Right now, the snow is thick and plentiful in Europe. I mean, there’s loads of it. So much that people are up to their armpits in it. But booking a last-minute trip to sample the powder ain’t always cheap. Val d’Isere and Chamonix, St Anton and Madonna all come in way over budget for the average snow bum. But how’s about Bulgaria? And no, I don’t mean the glitzy Borovetz, but Bankso, the little unheardof ski resort nestled between a charming medieval village and UNESCO-listed Pirin National Park.
To get your attention, here are four words to make you book those flights to Sofia.
Cheap beer. Bears. Wolves.
Beer is a £1 and bears and wolves live freely in the mountains of the national park, and so do a ton of native wildlife – meaning that this isn’t just a winter destination, but the perfect spot for hikers and wildlife lovers when the sun melts the snow in summer.
But let’s take it back to those slopes.
Bansko boasts 75km of piste, with reliable snow cover from December through to March and is the ideal playground for beginner and intermediate skiers and boarders. There is an extensive network of blue and red slopes that are linked together by a mixture of drag and uncovered chairlifts, however options for the advanced rider can be a little bit limited if off piste ain’t your thang.
When it comes to eating and drinking, Bansko has everything you could ever want from a ski resort, but at less than half of the premium. From pubs that cater for those who can’t miss a Premiership football match serving beer and cheap food to traditional taverns busting out the hearty, mountain food you’d expect from a Bulgarian mountain town. There are sex shops, Bulgarian crafts, monasteries and wooden chalets that bring the tangled streets of the old town together.
How do I get there?
Hop on a plane to Sofia. Easyjet have cheap flights from all over the UK.
Where do I stay?
Your options are limitless, but my personal recommendation would be the Snomads Eco-Chalet. Not only do they have a geo-thermal pool to melt into after a heavy day on the piste, but this little chalet is a home-from-home in the hills. Think cosy atmosphere, home-cooked food like your best friend’s weird Eastern European nan and booze. The guys that run and own the chalet have a serious, deep love for the mountains and snow and are chilled and profesh.
They’ve also got a rad video, which captures them down to a T. Prices start at £159.99 pp.
What about kit and passes?
There’s really no point lugging your kit across the continent when rental is so cheap in resort. There are plenty of options along the main drag and prices are comparable. For a whole week’s hire, you’re looking to spend around the £60 mark. Ski passes can be booked in advance, but the price doesn’t change from £140 if you’re on a whim to catch some pow and buy your pass at the bottom of the gondola.
So, watcha waiting for?