Ski Bulgaria: the Alps of the East

By: Paul McIndoe

Bulgaria may not have the ski pedigree enjoyed by traditional Alpine destinations such as France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy; but this Eastern European country is fast becoming a favourite with British skiers and snowboarders looking for a change from the stereotypical ski resorts.

So what's so great about skiing in Bulgaria, a country that was never previously known for its slopes? Well, perhaps the biggest advantage of Bulgaria over ski resorts in Western Europe is the price. Bulgaria offers a ski or snowboarding trip that is much cheaper than France, Austria or Switzerland. Indeed, it's quite possible to find deals including flights, accommodation and transfers for under ?250 - a bargain which contradicts the image of winter sports being a prohibitively expensive sport.

But Bulgaria's excellent value does not mean it is a low quality destination. Bulgarian ski resorts have undergone massive modification and expansion over the last decade and Bansko - Bulgaria's premier ski resort - has one of the most high tech lift systems in Europe; enough to rival systems in traditional favourites such as St Moritz. This isn't surprising seeing as 130m Euros have been sunk into Bansko, which has also funded a new village development at the foot of the mountain, including luxury hotels and apartments.

As an emerging ski destination, another advantage of Bankso for the winter sports fan is that, as well as having some of the best snow of all Bulgaria's ski resorts, its slopes are yet to get clogged with skiers and snowboarders who crowd in on the more traditional ski resorts of Western Europe; and the slopes themselves provide plenty of variation with tree runs, open bowls, and every chance of fresh powder.

Borovets, although a smaller ski resort in Bulgaria offers 18 lifts, 17 runs and a skiing area of 2693 acres. It's the oldest winter resort in Bulgaria with a history that dates back to 1896, and is situated on the eastern part of the Rila mountain range. The ski resort has twice hosted the world cup competitions in alpine skiing, and has one of the best biathlon tracks in Europe. Offering night skiing, cross country skiing, ski jumps and snowmobiling, there's no shortage of winter activities in Borovets.

Pamporovo is the third of Bulgaria's best known ski resorts and boasts being Bulgaria's most sunny ski resort, offering about 120 sunny days during the ski period. The mountain has gentle slopes and rounded summits which make it a favourite for beginners and family groups.

With numerous options for cheap flights to Bulgaria, and plenty of tour operators offering great value package dealss, Bulgaria continues to grow its slice of the British winter sport market.

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