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ON THE cheapski! NIGEL THOMPSON on skiing's coolest places on a budget.

IF the cost of a ski holiday this winter makes you feel wobblier than a beginner who has accidentally strayed on to a black run that's covered in buttered ball bearings... then look to the east.

As snow begins to blanket the mountains it is Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia which have taken the top four places in a piste price survey for British skiers for the upcoming season.

The eastern European countries fare best in the survey of 14 leading ski resorts, which compares prices for the 2009/10 season with the last one.

The results were achieved by looking at two categories - the prices of a sixday low-season lift pass and ski/boot hire (see table A on Page 50) and then the cost of food and drink (table B. Note, the table shows the cost of one meal only).

The overall result, where A and B are combined, is displayed in table C, showing clearly how the eastern Europeans scored best.

The winning resort, Poiana Brasov, near the city of Brasov in central Romania, was undoubtedly helped by sterling's stability against the Romanian leu and easily the lowest lift pass and ski/boot hire costs at pounds 165.33.

Second-placed Borovets, in Bulgaria, offered the cheapest coffee at pounds 1.01, while Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, had a glass of wine for 98p - a quarter of the price in Vail, Colorado. You'd best sit down for a moment now, because a glass of wine in Geilo, Norway, will set you back an unbelievable pounds 9.31.

However, while the survey, compiled by Post Office Travel Services, is bad news for the ever-popular Canadian resort of Banff (bottom placed with the high cost of a lift pass at pounds 296.06 a big factor - see Patrick Mulchrone's report from the Alberta ski slopes on Pages 52 & 53) there is some cheer for France and the US.

Prices in Courchevel, in the Trois Vallees area of the French Alps, have fallen by 11% despite the strong euro, making it one of just two resorts to show a fall in prices. The other is Vail, where the hard-pressed US industry has also trimmed costs by 11% in the face of a recovering dollar.

There is also some respite from the strong euro at La Thuile, Italy, which is slightly cheaper than Courchevel even after the French price cuts.

Post Office head of travel services Sarah Munro says: "It is worth comparing the prices of ski equipment hire and lift passes in different resorts, as these can make a big difference to the overall cost of a ski holiday.

"French ski resorts have responded well to the pressures imposed by the strong euro by slashing prices, and Courchevel now rates as one of the cheapest eurozone ski destinations as a direct result."

"While bargain hunters will still find the lowest prices in Romania and Bulgaria, price should not be the only issue when planning a ski holiday .

"It's important to choose a resort that matches your ability and expectations. Challenging ski runs and top facilities may matter to experienced skiers but families may well be more bothered about budgets than black runs."

In an additional survey of a one-hour private ski lesson, the eastern countries again fared best - Poiana was once more top, despite a 40% rise in prices to pounds 17.53 from 2008/9.

Data based on exchange rates on October 2, 2009. Full survey available at postoffice.co.uk/skireport2009.

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FIRST RESORT: Poiana Brasov, Romania, is top for value
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 14, 2009
Words:592
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