SKI SPECIAL: DON'T BREAK THE BANSKO

SKI SPECIAL: DON'T BREAK THE BANSKO

Mirror online, 22.10.2005, Nick Coles

ASK most skiers what they know about Bulgaria and they'll say it's cheap. And they'd be right. If you're on a tight budget you won't get a better deal on a winter sports holiday anywhere else in Europe. Out of this bargain-hunter's snowy paradise, the historical town of Bansko, in the beautiful Pirin mountain range, has emerged as the champion of Bulgaria's winter resorts, and offers so many thrills a penny you can't afford not to go. Millions of pounds have been spent on facilities in past few years. Chairlifts have been added to link up the two main ski areas, which means snowboarders can avoid tiresome drag lifts. And there's still a lot of development going on in Bansko - most of it near the gondola that takes you from the outskirts of town up to the centre of the ski area. Thankfully the old town remains relatively untouched giving Bansko a quaint charm. Most of the houses are of traditional stone and timber build, and we occasionally saw locals on horse and cart or skating over the icy streets in an ancient Trabant. A ride in the gondola takes less than 20 minutes and the further up you get the more spectacular the view becomes, stretching out over a seemingly infinite forest of huge pine trees. Among which is a 12km ski-road that runs all the way back into town. Snow canons cover the ski-road and floodlights have been installed for night skiing. It's a wonderful meandering run through the pines but there are a few flat sections, so snowboarders need to keep a momentum or end up shuffling along the flats, praying for ski poles. The improved lift network means the variety of runs seamlessly link up and there's plenty to keep you busy no matter what level of ability. Beginners can have great fun on the blue runs, while the many blue and red runs make Bansko an intermediate's dream. And the relatively quiet pistes mean you can bomb down some blue sections at speeds you probably shouldn't be attempting. Even some of the reds will have lily-livered intermediates quaking in their boots. But if it's more thrills than sheer speed you're after, then catch some air on the ramps and bumps of the new funpark area. Bankso has a good record for the white stuff and there can be crisp snow until early May. The lift queues are minimal, thanks to a new hands-free, chip-card lift-pass. No rummaging in pockets, just wear the card on your left and as you walk by the turnstile sensor the gate opens. You can hire ski gear from the centre at the base of the gondola, and leave it there overnight. To refuel during a day on the slopes, stop off at one of the restaurants and snack bars on the mountain. Tuck into belly-warming soups, tasty barbecued kebabs or a three-course meal. The best place to enjoy the apres is the newly-built Happy End pub - located at the end of the ski-road. We found it impossible to walk past without slipping in for a tot or three of the local brandy - eye-popping firewater traditionally served hot, There's live music at the weekends when the place fills up with young professionals from Sofia. For a more traditional atmosphere, head for one of the many Mehana taverns, where you can gulp the local beers for as little as 50p a pint. And if you're self-catering, you can venture into the old town to try some of the local dishes. Bulgarian cuisine has similarities with Greek and Turkish. Specialities include the Bansko-style kapama, a tasty mix of meats and veg stewed in an earthenware dish. You can get a two-course meal for about ??5 a head, and a local red at ??2 a bottle. Nightlife can be found in some of the more modern bars in town. There's the inevitable English bar - The Lion, with live football screenings and imported English beer. There's also a lot of investment going into new accommodation around the gondola station. The plush five-star Hotel Kempinski has just been built right on the slope, and smaller hotels and apartment blocks are popping up all over. We stayed in the four-star Hotel Perun, a 5-10 minute walk from the gondola station. The hotel's steamroom and Jacuzzi were a welcome relief after a day on-piste. There's a laid-back atmosphere in Bansko, with mainly Russians, Germans and English. Seasoned skiers won't find the size of ski area they're used to in the Alps, but if you're on a budget, give Bansko a run.
     
