15 lesser-known ski resorts to check out this winter

Story highlights

Spain has a few skiing finds including the Spanish royal family's favorite, Baqueira Beret

Half the price of some of Switzerland's most famous resorts, Arosa offers equally fantastic skiing experience

Sunday River and Sugar Bowl are two noteworthy resorts in the U.S.

CNN  — 

Whistler, Chamonix, Aspen – the best known winter sports resorts have become that for a reason.

Not only are the following places worthy of a December-to-February vacation, some are significantly cheaper.

Here are 15 lesser-known ski resorts you might want to check out:

1. Lech Zürs am Arlberg: Vorarlberg, Austria

The small resort of Lech-Zürs is about to get bigger.

As of this winter, it’ll be connected to nearby Warth-Schröcken by a two-kilometer-long ropeway ski lift, meaning visitors can access 190 kilometers of trails and 47 lifts.

The huge range of accommodations runs from five-star Hotel Almhof Schneider, in the shadow of the Schlegelkopf peak, to the quaint and quirky Pension Astoria, a short walk from the town center.

Lech-Zürs am Arlberg, Voralberg, Austria; +43 5583 2245

Hotel Edelweiss, Manni & Seppi Strolz, Familie Strolz, Zürs 79, Austria; +43 5583 2662; from $88 per room per night

2. Sierra Nevada: Andalucia, Spain

The beautiful Sierra Nevada is Spain’s most popular ski area – it has a collection of resorts with more than 104 kilometers of trails and 116 ski runs.

It’s located 32 kilometers from the city of Granada.

This is the sunniest ski region in Europe, although being located at 2,100 meters (6,889 feet) and with a top station at 3,300 meters (10,826) feet, it’s known for being a snow-sure resort – last winter it opened from November until mid-May.

Visitors can rent an apartment, such as those at Apartahotel Trevenque (located next to the resort’s main gondola), which has kitchenettes and direct access to the slopes.

Sierra Nevada, Andalucia, Spain; +34 902 70 80 90

Meliá Sierra Nevada, Plaza de Pradollano, Sierra Nevada 18196, Spain; +34 958 480400; from $145 per room per night

3. Red Mountain: British Columbia, Canada

Red Mountain resort in British Columbia is another resort about to double in size, thanks to the development of the adjacent Grey Mountain.

Skiers who take the chair lift to the top are rewarded with spectacular views and 360-degree skiing off the peak.

The development of Grey Mountain gives Red Mountain resort a total of 2,682 ski-able acres, putting it in the top 20 North American ski resorts in terms of terrain size.

The Slalom Creek apartments are the resort’s newest accommodations, with fireplaces and private Jacuzzi tubs.

Red Mountain, British Columbia; +1 800 663 0105

Rossland Motel, 721 Hwy 22, British Columbia, Canada; 250 362 7218; from $55 per room per night

4. Sunday River: Maine, USA

Sunday River has a new terrain park this year.

This Maine resort has a number of developments in the pipeline this winter, including a brand new, 15-acre terrain park designed by Sochi-bound free-ski athlete Simon Dumont, and 60 acres of glades that have been opened for tree skiing.

With 820 acres spread across eight interconnected mountain peaks, Sunday River is now the second largest ski resort in New England.

The Grand Summit Resort Hotel and Jordan Grand Resort Hotel are the resort’s two most popular hotels.

Grand Summit’s new restaurant, Camp, will open this winter.

Sunday River, Maine; +1 207 824 3000

Jordan Grand Hotel, 27 Grand Avenue, Newry, Maine, New England, US; 207 824 5000; from $59 per room per night

5. Sugar Bowl: Lake Tahoe, California

Sugar Bowl already has some of America’s best tree runs, but this winter several developments are set to transform the area.

A new chairlift will provide advanced skiers with easy access to the challenging Crow’s Face and Strawberry Fields areas, previously reached only by hiking.

The new lift will also connect Sugar Bowl to the largest cross-country ski resort in North America, Royal Gorge.

Sugar Bowl’s Lodge is one of the coziest hotels you’ll find in a ski resort and is accessed via gondola.

Sugar Bowl, Lake Tahoe, California; +1 530 426 9000

Truckee Donner Lodge, 10527 Cold Stream Rd, Truckee, California; 530-582-9999; from $99 per room per night

6. Les Orres: Hautes-Alpes, France

Les Orres is one of the newer French resorts.

Built in 2008 with an extensive network of wide, groomed runs and childcare facilities, it’s a destination for families.

It has more than 100 kilometers of ski-able terrain, and its location, in the middle of a forest overlooking the Serre-Ponçon lake, makes it one of the more spectacular places to get a winter snow fix.

There’s not a huge range of accommodation in Les Orres, but La Portette has 26 spacious bedrooms, direct access to the piste and stunning mountain views.

Les Orres, Aix-en-Provence, France; +33 4 92 44 01 61

La Portette, Pramouton 2 Traverse Sainte Marguerite Les Orres 13009; +33 (0) 4 92 44 00 02

7. Baqueira Beret: Lleida, Spain

The Spanish royal family are fans of this ski area in the region of Lleida in western Catalonia.

Although small, the resort has something for snowboarders and skiers of all abilities: there are five green runs, 34 blue slopes, 26 red runs and six black slopes.

Catalonia is one of the few places in Europe where heli-skiing is legal and there are some fantastic back-country areas.

In 2014, the resort will be holding various events to mark its 50th anniversary.

