The Best Skiing in Eastern Europe
Kranjska Gora village in Slovenia. Eastern Europe has some great savings, making it a good choice for first-timers, families, and skiers on a budget. Lift tickets cost a third to half the price of tickets in major Alpine resorts, with equipment rentals and stadium skiing also very competitive. The guide was friendly and generally good. However, the skiing itself is mostly uncomplicated – with exceptions like Jasna and Rosa Khutor, as well as skiing at Popova Sapka in Macedonia and Gudauri in Georgia, where you can ski and snowboard snow by helicopter. The mountains are generally smaller, but it’s important not to compare the lower elevations with those of the Alpine resorts – the skiing is much further east and therefore the resorts are enjoyed benefit from a completely different type of snow. Eating out is a mixed experience. It’s cheap, and you’ll find some games, chicken, lamb, and hot liqueurs like plum brandy. However, on the whole, it is more like Austrian Alpine food than that of other countries. Here, in alphabetical order, are the main ski countries and their resorts:
Photo: (c) Feelbosnia. The country’s largest ski resort Jahorina is 40 minutes by foot south of Sarajevo and was the site of the women’s alpine skiing events during the 1984 Winter Olympic Games. It has 25 kilometers of trails. marked. During the Siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s, the forested area was cleared of land with explosive devices – fortunately, the danger was long gone.
Stay: Aparthotel Vucko is a few steps from the Ogorjelica ski lift and features a wine bar, seating area with fireplace and spa.
Photo: (c) Kempinski Bansko. Bulgaria’s premier ski resort Bansko is 150 kilometers south of Sofia and is made up of three small ski resorts. The town dates back to the 10th century and later became a center of commerce in the 18th century; and you can feel its history as you walk down the cobbled streets and eat in the traditional Mehana inns with a lively atmosphere (but the food is extremely varied). 70km slopes up to 2600m but gets crowded at peak times. Modern elevators include an eight-seat gondola and six high-speed elevators.
Stay: Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena is the best hotel here. It features a kids club, swimming pool and spa.
Borovets steep. Borovets is located at the foot of Mount Rila, 75 km from Sofia. It started as a hunting lodge for the Bulgarian royal family in the 19th century and developed in the 1970s into an international ski resort. There’s a 1980s gondola and a bunch of other lifts – all in need of an upgrade. Apres-ski is very lively and there is also night skiing here.
Stay: Hotel Samakov features a modern thermal spa, gym, indoor swimming pool, beauty center and hair salon.
Trail in Pamporovo. Pamporovo, 85 kilometers from the historic town of Plovdiv and close to the Greek border, has eight lifts and more limited skiing (37 kilometers) than other Bulgarian resorts here. Don’t miss a visit to the many caves, home to some amazing rock formations.
Stay: Hotel Bellevue Ski & Spa features a fitness center with an indoor pool. Or if you want something luxurious and don’t mind being outside the resort, Villa Gella is a good choice – with six en-suite bedrooms, a professional chef, an indoor pool and a spa.
If you want to combine skiing with a city break in Prague, you should consider Špindlerův Mlýn. It’s the country’s most popular winter sports resort, with 25 kilometers of trails and 16 lifts, as well as 85 kilometers of cross-country trails. It is located in the mountains of Krkonoše, a two-hour drive from the capital. Špindlerův is made up of five different ski centers, the most famous of which is Svatý Petr (St Peter) with its FIS World Cup black run and a large snow park. The others are Medvědín, Hromovka, Labská, and Horní Mísečky, with an all-inclusive ski pass.
Stay: Hotel Prague has a spa, but is best known for its food. The restaurant serves regional family-style cooking as well as modern dishes. Don’t miss the sweet dumplings with blackberries!
Photo: (c) Gudauri Travel. Gudauri is 144km from Tbilisi Airport, and at 2196m (with ski runs up to 3279m), the resort ranks among the highest mountains in Europe. There are 11 lifts and more than 70 kilometers of trails. The ski season usually lasts until May, and the resort is popular for its helicopter skiing, which operates all season.
Stay: Monte Hotel is a three-minute drive from the nearest elevator and has a shuttle service. The restaurant serves Georgian and European dishes as well as Georgian wines.
Photo: (c) Eskimo Freeride. Popova Sapka is Macedonia’s main ski resort, with 20 kilometers of runs, 9 lifts and some notable off-piste skiing. To access this terrain, there’s a snow cat company called Eskimo Freeride, which will guide you through the trees, down steep reservoirs, and past great bowls of powder. Skopje Airport is 99 km away.
