For overall best value for money, whether travelling as a family or for those just finding their feet on the slopes, The Post Office’s annual ski report has found Bansko, Bulgaria to be the winner hands down for affordable skiing.
The Ski Resort Report 2014 has a standard shopping basket of ski resort items which can be compared, like for like, between different countries. The report takes into account the cost of a six-day ski lift pass, skis/boot hire for six days, ski school lessons for six days, and lunch with soft drinks on the mountain. It shows that the overall lowest cost was Bansko, Bulgaria at £261.45 (one person), costing less than half that of Europe’s most expensive resorts – Zermatt (£686.90), Wengen (£593.50), Saas-Fee (£570), St. Anton (£564.93) and Kitzbuehel (£540.43).
Bansko also comes out on top for the cheapest family ski resort. A family of four can expect to pay £872.32 for six days’ ski passes, ski equipment, ski school and one lunch with drinks on the mountain. This is more than £100 cheaper than second-place Soldeu, Andorra (£981.74)
Bansko . . . Nestled at the foot of the Pirin Mountains, Bansko is one of Europe’s most rapidly developing ski resorts. It has benefited from a multi-million-euro investment and boasts the most up-to-date ski facilities in Bulgaria. It also has the best snow record and the longest ski season in the country.
Skiing . . . Bansko (925m) has a ski area set between 2,000-2600m altitude and offers good snow coverage from mid-December to mid-May. The slopes are complete with 44 snow cannons and linked via fast lifts (chairs, drags, and an eight-seater gondola).
The resort is favoured by beginners and intermediates. The nursery slopes at the top of the gondola are free from through traffic. Beginners can progress to the long, gentle blue runs. Intermediates will find some good and varied red runs from the top. There is also one black piste for more advanced skiers. Snowboarders can try out tricks on the first snow park in the Balkans, complete with a half-pipe. Five kilometres of cross-country skiing is also available.
Town . . . This pretty, medieval town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering a taste of history and culture. A wide selection of accommodation is available from small family-run pensions to luxury hotels with swimming pools and spas. Forget stereotypes of ex-Soviet utilitarian concrete bunkers, checkout the Kempinski Grand which is a first-class hotel by any standards. Taste local food and wines at a choice of traditional Bansko taverns in the pretty town square after a day on the mountain. There's also a good choice of lively bars and nightclubs.
Non-skiers . . . There are two great day trips for non-skiers: to the stunning UNESCO listed 11th-century monastery of Rila and to the wild mountain village of Kovachevitsa with the nearby hot springs. If you don’t want to go too far, the market in Bansko is fun. The resort also has all the usual alternatives to downhill skiing: ice skating, tobogganing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, spa, saunas and the obligatory Irish pub.