Are you thinking of taking the family on a skiing holiday this winter? Perhaps it will be the first time on the slopes for your children, the first time you have all tackled the white stuff together. Yet you fear the cost of skiing will be prohibitive, which is very understandable. For your memories of winter sports holidays in The Alps probably come with a price stag as steep as the Hahnenkamm.

A few years ago, I had the same dream, to take my little girls away for a family ski trip. I ventured into the local travel agents and brought a pile of brochures home. My wife told me to forget it. As she is a teacher, travelling during half-term is a must.

“There’s no way we can afford to go,” she said.

“We might find a place in our budget,” I argued.

“It’ll be too expensive,” she went on, her mind firmly made up.

“Maybe we’ll find a bargain,” I suggested, more in hope than confidence.

To cut a long discussion short, the sad truth is that we could not afford a holiday in any of the traditional resorts we looked at. In fact, a week skiing in one particular town in Italy cost one thousand pounds more per person for the half term week than either of the two weeks either side. At that stage, I gave up looking.

But that is because I hadn’t yet heard of skiing holidays in Poland.

Affordable Family Skiing in Eastern Europe

I already knew Zakopane from the summer. You see, I travelled there as a young man, shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain, which I know means I’m showing my age here!

Hiking in the High Tatras, swimming in a glacial lake at Moskie Oko, rafting down the Dunajec Gorge…it was all great fun. I also visited Krakow, the stunningly beautiful city about an hour’s drive North of the mountains. What I hadn’t realised was how good the skiing also is in Zakopane. And just as importantly, how very affordable.

Polish prices are cheap. That is as fine a reason as any to think about a winter sports holiday here.  This is especially true when travelling with Addventure Tours, who can provide you with an all-inclusive, seven night package for less than £400 per person. That’s right, less than £400 for a week, including all transfers, accommodation, ski hire, lift passes and instruction. There isn’t anything comparable in The Alps. Suddenly, the dream of taking the family skiing is within reach, but what can you all expect when you get there?

Probably a lot more than you think.

First of all, the hotels are now very good. I won’t pretend the place I stayed at in 1994 was great because it wasn’t. It fell far below Western expectations. Nowadays, and I speak from experience here, standards are every bit as high as one generally receives from a family hotel in Austria. Which means a whole lot better than a similarly priced offering in Bulgaria.

We stayed at the Czarny Potok, which means Black Stream in Polish. Its small, pretty garden was cloaked in snow, so me and my girls began our week’s holiday building a family of snowmen. We then walked the five minutes or so into the centre of town and grabbed massive slices of pizza at a place on Krupowki, the pedestrianised main strip.

I didn’t find the famous ice maze but we did take the funicular railway up Gubalowka, to try out the tubing. It was really great fun and a wonderful way to start the vacation.

The following day was our first actually skiing together. For my daughters, aged 10 and 11, their first ever day on a pair of skis.

Modern Lifts and Cruisy Blues

Needless to say, Zakopane does not offer a huge linked area like the Austrian Ski Welt or Les Trois Vallees in France.  But it doesn’t need to, not for children and beginners. The gentle slopes of nearby Bialka Tartranska are welcoming in a safe, not-at-all intimidating, kind of way. Think high hills rather than lofty peaks, a size and scale that doesn’t frighten newcomers to the sport.

The nursery slopes are at the bottom, so the traditional first morning bumps and falls were brushed off as quickly as the snow from their salopettes! All of Addventure Tours’ instructors are native English speakers, so it was no surprise to see them quickly up the six man chairlift to the top of Kotelnica. In no time at all, they were skiing off-piste, attempting little jumps and even conquering the resort’s red runs. They certainly picked up skiing a lot quicker than their dad did all those years ago.

We spent our week at Bialka because its fresh powder was perfect for us. We enjoyed night skiing and one lovely bluebird day. For a family group of absolute beginners, the nursery slopes at Nosal might also be a good option. Meanwhile, experienced skiers will enjoy tackling the black runs of Kasprowy Wierch, taking a back-country tour or being ferried to the slopes of Jasna Gora.

Unbeatable Apres-Ski

After a hard day’s skiing, how about some fun of a very different kind? My little girls loved the sleighride we took on the Wednesday night. The horse was a gentle Polish giant, its master a Goral in traditional highland dress. We finished the trip by toasting massive sausages on a bonfire and being serenaded by folk musicians singing local songs.

We also visited the thermal baths at Gorocy Potok one evening. I enjoyed relaxing with a beer in the naturally heated outdoor pools, whilst my children adored splashing around. We challenged ourselves to swim in the one pool that’s filled with cold water, brrr, afterwards rushing into the hot spas to warm back up. Drying off, we took in dinner at Gorocy’s steakhouse, which is a heaven for meat-eaters.

Our hotel also has a swimming pool and sauna, which we took advantage of. There was an open-air ice rink around the corner that we tried and we shopped for souvenirs at the market. The trip to Krakow we enjoyed during our day away from the slopes was amazing. It is one seriously beautiful place, especially in the winter.

All This for £1,500

Give or take a few quid, the holiday cost me £1,500 plus three cheap Easyjet flights from Bristol. That’s a lot cheaper than I ever expected to pay to take my daughters on a winter sports holiday. We had a great time and created memories that will last forever. They went from complete beginners to handy intermediates in a week. Needless to say, we’re going back again this winter.