Bulgaria’s Bansko has seen a steady rise in popularity over the last few years, with people flocking to its slopes to take advantage of the cheap lift passes and budget friendly accommodation. Arriving in any new ski town can be a little discombobulating, with insider knowledge taking a season or two to acquire. So, skip a few steps and be in the know with these tips and tricks from a recent frequenter!
The Early Bird
The queue for both the gondola and the free shuttle buses to top station (bottom of the chair lifts) get incredibly long if you arrive anytime after 8am. Either set that alarm and make the effort to arrive early or wait until the rush has calmed at lunchtime and head up then. If not, you’re looking at a couple of hours wait just to get onto the mountain. This goes for the ticket queues for passes too, so be sure to pick these up on the day you arrive rather than the first morning you plan to ski.
Hiring v Buying
If you’re a beginner and not sure whether to invest in the whole kit and caboodle then it’s best to pack the soft stuff and hire the hard. A good jacket, pair of gloves and salopettes are great to buy yourself and mean you don’t have to model some questionable retro prints on the snow. However, skis, snowboards and boots can be bulky and cumbersome to fly with and carry to and from your accommodation every day. It’s therefore best to hire at one of the many ski shops right near the gondola, that way you can leave your gear with them every afternoon and pick it up again in the mornings – ready for the day’s swishing ahead.
As the gondola takes a good 25 minutes one-way once you’re on the mountain, it’s best to stay put. If you’re trying to watch the pennies, then head to the local Aldo (not Aldi!) to stock up on lunch bits and stash them in your pockets. Keep in mind that the softer snacks may need to be kept out of back pockets if you plan on spending a lot of time on your bum. If you’d rather something hot then there are a few restaurants both at top station and next to a few of the other runs; they all take card, but the selection is rather limited, with hot chips being one of the stars of the menu.
Always be Prepared
There are a few things every winter sport lover should have when heading onto the hill. A good layer of sun cream on your face and a Buff to protect your nose and cheeks from windburn are absolute musts. An emergency chocolate bar for that mid-morning energy boost is also up there. Water can be cumbersome to carry while you ski so make sure you have a few Bulgarian levs to get yourself a bottle when you break. And finally, make sure you keep your pass in your left jacket pocket so you can easily scan your way through the lift barriers, these are chipped so there’s no need to take them out.
The Bansko slopes are getting busier every year with passes and flights such great value for money. As such, once you’re on piste you’ll find it can be rather crowded. If you’re on blues and greens expect to encounter unpredictable beginners, so if you’ve got the ability, try to give them as much space as possible. Or if you’re one of them yourself, keep in mind those ahead of you have right of way, so if you can swerve wide of them do your best to. Last but not least, the slopes are much busier during the school holidays so book outside of these times for a quieter ride downhill.