A weekend ski trip can be more accessible and affordable than you think
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll probably know already that my family and I ski yearly in Pamporovo, Bulgaria. It’s the only place I’ve ever been skiing, so I don’t have anything to compare it with, but what I can say, is that there is something about this place that gets under your skin.
Pamporovo is ideal for beginners and learners and the resort has a reputation as being a smaller, family-friendly place than some of the other resorts in Bulgaria. Having said that, there are plenty of runs to challenge more advanced skiers. Here are the stats:
- 8 black
- 6 red
- 6 blue
- 11 green
- Longest run 4.2km
Set in the Rhodopian mountains, with an altitude of 1620m and a highest point of 1926m, the ski season runs from early December to mid March. Pamporovo’s pine-lined slopes can experience up to 120 days of sunshine in winter and the lower altitude means that a lack of snow can be a problem. However, with around 160 snow cannons, giving 90% coverage, most of the slopes can remain open and in good condition throughout the season.
It was a risk booking a weekend break in mid March this year, given that when I went with my family in February, there had been no snow prior to our arrival and there was nothing but rain whilst we were there. However, last year, a similar thing happened and there was a late snow dumping in March, allowing people to continue skiing well in to mid April.
I kept my fingers and toes well and truly crossed in the run up to the weekend and the promise of snow was forecast. This is what it looked like on our first day though:
But after it snowed all Saturday evening and during Sunday, this was the result:
What a difference eh?
This meant the majority of the slopes were open for business and the snow was perfect: fresh, light and dry.
Why go to Bulgaria?
It would be easier and quicker to hop on a flight to the Alps and you can go much higher for guaranteed snow right? Yep, that’s true, but the advantage of going that bit further is a big one and that is the cost.
Here’s a breakdown:
Ryanair from Stansted to Plovdiv
Flight time is 3 hours and transfer time is around 1.5 hours. We paid £130 return (including checked in bag of 15kg).
Return transfer from Plovdiv to Pamporovo cost 134 Euros (approx. £104).
Ski lift pass and ski hire (boots, skis and poles)
We paid this in advance at a discount of 15% and it came to 62 Euros each for 3 days (approx. £48).
For 2 adults sharing an instructor for a morning session (2 hours), the cost is 127 Bulgarian Levs (£50).
Even if you can ski, I think it is always worth having some tuition time. My friend and I had morning lessons and went off on our own in the afternoons. Both of us felt we learned so much during the lesson times. Not only did it reinforce what we already knew, we advanced our technique to the next level.
We stayed at the Monastery III apartment complex, just 100m from the ski centre of Stoudanets, where you collect your skis and lift passes and take the chair lift up to the main slopes. You can get a two-bedroomed apartment (sleeps up to 6) for 78 Euros (£70) a day, in low season.
The location of this apartment complex is it’s greatest advantage. You can also leave your skis and boots at the hire centre each day, so you don’t have to lug them back to your apartment with you. The main centre of Pamporovo is a 5 minute taxi journey down the hill, where you will find shops, restaurants and bars. However, there is a 24-hour supermarket and 4 restaurants at the complex itself. Plus, the adjacent Grand Monastery hotel has a spa (with pool), bowling alley and bar.
Given that the snow has been sparse this year, unfortunately a few of the restaurants had shut early. We didn’t starve though and the ones we went to were happy to accommodate us, serving delicious freshly cooked food.
At Stoudanets, there are a number of bars and restaurants and at mid-station, you can also stop off for a break. I would recommend Spider (Stoudanets) and Bohemi (mid station). These areas don’t tend to remain open for the evening though, but you can continue your after ski celebrations either in the bar at Grand Monastery, where we stayed, or in the town itself.
This weekend break was a late birthday treat for me, along with 3 friends. I found being able to concentrate wholly on my own ski technique a great advantage and I learned and skied so much more than I have on previous visits.
Apart from the M11 being closed at the junction of the M25 on the way home, causing a 45 minute detour and resulting in us arriving home at 1am, I really could not fault it!
We booked everything (apart from flights) with Bulgaria Hotels.