Over the past few years, one destination has become a magnet for Brits looking for cheaper ski holidays. Bulgaria is the new hotspot for skiing holidays. Here’s why the Eastern European nation is proving so popular, and some tips for travellers.
The first thing to note about Bulgaria’s popularity over other Eastern European skiing destinations, is that lots of travel agents offer package holidays there, whereas they don’t for destinations like Poland, Slovakia or Ukraine. However, why did it become the UK’s Eastern Europe ski destination du jour in the first place? And what’s skiing in Bulgaria like?
What’s skiing like in Bulgaria?
Affordability is the key to skiing in Bulgaria. Despite its relatively distant location from Britain – Sofia is a three hour flight from London – airplane prices can be just as cheap as travelling to the Alps. Then there’s life on the slopes themselves, ski hire, lift passes, food and drink are all so much cheaper than at mainstream destinations. Day to day life on the slopes is roughly half the price of the Alps.
Drink being so cheap, means Bulgaria has one of the best après scenes going. Unsurprisingly this makes Bulgaria extremely popular with students and young British skiers, for whom the party side of a ski holiday can be just as important as the skiing itself. (See also: stag dos).
Yet all that partying doesn’t mean that families should steer clear of Bulgaria. The affordability factor stretches to them too, and package holidays offer huge discounts on children. Bulgarian ski schools have a brilliant reputation – the prices for which are on average half of what you’d get in the Alps, and Bulgarian lessons last far longer (4 hours vs 2.5).
Downsides of skiing in Bulgaria
With so much focus on affordability, the low prices mean you occasionally miss out on amenities you might expect elswhere. The ski hire being so cheap, means the quality of gear is nowhere near as reliable as in mainstream destinations. It’s harder – but not impossible – to find the same luxurious pampering and fine dining experiences in Bulgaria, compared to the Alps. Ski-in/ski-out accommodation is a rare sight in Bulgaria, but there is some if you absolutely require it.
Another thing to be aware of, is that Bulgaria isn’t a prime skiing location for those in search of tougher terrain. While excellent for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, there simply aren’t very many black runs in the country.
Bulgaria is home to three main ski resorts, get the lowdown on each of them here.
Two hours from Sofia is Bansko, a UNESCO world heritage listed town with charming cobbled streets, beneath a mountain that boasts the most modern ski resort in all of Bulgaria. With 18 lifts on offer, and 75km of slopes to explore. The pistes are an at altitude of 2000m-2500m, the highest skiing Bulgaria has to offer, and therefore the longest ski season. All this means that Bansko is the most popular resort in the country, and is the most likely to get overcrowded during peak times.
Borovets is Bulgaria’s oldest ski resort, dates back to the 19th century, when the Bulgarian royal family started visiting. Situated just 90 minutes away from Sofia, it’s an excellent choice for anyone interested in combining their ski holiday with a city break. The resort has 12 lifts and 58km of marked runs, spread across three ski areas. You can walk between these areas, get a bus, or – thrillingly – ride in a horse drawn carriage between them.
Borovets is particularly friendly to snowboarders – the resort undertook a large upgrade to replace many of its drag lifts with chairs to make it more rider friendly. It’s also home to a 520m long freestyle park, the largest east of the Alps.
Pamporovo mainly has green and blue slopes, so is the resort best suited to beginners and families. It’s also further south than the other resorts, and is closer to Plovdiv than Sofia. Towering over the resort is the eye-catching Snezhanka Tower – a television tower from the Soviet era.
If you’ve read this article and are tempted by Bulgarian resorts’ cheap drinks and party scene, Pamporovo probably isn’t for you. The town has more family friendly restaurants than dive bars.