Accommodation includes luxury offerings such as the five-star Val de Neu hotel (a favorite with the Spanish royal family) or more affordable Melia Royal Tanau, a stylish, slope-side hotel.

Baqueira Beret, Lleida, Spain; +34 902 41 54 15

Val de Neu, Calle Perimetrau S/N Baqueira Beret, 25598 Baqueira, Lleida, Spain; +34 973 635 000; from $350 per room per night

8. Ischgl: Tyrol, Austria

There are a number of reasons to visit this Austrian resort in 2014, but the pièce de résistance is a new, $24-billion cable car that will open up nearly untouched snow fields below the Piz Val Gronda peak – in the past, skiers and snowboarders have had to be towed to the area by snowmobile.

Ischgl is already the biggest interconnected ski area in Tyrol, with more than 238 kilometers of runs.

Accommodation in Ischgl includes a number of hotels within meters of the centrally located Silvretta cable car.

Smaller hotels on the outskirts of the resort are equally accessible, thanks to an efficient shuttle bus system.

Ischgl, Tyrol, Austria; +43 5099 0100

Alpenhotel Ischglerhof, Dorfstrasse 92, A-6561 Ischgl, Austria, +43 5444 5330; from $163 per room per night

9. Jay Peak: Vermont, USA

Jay Peak gets the most snow of any resort in eastern North America, and has a huge range of terrain.

Almost all of the lodging is ski-in, ski-out.

This year, the resort is spending $43 million on improvements, including a new 80,000-square-foot hotel and base lodge.

Accommodations include the Slopeside Condominiums on the edge of the resort.

With a new indoor water park, the Hotel Jay and Conference Center is suitable for families.

Jay Peak, Vermont; +1 802 988 2611

Hotel Jay & Conference Center, 830 Jay Peak Road, Jay Peak Vermont, US; 802 988 2611; from $101 per room per night

10. Myoko Kogen: Niigata Prefecture, Japan

This beautiful resort is a great starting point for those who’ve never skied in Japan.

There are no nightclubs or bars, just lots of snow – by mid-season there are usually around four meters.

It’s a four-hour train ride from Tokyo.

The resort, Japan’s oldest, dating to 1911, is surrounded by an astounding 25 ski areas.

Like most Japanese resorts, Myoko Kogen offers traditional and Western accommodation.

Lodge Beetle offers traditional Japanese accommodations high above the main resort – the owners will personally collect you from the resort on their snowmobiles.

Myoko Kogen, Myoko-shi, Niigata-ken, Japan +81 80 8817 4888

Canadian House Hotel, 949-2106, Taguchi-1394, Myoko, Japan; +81 255 87 2186; from $24 per room per night

11. Arosa: Graubünden, Switzerland

Davos, St Moritz and Klosters are some of Graubünden’s most famous resorts, but they’re also the most expensive.

For equally fantastic skiing at half the price, there’s nearby Arosa.

At 2,653 meters (8,704 feet) above sea level, it’s one of Switzerland’s most snow-sure resorts.

This winter a new cable car will connect Arosa with the nearby resort of Lenzerheide.

The hotels here are also some of the prettiest you’ll find in a ski resort, whether it’s the Alpensonne, with views over surrounding mountains, or the Gspan hotel, a quaint wooden cabin.

Arosa, Arosa, Switzerland; +41 81 378 70 20;

Gspan Arosa, +41 (81) 377 14 94; from $99 per night

12. Aletsch Arena: Switzerland

The Aletsch Arena is located on the edge of Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It comprises three car-free villages (Riederalp, Bettmeralp, Fiescheralp), all connected by lifts.

There are 11 terrain parks and around 100 kilometers of trails.

In Bettmeralp, Hotel Alpfrieden is a beautiful, stone-clad hotel, loved by return guests for its extensive wine list.

The Art Furrer hotel in Riederalp is centrally located and just a short walk from the ski school.

Switzerland’s famous ski train means the resort is equally well connected to Bern, Basel and Zurich.

Aletsch Arena, Valais, Switzerland, +41 27 928 41 31

Slalom Hotel, CH-3992 Bettmeralp, Switzerland; +41 27 927 17 87; from $95 per room per night

13. Schladming: Schladming-Dachstein, Austria

Skiers and snowboarders flock to this former mining town for the huge range of terrain, which includes some tough black runs, including the slopes used for the annual World Cup night slalom.

The World Ski Championships were held here last winter, and as a result, the resort now has several new and incredibly fast lifts.

An hour drive from Salzburg, the town dates to medieval times and is packed with small, family-run cafes, shops and après-ski bars.

One of the most beautiful hotels is the Hotel Schütterhof. It’s well-connected to the slopes and has one of the resort’s largest spas.

Schladming, Styria, Austria; +43 36 87/233 10

Hotel Schütterhof, Wiesenweg 140, 8971 Rohrmoos-Untertal, Austria; +43 3687 61205

14. Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Bavaria, Germany

This severely underestimated German ski resort, a 90-minute train journey from Munich, was the venue for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 2011.

The resort’s ski area covers three mountains and offers world class skiing.

Experienced skiers and snowboarders should head to the high altitude Alpspitze area, which lies above the tree line. This is also the location of one of the world’s most spectacular viewing platforms, AlpspiX, which juts out from the mountain and from which visitors can peer a thousand meters into the depths below.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany; +49 8821 180 700

Hotel Bavaria, Partnachstrasse 51 82467, Garmisch-Partenkirchen; +49 (0)8821 3466; from $93 per night