We’ve spent the last few years struggling to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve, preferring instead to get an early night in preparation for the early morning wake-up call that comes part and parcel with having young children. However, times are changing. The youngest just turned six and all three are becoming increasingly independent. 2014 has been such a good year for us in terms of family adventures, so we thought we would finish the year off with one final trip – skiing.
This was only our third ever ski trip and third time in Pamporovo, Bulgaria. We put off going until our youngest was old enough (he was just four when we went the first time). We have always enjoyed shared family holiday experiences and so for us, putting the little one in a crèche and the other two in ski school was never an option we considered. We have learned to ski together as a family and it has been such a fun way to do it.
I don’t have experience of any other ski resort, but what I do know is that Pamporovo has been the perfect place for us to learn to ski. It is a small resort and although there are red and black runs, really, it is most suitable for families and less experienced skiers. It is also great value for money, meaning that we have been able to hire an instructor to take us out as a family group, so that we could learn to ski together.
Pamporovo is a tree-lined ski resort, which means that it is sheltered. It’s also one of the sunniest ski resorts in Europe. When we went this time, there was plenty of snow, but even so, there are snow cannons dotted about the slopes, keeping it topped up.
We don’t tend to do package holidays, preferring instead to sort out our own trips. Our ski trips have been no exception: airport transfers, ski hire, lift passes and lessons are easy to organise. Ok, so we don’t have a chalet maid to cook for us and bake cakes every day, but the resort is cheap enough for us to be able to eat out every day.
Where to stay:
We stay in a two-bedroomed apartment at the Grand Monastery Complex in Studanets. This complex is only five minutes-walk to the ski base and one of the ski lifts. There is a number of ski hire shops based there, plus a range of bars and restaurants. What is great about this location is that if the children get tired, you don’t have to go far to get back to your apartment.
There is an indoor swimming pool and spa, small bowling alley and games arcade, four restaurants and a small supermarket all located at this complex, so you don’t even need to take a taxi into the nearby centre of Pamporovo if you don’t want to.
Where to eat:
The food and the prices can be a bit hit and miss. The Laplandia restaurant, which is situated in the basement of the Laplandia apartments (also at Studanets), is a cosy little restaurant, serving tasty food at great value for money. This has become a firm favourite of ours.
The Gloria Mar restaurant in Pamporovo is more expensive, but the food and service are both great.
Go for the grilled chicken skewers or the shashlik, the traditional dish of kavarma or slow baked lamb.
How to get there:
Ryanair fly from Stanstead to Plovdiv, which is one and half-hours transfer time. Flight prices vary, so book early for the best deals. You will be looking at around £250 return including all taxes and extras. You can also fly British Airways or Easy Jet to Sofia, for flights and prices that are more flexible, but the transfer from here is around three and a half hours.
We use Bulgaria-hotels.com to book our transfer from the airport, ski hire, lift passes and lessons. We paid around 400 euros for all our skis and passes etc. and around 130 euros for the return transfer.
Seeing in the New Year by watching fireworks light up the snow-capped Rhodope Mountains was an amazing experience. Spending the first day of 2015 sledging and playing about in the snow with the children felt like such a positive start to the New Year. It was cold over there (-18 at the highest point). On previous visits, we have been so hot, that we have skied with our jackets open, but this time we felt as though our fingers were going to drop off and our faces were burning when the freezing cold wind was slapping against them. But all five of us made so much progress with our skiing. We all felt as though we have started to take the first steps towards being ‘proper’ skiers.
Do-it-yourself skiing IS possible, even when you have a young family. The great thing about learning together is that we have all made the same progress at the same time. One day, the children will be desperate to be as far away from us as possible when we go on holiday, so while they are happy to spend time with us, I will continue to make sure that we have as many experiences together as we possibly can.
Happy New Year everyone. How did you see in the New Year?