January isn't the most cheerful month! So if you'd rather be skiing down the slopes than stuck at home, but your bank balance has been hit by Christmas, we've got something to cheer up your New Year.
Hunt out your skis, salopettes and sunglasses and check out the best bargain ski breaks for under £500 – and that's including flights.
You needn't give up all your mod cons or settle for an unknown corner of the mountains if you're looking to save money. The brand new four-star La Reine des Pres Residence, in the Haute Savoyard village of Samoëns in the Chamonix Valley, is only 300m from Grand Massif, so you can be whisked to one of the country's top ski areas in just eight minutes.
Plus the apartment complex includes a heated pool, Jacuzzis, saunas, Turkish baths and spa to help you recover after you come back from the slopes. The apartment sleeps up to eight and costs from around £134 per person per week with WakeUpInFrance.co.uk. Keep your costs right down by swapping flights for a ski-drive trip and take advantage of SeaFrance'sAny Duration crossings, at £25 each way for a car and up to five passengers (plus as much ski equipment you can fit on a roof rack).
Scandinavia doesn't have a reputation for being cheap, but if you've ruled Norway out of your ski plans, it is possible to hit the slopes without breaking the bank.
The new self-catered Alpin Solsiden Apartment, a short walk from Hafjell Village, is more stylish than your average chalet and you can ski in/out – plus you're only 350m to the nearest lift and 500m to the village itself.
Ski Norway has a special offer of £482 per person, based on six sharing, for a seven night stay departing 3 April, including flights and transfers.
Hitting the slopes is supposed to be fun – and the people behind Rude Chalets are determined that whether you're skiing or snowboarding, you should have a grin on your face. And the funky self-catered apartments in snowboarding capital Avoriaz let you ski in/out to hit the nearby pistes – the car-free resort is on the main lift circuit of the Portes du Soleil, with links into Switzerland.
When you're done with the snow, there's an Xbox 360 to keep you entertained as you relax, flatscreen TV, free wifi – one apartment also has an iPod dock. Prices start from £140 per person per week in February and March, based on five sharing, including bed linen, towels and a cleaning service at the end of the week. Transfers from Geneva airport cost from £55 return per person. Easyjet flies from London Gatwick and Luton to Geneva will cost from around £38 return.
Going cheap and cheerful doesn't mean you have to forget your eco side – St Martin Chalets in St Michael im Lungau, Austria is being billed as the country's first luxury sustainable holiday resort. Powered and heated by a combination of solar power and vegetable oil power, it's far from rustic, with chic minimalist white and light wood decor.
Five minutes walk from the main St Michael lift to take you up the nearest mountain, Speiereck-Grosseck, you've got five ski areas in total, all served by the same ski pass, including the Katschberg, Aineck, Fanningberg and Obertauern ski regions.
Prices start from around £1,269 for a 10-person chalet for five nights between January 29 and March 4, and from around £1,185 for a six-person chalet for five nights during the same period. There's no minimum number to rent the chalet, so the cost is divided between the group – as cheap as £127 per person. Prices are around 10% cheaper from March 5.
You can also book on a single night basis, depending on availability, priced from around £23 per person per night, based on 10 sharing.
Flights to Salzburg or Klagenfurt, which are both just over an hour from the resort, cost from £50 per person with Ryanair, German Wings or Air Berlin. Ski passes cost from around £99 for four days. Hire cars cost from around £22 per person, based on four sharing.
Good old Bulgaria – topping the bargain ski chart time after time for its main resorts, including the country's oldest at Borovets. With the highest pistes at 2,600m and 45km of choice to ski on, depending what length and level of difficulty you're looking for, Borovets boasts some competition-level skiing as well as cross-country and biathlon tracks just 2km from the resort. Best of all, the après ski is cheaper than you'll find in many of the Western European ski centres.
DirectLine Skiing offers seven nights half-board for £329 at the four-star Hotel Bor & Edelweiss, Borovets, based on two sharing, departing on February 12.
Easily bored? You can ski in three countries if you pick the right destination, and the Julian Alps in Slovenia are just a few minutes from the Italian and Austrian borders, so you can tick off the trio in one visit. The new luxurious self-catering Villas Nebina and Planina from Slovenian Retreats are both around five minutes drive from the country's best-known resort Kranjska Gora, while the Italian resort of Tarviso is a 20 minute drive away, and Arnoldstein Dreilanereck and Gerlitzen in Austria are around a half an hour trip. In total there's 10 ski resorts within an hour's drive, which should keep you more than happy.
Slovenia retreats can provide airport transfers and transport to/from the villas for a day of skiing at Kranjska Gora, one day at Tarviso Monet Lussari, and one day at Gerlitzen, from around £24 per person.
There's a special launch offer of around £1,170 per week to hire Villa Planina, sleeping 20 – so around £58.50 per person – or around £1,470 per week for Villa Nebina, sleeping 18, which equals around £81.50 per person. You need a minimum of 12 people to get the offer, so if you can only find 11 friends, it works out at £97.50 or £122.50 per person for the week. For smaller groups, prices start from around £50 per night for both villas, based on a minimum of three nights.
Flights from London Stansted to Ljubljana with Easyjet cost from £22.99 per person, or from £175 from London Gatwick with Adria. Ryanair also flies to Klagenfurt in Austria from around £14 return, which is around an hour's drive.
It's not just the flights and accommodation which can bump up your holiday costs – other essentials like a lift pass can start adding up. But you can still pick up bargains in the French Alps with plenty to spare from £500. The purpose built resort of Isola 2000, in the southern Alps just 90km from Nice, has some great nursery slopes and its 120km of pistes are renowned for being some of the sunniest in France – as well as being ones getting the most snow.
Pierre & Vacances offers seven nights at the four star Residence Les Terrasses d'Azur in Isola 2000 for around £114 per person from March 12-19, based on four people sharing a one-bedroom apartment. The luxury apartments look out over the Chastillon valley and have good access to the free funicular railway to the ski runs and shops. A six-day adult lift pass costs £118 and Easyjet flies from London Gatwick to Nice from around £53.
When you're not hurtling down them, you want some stunning views of the valleys so the small town of Lauterbrunnen – known as the Valley of the Waterfalls – is perfect for breathtaking scenery as well as skiing. Part of the Jungfrau region in the Bernese Oberland, you've got the resorts of Wengen and Murren close to hand.
Chill out with a two-bed Swiss-style apartment overlooking the valley, from HomeAway, a two minute walk to the ski bus, which runs every 15 minutes in high season connecting you to the ski resorts. There's also parking available. The apartment sleeps four and costs £240 per person per week in February and £208 per person per week in March.
There are no direct flights to the nearest airport, Bern, although Air France does fly via Paris. Easyjet flies to Basel and Zurich, both within a couple of hours' drive of Lauterbrunnen, from around £37 return.
The pretty resort of Seefeld in the Austrian Tirol has skiing on two mountains, as well as cross country trails – and the three-star Hotel Krinserhof is just four minutes walk from the ski lifts. If you're looking for somewhere with wild apres-ski, Seefeld isn't going to top your list, but for a chilled-out place to get away from it all and just enjoy the slopes, it's ideal.
Crystal Holidays offers a week's stay for £475 including flights, transfers and half board departing March 12.