Featured Image: Mike Brindley
If you’re bored of having so much fondue every winter that medical professionals have starting warning you that your blood is now mostly melted Gruyere, then you might just be bored of skiing in France. And while we’d never ever tell you to permanently stop skiing and / or snowboarding in the mountains of our neighbours across the channel, we definitely don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a year off and going somewhere else for a change. Step forward Bansko in Bulgaria; a curveball that’s cheap, cheerful, and anything but the ‘same old same old’ type of ski resort.
How To Get There
Bansko is served by two airports – Sofia (around 160km away) and Plovdiv (around 180km away). One of the most visually interesting ways, although definitely not the most efficient, is to get to Bansko is via the narrow-gauge train from Septemvri. It takes about five hours, and traverses postcard-perfect mountains and valleys.
Buses to Bansko depart regularly from various stations around Sofia and cost 16 leva each way (about £7). There’s not a whole heap of room for luggage on these (many of them are essentially vans) so you might encounter issues if you’re bringing your skis / snowboard with you. The timetable for these buses can be found here.
Things To Do In Bansko
Only someone who’s never been to any other ski resort before would try and tell you that Bansko is the best place on earth to go skiing and / or snowboarding. But that’s cool, Bansko is best enjoyed when you look at it simply as an extremely affordable way to grab yourself some sliding time on the white stuff. It’s not Whistler, it’s not even Morzine, it’s Bansko; it’s own distinct, weirdly charming, thing.
“An extremely affordable way to grab yourself some sliding time on the white stuff”
Nestled in Pirin National Park, in southwestern Bulgaria, Bansko offers visitors 75km of piste to get their teeth stuck into (as well as some very fun tree runs, and backcountry, if that’s more your thing). There’s 18 ski slopes (six blues, 11 reds, one black) in the main snow sports area, with two long, quite flat, ‘ski roads’ (orange) that’ll take you back into town. The snow is usually pretty reliable between January and April but even when it’s not the fact that 90% of the runs are equipped with snow-making facilities means your time here is never a total blowout.
The 400 square kilometres that make up Pirin National Park are, for the most part, incredibly beautiful. As well being home to stunning peaks such as Mount Vihren (2914m) and Todorka (2746m), the park is also where you’ll find almost one third of the country’s plant and bird species. The views in this place, when the weather’s playing ball, are truly excellent.
Touched upon this briefly already but one of the factors that makes Bansko a no-brainer on the winter adventure front is the low cost of things. You can, for example, easily get a pint of beer for £1.80. Did someone say après-ski? Bulgarian resorts like Bansko and Borovets consistently top surveys looking at best value ski holiday destinations.