  • Pepa From Madrid
    Sent on 24 August 2016
    Un citio presioso pero todo lo demas mentira.la comida,el personal muy mal.No lo recomiendo a nadie.Es una publicidad engañosa.Y de All inclusive nada.No se dejen engañar por las paginas web.Por desgracia en Bulgaria todavia el consumidor no es nadie.
  • Juglena Bankova From Bulgaria
    Sent on 13 May 2016
    Nie byakhme tam na Velikden i pisha malko kŭsno. No vpechatleniata sa ni poveche ot prekrasni! Velikolepna kuhnia (ne savetvat jenite na dieta, da hodiat za poveche ot tri dni, zashtoto yastiyata sa neustoimi, vkusni i ogromni)! Great stil! I mnogo priaten personal!(osobeno damata v restoranta) Pozdravleniya !
  • ger99 From turkey
    Sent on 01 March 2015
    We loved it. Had a perfect 2 bedroom apartment modern, clean new renovated With view to slope. Perfect location in pamporovo as central ski in ski out. Friendly staff, not ovr crowded relaxed athmosphere. our friends (group with total of 7 rooms) all very happy! It is away from city center but close to bowling and 2 nice reaturans.
  • ashley hensman From uk
    Sent on 01 March 2015
    Flora is a lovely hotel clean in a great location and the food was good just make sure you use the safes.
  • Enjoy ski From UK
    Sent on 27 February 2015
    Just came back from Sevlievo in Bulgaria. Drove up to Hotel Impulse in Uzana where I hired skis, boots and poles for myself and two children for just 17 levs for adult and 10 levs each child and used the hotel ski slope 5 levs each. Perfect for the kids first time as parking right at entrance to hotel and slope is 20m walk! Food in restaurant tasty and cheap. Perfect for beginners!
  • Charlotte Hennessy From england
    Sent on 23 February 2015
    WOW, thats all i can say about the previous week of my life. The snow conditions were amazing and the people were so friendly. The night life was always active and the rila hotel was especially fantastic. I loved the accommodation at the rila and i loved the way it is right on the slope. I wouldn't have changed a thing about the holiday and i would recommend this resort to everyone including beginners and experts. Overall, i had an amazing time!!!
  • Brian mcvey From Scotland
    Sent on 20 February 2015
    Going to borovets for 2nd time this time with my son. Had a great time 4 years ago, now with park I expect it to be a lot better now and it was brill last time round. 20 days and counting
  • Lasse WP From Denmark
    Sent on 15 February 2015
    We just had a wonderful trip to Pamporovo. We were a group of 10 adults, and 3 small children (1 to 3 years old), who stayed at the Castle complex, in 4 apartments, for a week (7 days stay, 6 days skiing) Everything at the Castle was great, and the staff was very forthcoming and helpful in every way. The apartments were very practical, and equipped with all necessities. Not luxurious, but really good and adequate in size and layout. You should note though, that towels are not changed every day. Towels are not needed to bring to the spa area and treatments. The food at the Excalibur restaurant was typical for the area, and well prepared. The staff at the restaurant is also great. The Castle complex is situated 2-3 km. from Ski center 2 (Malina). It is of course easiest if you are driving, but there are shuttles from the hotel to the ski center and lift. Ski in-/out is possible at the backside of the complex. We had booked ski- and snowboard packages, and that worked out perfectly as well. The snowboard instructor was a true professional. Patient and very focused on making sure that all of us learned the moves, at our own individual pace. Everyone had a great time, and learned a lot. The area was perfect for us, as we are all beginners on snowboards. Had we been on skies, I suspect the terrain would not be challenging enough for an entire week. We can definitely recommend Pamporovo, and the Castle complex, and will be back next year.
  • james From england
    Sent on 05 February 2015
    Lovely apartments bang on yasterbets slopes. Great spa and swimming pool and cheaper prices than borovets for food and beer. Best hotel and facilites in borovets
  • Jayne Gay From England
    Sent on 25 January 2015
    Just got back from Bansko what a fabulous week. A party of 6 which includes our daughter's aged 20-24 and the night life for them was great. No long queues, food good and we cannot wait for next year!
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