Top four alternative ski destinations.

Itís that time of year again. The summer sun is fading and the autumn is creeping upon us. This is the best time to broach the subject of next yearís winter holiday. Instead of heading to the usual Alpine-European skiing hotspots, why not head off to pastures Ė or pistes Ė new?

Cheap flights are in abundance, and exceptional ski resorts are popping up for less money in far-flung locations all the time. Here is a list of our top four alternative ski holidays.

Slovenia

Slovenia has made a name for itself recently thanks to the friendly welcome afforded to visitors and its picturesque mountain runs. The country is home to some great resorts but few can compare to the beauty of Bled.

The lakeside resort is perfect for families. The Bohinj Valley affords incredible views out over Lake Bled and surrounding forests, and while expert runs are scarce, it means that itís the ideal place for a family to learn the ropes of the sport.

Whatís more, Slovenia is an affordable ski trip for a large group. Prices remain lower than Western Europe, which means you can get more for your money.

Finland

Finlandís resorts are bundled in with the appeal of their Lapland location, and the home of Father Christmas is bound to appeal to children. However, thereís more to Finland than the reindeer as itís also the home to at least two great ski resorts.

The resort of Iso SyŲte is the perfect place for beginners to learn their way around gentle slopes and the snow is frequently fresh. For those whowant steeper gradients,a trip to the resort of Ruka would be highly recommended. With links to intermediate and advanced runs on mountain slopes that are rarely crowded, skiers can revel in the picturesque solitude of the place. By night there is the chance to witness the appearance of the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, which is one of the greatest natural sights on earth.

Russia

If thereís one convincing factor for hardcore ski fans to take a skiing holiday to Russia, then itís got to be the chance to ski the 2014 Winter Olympics ski route in Sochi before anybody else does. There are also the ultra-reliable snow conditions, the vertical drops and a sense of escaping the usual ski crowds to head to alpine exotica.

Experts should base themselves at the Rosa Khutor resort high up in the mountains, where the sheer drop gives way to a few black runs that should test the ability (and courage) of skiers and snowboarders alike.

Japan

Anybody who has an active adventurous side is bound to be intrigued at the idea of skiing in Japan. It may be a long way to go for fresh powder, but with city views, extinct volcanoes and an abundance of culture, your trip to Japanmay well be the greatest ski trip you will ever take.

Head to the northern island of Hokkaido where the slopes of Mount Yotei will inspire you. There are resorts to be found in the villages of Higashiyama and Annupuri, which have vibrant nightlife scenes to go with the excellent ski runs.

Wherever you decide to base yourself in one of its resorts, Japan will offer you a refreshing change to the usual European holiday.