resort is also the country’s oldest. Having opened its two pistes to thrill-seekers in 1923, Dobogókő’s varied inclines appeal to all levels. Beginners can brush up on their snow ploughs in the lower sections, while the upper slopes are more challenging. You can hire equipment and take lessons by the hour, or seek solace in the snow-sprinkled forests at the Danube Bend’s highest point of 699m. Before leaving, duck into the wooden ski cabin designed by Hungarian architect Imre Makovecz for a warming après-ski aperitif.
Intersport Ski Arena
A 90-minute drive from the Hungarian capital and a stone’s throw from the picturesque village of Eplény, Intersport Ski Arena is home to one of the country’s longest uninterrupted ski runs, with all the usual amenities. It’s one of Budapest’s most popular skiing destinations, for sure. Of the 16 courses, there are gentle downhills for novices and challenging drops for seasoned skiers, with a good range in between guaranteeing an enjoyable day out.
More than 1,000m up in the Mátra Hills, Kékestetö is Hungary’s highest peak, making this an obvious favourite for skilled skiers. Its dizzying slopes are topped with a ski centre, training school, restaurant and bar serving mugs of steaming mulled wine and warm punch. Floodlit pistes mean the fun continues well after dark.
Set at some of the country’s most scenic altitudes, Mátraszentistván is affectionately known among locals as “Little Austria”. From blue to black runs and a ‘fun park’ for stunts, the resort is popular with all ages and levels, making this a great choice for families. A ski school offers comprehensive courses for ages six and up, and being an hour and a half northeast of Budapest, it’s a popular winter weekend day out.