BEST SKI RUNS

by Mariela Hristova; photography by Stanimir Evlogiev

Vitoshko Lale, Tomba, Yastrebets 2 and Snezhanka 1 are Bulgaria's top skiing slopes

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Winter sports facilities in Bulgaria are enjoying a lot of investment interest. About half a billion euros has been put into hotels and holiday villages in Bansko alone. The Super Borovets project is expected to attract between 150 and 200 million euros by 2009 and there is increasing interest from investors. This is all to the benefit of ski enthusiasts, because Bulgaria now boasts magnificent runs and facilities at prices that are still much more competitive than in the Alpine resorts.

Mount Vitosha

Aleko Ski Centre is located on Mount Vitosha at 1,800 m, or 5,900 ft above sea level. It is the highest Bulgarian ski resort and is only 22 km, or 13.5 miles from the centre of Sofia.

Snowfall is from December until late spring and the snow cover reaches a depth of 1.5 m, or 5 ft. The ski season usually lasts 120 days. The average temperature in the coldest month, January, is -6°C, or 21°F. There are also excellent conditions for off-piste skiing, something that snowboarders gladly make use of. The highest ski point is 2,290 m, or 7,510 ft, and the maximum vertical drop is 630 m, or 2,066 ft.

The facilities include six drags, four chair lifts and a cable car lift. The ski runs are Vitoshko Lale, Stanata, Zaeka, Spas, Magistralata and Zelenata. Their total length is 29 km, or 18 miles, the longest being five km, or three miles. The best run is Vitoshko Lale, unlike the others it does not go over moraines.

Skiing in Bulgaria

Vitoshko Lale 1

The ski run is located in the northeastern woody part of the mountain. The starting point is at 1,910 m, or 6,265 ft above sea level and it finishes at 1,510 m, or 4,953 ft. The overall length of the track is 1,650 m, or 5,412 ft, the width varies from 40 to 80 m, or 131-262 ft, and the average slant is 28 percent. It is equipped with six mobile snow canons and is lit for night skiing. Prices range from 15 leva for a one day pass to 83 leva for six days. There are discounts for children and students. The ski lift costs five leva each way.

Bansko

Bansko is Bulgaria's newest and most fashionable ski resort. The town is located at an altitude of 936 m, or 3,070 ft. There is snow from December until April.

The nearby ski runs have a total length of 56 km, or 34.7 miles, and start from 1,100 to 2,550 m, or 3,610-8,365 ft above sea level. There are 14 runs operating this year. The five easiest of these which are recommended for beginners are Bansko, Bunderitsa, Plateau 1, Shiligarnik 1 and Shiligarnik 2. There are eight medium difficulty runs suitable for good skiers: Balkaniada, Todorka, Stara Pista or The Old Piste, Yulen, Plateau 2, Strazhite, Chalin Valog 1 and Chalin Valog 2. For proficient skiers, Tomba and Tomba 2 provide challenging runs. The ski schools have good instructors and you can also hire skiing equipment.

Twelve Kassbohrer snow grooming machines ensure the excellent quality of the ski runs and 30 TechnoAlpin snow canons guarantee trouble free skiing throughout the season. To go uphill, you can use the eight man Doppelmayer Gondola cable car, five four-seat lifts which are the latest Doppelmayer models, two three-seat lifts by Poma, six drags and 10 baby drags. Easy access to all lifts is secured by chip-cards from SkiData.

Skiing in Bulgaria

Tomba

Named after ski legend Alberto Tomba, this is a difficult or black run, which will really get your adrenaline pumping. It is only suitable for expert skiers, as there are often icy patches and fog at the end of the track. Prices range from 50 leva for one day to 540 leva for 13 days and there are discounts of up to 40 percent for children. A return ticket for the cable car is 16 leva.

Borovets

Borovets is the oldest and largest mountain resort in Bulgaria. It is situated at an altitude of 1,350 m, or 4,430 ft on the northern slopes of the Rila Mountain at the foot of Mount Musala, which at 2,925 m, or 9,594 ft, is the highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula. Only 73 km, or 45 miles from Sofia, Borovets is very easy to reach.

Borovets is an Alpine-like resort which provides perfect conditions for all types of winter sports including alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping and biathlon. Twice it has hosted the Alpine Skiing World Cup competitions.

The slopes of Borovets have a 1.5 m, or 5 ft thick snow cover from November through to May. The air is crystal clear. The average temperature in the coldest month, January, is -4.6°C or 24°F. The ski runs Yastrebets, Markudzhitsi, Sitnyakovo and Martinovi Baraki have a total length of 40 km, or 24.8 miles. You can also ski off-piste. The highest ski point is at an altitude of 2,560 m, or 8,400 ft. The maximum vertical drop is 630 m, or 2,066 ft. There are artificial snow and night skiing facilities.

Yastrebets 1, 2, 3

Yastrebets is the highest spot in the Borovets area at 1,520 m, or 4985 ft above sea level, and in close proximity to the Yastrebets 3 ski run and the Yastrebets 2 drag, which have hosted a number of sporting events and are considered to be the best in Borovets. Yastrebets 1 and 3 are red runs.

Prices range from 50 leva for one day to 260 leva for six days and there are discounts of up to 50 percent for children. A return ticket for the cable car is 10 leva.

Skiing in Bulgaria

Pamporovo

Pamporovo is a modern ski resort in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains, the home of the mythical Orpheus. It is the southernmost ski resort in Europe and one of the sunniest in Bulgaria in winter with fine snow throughout the season. It is situated at 1,650 m, or 5,412 ft above sea level at the foot of Mount Snezhanka, which is 1,926 m, or 6,317 ft high. It is 260 km, or 161 miles from Sofia.

With the Aegean not far off to the south, Pamporovo boasts a particularly favourable climate with mild winters and about 120 sunny days in the skiing period. The season begins in mid December and lasts until mid April. The average air temperature is -3°C, or 26.6°F.

Pamporovo has ski runs of all degrees of difficulty with a total length of 26 km, or 16.1 miles, and an altitude difference of between 285 and 476 m, or 935-1,561 ft. It is equipped with six snow canons.

Snezhanka 1 ski run links Mount Snezhanka with Studenets Chalet and Ardashla. It is 3,300 m, or 10,800 ft long, 30-50 m, or 98-165 ft wide, covers an area of 15 hectares, or 37 acres, and has an altitude of 476 m, or 1,561 ft. It also features a halfpipe which is about 150 m, or 490 ft long with three metre, or 10ft high walls. It is the annual venue for the best freestyle events in Bulgaria.

The oldest ski run, Stenata or Snezhanka 2, was constructed in the 1950s from Mount Snezhanka to Studenets Chalet. It is 1,100 m, or 3,600 ft long, 50-70 m, or 165-230 ft wide and has a total area of 6.6 hectares, or 16.3 acres.

Snezhanka 3, 4 and 5 all start at Mount Snezhanka. Snezhanka 3 ends at Trite Mosta or The Three Bridges, where it merges with Snezhanka 1. Snezhanka 4 ends in Ardashla, where it merges with Snezhanka 3.

Snezhanka 5 also ends in the area of Ardashla. It has an overall length of 3,200 m, or 10,500 ft, width of 50 m, or 165 ft, and altitude of 476 m, or 1,561 ft. Prices range from 48 leva for one day, to 530 leva for 13 days and there are discounts for children. A return ticket for the ski lift is 22 leva.

Skiing in Bulgaria

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