Not many people I’ve spoken to realise that Bulgaria is a ski/snowboard destination! Bansko is one of the best resorts there; an old village rich in culture that has been thrown into modern life with a popular ski resort. It is very affordable; much cheaper than France or Switzerland. It’s situated at the foot of the Pirin mountain in the south-western Bulgaria, only 160 km from Sofia.
A group of eleven of us visited over Easter weekend in late March – apparently the whole season had been warmer than usual, so considering we were on the edge of the season we were lucky to have such lovely snow at the top! There is normally a blue piste all the way back to the town with snowmaking and floodlighting, though the snow level was not low enough and it wasn’t open during our visit.
The gondola goes from just outside the centre of the town, and is a good 20min trip up to the top. You can enjoy a lovely view.
The first day was a bit slushy in the morning, with rain and wind, but it soon cleared up. We had to do a test run down the beginners slope so that they could put us into groups according to ability – I did not enjoy this! It took me a little while to remember my lessons from Andorra, but once our instructor took us up the hill, it all came back.
I was soaked through from the rain, and freezing cold by the end of the day. It was lovely to go back to the hotel and relax in the pool and sauna.
The second day was much nicer; very sunny and a lot more snow from overnight. We went right to the top of the mountain this time. From the main base, there are two successive fast quad chairs take you up to the high point of the area. There are lovely large open slopes at the top ideal for practising turns, as well as a half-pipe and terrain park.
There are good medium-to-difficult reds that come straight down the face from the top, and varied blues go round to the right, so overall there are about four or five ways back down to the gondola.
I find I’m always very sore and stiff the second day, my body a bit more reluctant to be slammed onto the slopes so much, so I had to take regular breaks. Which gave me a chance to take in some of the amazing views!
We managed to meet our group for lunch or a drink most days, though it could be difficult to find everyone amongst the Easter holiday crowd! We were varying degrees of skill and experience, most of skiing and only three of us snowboarding.
On our last full day, Alex and I decided not to snowboard and do a bit of exploring instead. The old town looks no great beauty from the outskirts, with a lot of recent developments popping up. But head into the central square and the town reveals a quiet and charming heart, with architecture and winding cobbled streets straight out of a Disney movie.
In the afternoon we went to a nearby village called Banya (‘Bath’) and had a dip in a natural hot pool to soothe our aching muscles. A lovely way to end the short break before heading back to work!
Fly to Sofia – EasyJet flies from London Gatwick
Transfer is just over 2 hours drive, there are many options to book
We stayed at the Lucky Bansko Hotel https://luckybansko.com/en/
Hire your gear online, or wait till you arrive and you can negotiate prices down!
There are no lockers to put stuff in at the top of the mountain, so only take what you need. But remember that the food is expensive at the top!
For families, there’s a nursery area up the mountain. The kindergarten takes children from four to seven years old.