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Bulgaria’s Undiscovered Ski Resorts

 

Bulgarian ski resorts have seen a great deal of investment in their infrastructure and facilities of late; indeed the country’s top three resorts, Borovets, Pamporovo and Bansko actively compete with traditional Western ski resorts for business and have seen the growth in tourists double in the last five years. Yet Bulgaria still has many undiscovered ski spots lurking in quiet nooks of its impressive mountain ranges. As tourism develops and investment continues to increase it is likely that some of these ski gems will be further developed to offer a greater range of ski pistes and tourist facilities. Quest Bulgaria takes a look at some of Bulgaria’s lesser known ski havens.

Chepelare

These days, Chepelare is not such the hidden gem it was five years ago. Its close proximity to Pamporovo means that it has been included in municipality plans to link it with Pamporovo in what is dubbed the Pernik Project.

Chepelare itself lies in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains, 10 km from Pamporovo, 72 km from Plovdiv and 222 km from Sofia. It is a quaint mountain town with a river running through its centre, friendly people and a good standard of accommodation. The surrounding scenery is spectacular with august fir trees, clear mountain springs and crisp deep snow slopes.

Chepelare is home to Bulgaria’s longest ski run. The pistes are well maintained but simple; there is a two –seater chair lift from the bottom station, which covers 2,471 m in length and has a capacity to transport 700 people to the top of the Mechi Chal Mountain. The runs start at 1873 m and there are several drag lifts to connect them. The best skiing for beginners is at the top of the mountain and also in the centre of the town (close to the Agarta Hotel), where there is a small drag lift and a beginners slope.

Chepelare’s ski runs are open from December until April depending on the snow. The pistes on Mechi Chal Mountain vary in complexity and variety covering 11,400 m in total with plenty of black and red runs for more proficient skiers; Mechi Chal 1 is a black run covering 3,150 meters. It is 50 m wide with a drop of 720 m –it is a challenging run used for international competitions. Mechi Chal 2 is a mix of red and green pistes, which cover 5,250 m. It is 25 m in width and has a drop of 720 m. Chepelare’s cross country track covers 30 km at an elevation of 1,282 m. There is also a biathlon track close by, which covers 5 km. There is a good ski school here, which offers both one-to-one and group lessons for both skiing and snowboarding.

The standard of accommodation in the town is excellent; there are many small family owned hotels along with some newer larger and more luxurious developments. Booking in advance is imperative during the winter season as the resort fills up very quickly particularly at the weekends when locals from Plovidv and its environs descend on the town.

A day pass for the Chepelare Mechi Chal lift costs 9 Euros for an adult and 4.50 Euros for a child. There are a variety of multi day and season passes with a three day pass costing 21 Euros and 12 Euros respectively and a 6 day pass 40 Euros and 22.50 Euros

 

Vitosha

Vitosha lies close to the capital; in fact you can see the Vitosha Mountain from the city centre. With cheap flights operating on a daily basis to Sofia it’s a great way to combine a spot of sightseeing with your favourite sport. From the city, Vitosha is about a 40 minute drive and there are plenty of parking spaces close to the slopes. There are a variety of public transport options from the city too including a Gondola lift, which you can catch from the outskirts of the city.

At the weekends the slopes are full with local Sofians and the lift prices reflect that this is still a resort for the locals.

There are three lifts in Vitosha and each has a different operating company, which means that a separate lift pass is required for each lift. The pass for the Romanski lift offers the best value and covers the most ground; a day pass costs 13 Euros for adults and 8 Euros for children. Half day passes mean you can ski from 12.30 pm until 4.00 pm. A half day pass costs 8 Euros for adults and 5 Euros for children. The Romanski lift pass will also cover you to use three of the drag lifts in this area.

Some of the best skiing lies close to the Aleko Chalet; here you can catch the areas main lift the two-seater Romanski chair lift, which transports you close to the top of the Cherni Vruh Mountain. The Romanski lift covers a total length of 1970 m and has a capacity to transport 600 people per hour. The journey time to the top of the mountain takes around 15 minutes. The pistes in this area are clear open spaces devoid of trees and bushes, which makes skiing for beginners a great experience. There are a few gentle drag lifts to take you up the top of the mountain; one connects you to the main run which leads directly back to the Romanski chair lift; however beginners venturing onto this run should be aware that this piste divides into three red runs about half way down.

The Vitosha ski area lies on the opposite side of the mountain and is made up of two relatively short pistes called the Konyarnika and the Vetrovala.

Accommodation in the area is improving as more developers move into this area but it is still basic in comparison the Bulgaria’s top three resorts.