Building Bulgaria: Brits Fighting to Buy Ski Property

By: Paul McIndoe

Traditionally, the Alps have been the mainstay of the European winter sports industry. Whilst the traditional Alpine nations of France, Switzerland and Austria are still the most popular ski destinations for the Brits, the cost of ski property in these countries has risen beyond most people's reach. This has led to a gap in the market for more reasonably priced ski property, and this is a gap that Eastern Europe - and Bulgaria in particular - has neatly filled.

As the stigma attached to the former communist countries of Eastern Europe has slowly disappeared, the stable political atmosphere and the booming investment in such countries has become very appealing to the British buyer. And let's not forget the ski resorts themselves; though not quite as high or extensive as the Alps, the Rila Mountains (which are part of the Balkans' highest range) rise to a very respectable 2925m and offer numerous cosy villages and plenty of comfortable accommodation.

At one time, Bulgaria was famed as a bargain basement ski destination, with rickety lifts from a bygone soviet era; it was cheap and cheerful, but not somewhere that serious skiers would visit. However, the multi-million Euro investment in the country have put Bulgaria on the piste map as a respectable destination for snow sports enthusiasts.

The clientele of the Bulgarian mountains differs a little from those of the Alps; you won't find many fur-clad ski-snobs (who rarely venture from their Anglicised strongholds such as Val D'isere or Meribel), on the Bulgarian slopes. Instead Bulgaria continues to attract a younger, more open minded and adventurous crowd, and at prices that are up to ten times less than those in France, it's not surprising that Bulgaria is growing in popularity every year.

Bansko, probably Bulgaria's most famous ski resort, has seen impressive development of the ski area over the last five years, with extensive new lift systems being built offering even more terrain, and several new apartment buildings going up. Unlike in France, where a one bedroom apartment would cost anywhere from 150,000 Euros upwards, ski property in Bansko can be secured for around 40,000 Euros, and with an impressive 18 hole golf course near by, apartments can offer investors year round rental potential.

And other Bulgarian ski resorts are following Bansko's lead; Borovets, Bulgaria's oldest winter resort is the biggest and most modern in the country. Situated in the Mousla ridge of the Rila range it's seen new expansion of the lift system and new apartment developments.

Pamporovo, one of the most modern ski resorts in Bulgaria, is characterised by rounded mountains and wooded slopes, which make it ideal for learners but more challenging pistes do exist - such as the Giant Slalom run - and the resort's most difficult slope "The Wall". Again, off plan studio or one/two bedrooms apartments can be secured for similar prices to those in Bansko and Borovets, which is much lower than in Western Europe.

As Bulgaria becomes ever more established as a ski destination, it's likely that property prices will rise above the means of many investors, but for now, the country offers snow sports fans and Bulgaria property investors alike a chance to own a slice of the slopes, and for the next few years, the country seems set to remain a favourite for buying Brits.

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