I want to talk to you about skiing in Borovets in Bulgaria. With half term round the corner, next week also sees the busiest week of skiing and snowboarding. You may think that skiing is only for middle class families who think nothing of paying £6 for a tiny hot chocolate on the slopes of Austria or France, well not always.
While Borovets may not have a reputation as the most sophisticated of ski resorts, it’s certainly not to be discounted: a top-notch beginner resort, Borovets is fantastic value for money and provides simple and straightforward skiing essentials. Please don’t think you’ll be in basic accommodation or in any way ‘roughing it’ though as Borovets is a haven of four/five star hotels at rock bottom prices, spas and the après is super fine, with a huge array of restaurants and bars everyone can enjoy.
If you’re still not convinced, here are seven more reasons to head east:
1. Skiing in Borovets
Skiing veterans may scoff at Bulgaria and I won’t pretend it offers the diversity of difficulty that places like Three Valley or Chamonix thrill seekers, but for most skiers and snowboarders, the mountains of Eastern Europe can’t be beaten. Borovets is a great place to learn – the resort’s nursery slopes are close to many of the hotels and the English-speaking instructors are friendly. A few years ago I went there and was taught to ski by an ex Olympian instructor for around £15 a day – not many people can say that! The Yastrebetz area of resort is perfect for those wishing to improve their skills, begin to parallel turn and begin navigating harder runs. On top of that, the snow cannon coverage is impressive, so even when the white stuff doesn’t fall from the sky, the slopes are kept topped up and in great condition.
As an alternative you could do a 50-minute snowmobiling adventure for £25 per person for two or £35 solo. Another option is to go cross-country on the White Plateau from a lodge run by local guides from £12.50, including ski and boot hire. Getting used to these long, spindly skis doesn’t take long and you’ll see working farms, bears lairs and all sorts of local life – great if you’re feeling a bit of resort cabin fever.
2. Convenience – short transfers and ski-in ski-out hotels
Once you touch down in Sofia it’s only a 1hr 30mins transfer to Borovets. Couple this with regular afternoon flights and there’s no getting up at the crack of dawn to reach the airport – you might even squeeze a morning’s skiing in before you depart! Great companies like www.ski-trips.co.uk will sort out cheap transfers as part of your overall package (I love turning up at an airport to see a man holding a card with my name on like a celebrity).
Many of the hotels, like the Hotel Rila, Hotel Ice Angels and the Hotel Alpin are located right on the slopes, meaning you’re even closer to the action – ideal for beginners and seasoned skiers alike.
3. The best value country for a ski holiday
The food and drink, like everything in Bulgaria, is the excellent value – you can pick up a pint of beer for the equivalent of £1.50 in Borovets. A shopping basket of ski essentials in a Bulgarian resort was less than half the price of the same items purchased in traditional favourites like Italy or Switzerland. A large pizza costs around £6, sausage casserole £4 and Baklavas £2. Please remember you need Bulgarian levs not euros.
4. Tasting the local dishes
When you tell anyone you are going to Bulgaria, they always know a friend-of-a-friend who’s skied there and been less than impressed with the food. I’ll be honest, when I went there initially over five years ago; I was one of those people. The Balkan food consisted of questionable meat and chips covered in white cheese. However, with the resort growing in popularity, demand and cash injections has meant the cuisine as both improved and diversified. The food now ranges from local traditional dishes to international menus for tourists. They are, like most Eastern European countries big on meat and vegetarians/vegans may find it a bit harder but they do cater with delicacies like Snezhanka (yoghurt and cucumber) and Shopska (similar to Greek salad). The quality of meat is fantastic now and they offer legendary mixed grills or home made kebabs in pita bread which are delicious. If you like food similar to what you might cook at home, then there is pasta, salads, soups and stew. Desserts rock as Bulgarians know how to give good cake. There are also plenty of cafes on the mountain and these are, again cheap as the chips they serve so you can easily stop for a refuel.
5. Après ski and nightlife – on and off the slopes
Even in the early days the nightlife in Borovets was brilliant with more bars than restaurants and all had the constant of a lively, friendly atmosphere and cheap prices. As with everything else, the variety and quality of the nightlife has grown; the sheer scale of what’s on offer in such a small resort will amaze you. There are family bars and quieter places to wile away an evening with great wine and chilled music, but if you’re looking to hit things hard, the pub crawl on offer is epic. Lots of stag parties are starting to come to Borovets as the combination of cheap sport and beer is legend! My now husband spent his stag do there which he organised through ski-trips.co.uk and said skiing and drinking (not at the same time) works great as a morning on the slopes snowboarding gets rid of any hangover. For those that like to plan their drunken antics, the action gets going at the bottom of town opposite the Samokov Hotel and works its way around venues such as Buzz Bar and BJs. Make sure you bring some decent boots with a grip though (no trainers) as despite the locals salting the paths it does get really icy underfoot. If you’d rather hit the slopes than the bars then Borovets caters for this too. Night skiing is available every night until 10.00pm during the height of season; all you need is a night pass valid from 6 p.m. If you want a bit of romance then there are local guides that offer candlelit walks in the woods followed by dinner for £13 – just ask your booking agent or hotel.
6.Alternative activities to unwind
I’ll be honest, I’m not a skiing fanatic as I’m not super fit so I like to have down time (that doesn’t involve beer) to feel a little bit pampered and lets be honest, skiing is tiring and makes you ache so a decent massage and a steam works wonders. Most of the hotels have spas and pools so make the most of the kneipp baths, the different saunas and the steam room. Also at the Hotel Flora a couples massage is only £20 for an hour – how crazy cheap is that?
Horse riding is a thing – imagine riding horses in snow? Well in Borovets you can ride across the countryside between Borovets and Samokov taking in lunch at the Belyova Church Restaurant on the Samokov –really beautiful.
There are also a few companies offering day tours which can be private or with a group, offering adventures, history, magic, wine and local customs. If you fancy seeing the Rila monastery and Sofia then no problem, most guides will design a bespoke tour around you.
7. Ski in Borovets for less than £450 per person
Borovets offers excellent value, straightforward ski holidays. It’s a great place to try out snow sports for the first time, without breaking the bank. I have always booked through ski-trips.co.uk not just because they are the cheapest but because I have used them time and time again over the last ten years and I have always had great service and no issues (this isn’t a promoted post – they are genuinely decent!).
Borovets in numbers
* Snow Range: 1350-2560m
* 58km of piste:
– 24km Easy
– 29km Intermediate
– 5km Difficult
* 35km of cross-country skiing
* 15 ski lifts (1 six-seat gondola lift, 3 high speed quad chairlifts, 11 drag lifts)