Stay: Mercure Tetovo is in Tetovo, 19 km away. It’s not the closest hotel to the slopes, but the others are considerably more basic. “By far the best hotel of this chain I’ve stayed at. Many miles better than any UK Mercure/Accords hotel,” is a report.
Zakopane is located at the foothills of the Tatra Mountains along the Slovak border and 112 km from the historic city of Krakow. Falls, lakes and rivers add to the stunning scenery, and the ski resort is one of the largest in the northern Alps – made up of 10 small ski resorts with 16 runs served by 20 cable cars to take guests to the top of the ski. Zakopane was Poland’s original ski resort and was the venue for the 1939 FIS Alpine and Nordic World Ski Championships, and the 1929 Nordic World Ski Championships.
Stay: Hotel Rysy is a rarity for an Eastern European ski resort: a five-star hotel. The modern hotel is 3 km from the Kuźnice ski area.
Photo: (c) Discover Poiana. Poiana Brasov is the country’s most popular resort and the filming location of Anthony Minghella’s film Cold Mountain. It is located in the Carpathian Mountains, a 3-hour drive from Bucharest and 157 km. The 24km ski area has 11 lifts and offers some of the best beginner and intermediate skiing in Eastern Europe. Don’t miss a day trip to Bran Castle – known as Dracula’s Castle. Avoid the grilled bear you’ll sometimes see on menus – unless you’re brave and not cranky.
Stay: AnaHotels Sport is located in a pine forest at the foot of Mount Postavarul. It has a spa and indoor pool.
Photo: (c) Welove2ski Rosa Khutor is one of the resorts under the Sochi umbrella, which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The resort is 50km east of Sochi and has 25 modern elevators. The steep terrain makes it the most enjoyable skiing in Eastern Europe – and it’s up there with top Alpine resorts. The attractive village sits on a riverbank and was purpose-built for the Olympics. The downside is that it’s more expensive than the rest of Eastern Europe, the snow can be patchy, and the cuisine isn’t meant to be gourmet.
Stay: Park Inn by Radisson is located at the foothills in the heart of Rosa Khutor. It features a restaurant serving Bavarian cuisine, a kids’ club and rooms with modern furnishings and large windows with mountain views.
Kopaonik was a popular destination for British skiers before the civil wars in Bosnia and Kosovo devastated the tourist trade. Today, 60 kilometers are mostly for beginners and mid-low runs served by 24 modern lifts. Nis Airport is 118 km away. Despite the four-hour journey by car, Kopaonik is popular with young Belgrades on weekends and the nightlife is buzzing.
Stay: Four stars Angella Hotel & Residence features an in-house restaurant, gym and spa.
Photo: (c) Jasna.sk Jasna is the highlight of Eastern European skiing and up there are many (smaller) Alpine resorts. skiing takes place on Chopok Mountain in the Low Tatras, 65 km from Poprad Airport. The slopes go up to 2005m and the lifts are among the best in this part of Europe. There are some great off-piste skiing that are very accessible – Jasna hosting the Freeride World Tour in 2017 says it all. The resort has recently invested many millions of euros in improving its infrastructure.
Stay: Australian-run Hotel Villa Bianca or Dragon’s Lair – both a short drive from the slopes, but not much of an accommodation at the foot of the slopes (yet).
Lake Bohinj. Bohinj is not a village, but several villages, all surrounding the beautiful lake of the same name. The Vogel ski area overlooks the lake, has 8 lifts and is mainly for beginner and intermediate skiers. The resort is 57 km from Ljubljana.
Stay: Bohinj Eco Hotel is the green hotel of the area. Its spa is connected to a water park by a heated indoor walkway. The hotel and water park both get their water from a 430 meter deep geothermal well next to the hotel.
Kranjska Gora in the Julian Alps. Kranjska Gora is located in a beautiful valley among craggy mountains, close to the border of Italy and Austria. It’s ideal for families looking for nice surroundings and not too challenging skiing, with chalet-style buildings, an Austrian atmosphere, and a 30-kilometer ski trail. In fact, the nearest airport Klagenfurt in Austria, is 66km away.
Stay: Boutique Skipass Hotel is located 3 km from Mount Planica and 20 km from Tromeja.
Maribor Pohorje mountainside. Mariborski Pohorje is Slovenia’s largest ski area, located just 15 minutes and 12 km from the historic town of Maribor. 42 km of skiing is mainly suitable for beginners and lower intermediate levels.
Stay: Habakuk Wellness Hotel is part of a thermal spa complex with indoor and outdoor heated mineral pools.
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