Mountains & Ski - Facts about the mountains and ski regions of Bulgaria.
Bansko is the most rapidly developing mountain destination in Bulgaria. Situated between the Rhodopi Planina and Pirin Planina ranges, it is the only one of the country's three major skiing centres which offers a lively, traditional town as well as a ski resort. Bansko offers a wide variety of choices, such as old-style pubs and taverns, restaurants, disco clubs, coffee shops and Internet cafés in the old town. Even in the low season, just before winter, the town's bars and restaurants bustle with local people in an infectious atmosphere of conviviality and merriment!
Bansko is the newest Bulgarian winter resort, only recently discovered by foreign tourists. In the winter of both 2001 and 2002 the number of foreign holidaymakers was 14,000. By early November 2003 all hotel rooms were booked for the entire winter, and the number of tourists was in excess of 45,000!
Bansko is only 160km (100 miles) from Sofia, and the same distance from the Mediterranean Sea. Once the new motorway is finished (2004-2005), access to either will be about 2 hours' drive.
The skiing conditions and amenities are excellent. The surrounding mountains have a predominantly Alpine character, with three peaks towering almost 3,000 metres (10,000 feet). It is the venue for the International Free Skiers Association Big Mountain Competition 12-15 February 2004.
The slopes offer runs and tracks for all grades of skiers, from novice to expert, and are maintained in excellent condition. A new 8-passenger gondola has just been completed (ceremonial opening date 13 December 2003), to complement the chair lifts and ski drags, along with new snow guns. Indeed, the First Investment Bank has just pumped $14 million into the amenities here.
The Bansko ski school offers skiing classes at five levels of difficulty: from A to E - in groups or individually. Tuition is available in cross-country skiing at two levels of difficulty. All graduates receive skiing certificates.
The average temperature during January, the coldest month, is -1.9°C. Snow falls are abundant, providing a constant winter snow cover up to 2 metres thick. The skiing season lasts from mid-December to mid-April.
Of course, Bansko is ideal not only for winter holidays. Summer is warm and pleasant among this beautiful scenery, with temperatures of 25°C. The summer season lasts from June to October. During July and August it is warm enough to sleep outside, even up in the mountains. Here is the domain of the highest peaks, the venerable white firs, the edelweiss and the wild goats. Here are more than 180 lakes, where Nature has gathered half of Bulgaria's flora and fauna. The fishing is superb, and the trout are delicious, thanks to zero pollution. The sheer mountain faces, the high altitude slopes and vast lands are an excellent place for mountaineering, trekking and strolling. Spring and autumn are short, being May and November respectively.
The region is famous for its cuisine and colourful folklore, and offers many and varied entertainment opportunities. The town itself attracts visitors by its cultural monuments and museums, and the permanent ethnographic and Bansko schlool of icon painting exhibitions.
Borovets is the oldest mountain resort in Bulgaria. It has often gathered the skiing elite of the world, and seen the rise of many a Bulgarian champion. Borovets and Sofia have submitted a bid to be the venue for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
At 1,350 metres (4,430 feet) above sea level on the northern slopes of Rila Mountain, among age-old pine woods, Borovets is located at the foot of Moussala peak (2,925 metres / 9,600 feet) — the highest on the Balkan Peninsula. Borovets is easily accessible, being at a distance of 73km (45 miles) from Sofia and 126km (79 miles) from Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second city. Although Borovets is not residential, the town of Samokov is only 10km (6 miles) along the road from the resort.
Established at the end of the 19th century as a hunting place for the Bulgarian kings, Borovets gradually developed into a modern ski resort of high-class and luxury hotels, haute-cuisine restaurants and an excellent network of ski runs and lifts along the slopes of Rila Mountain, providing excellent opportunities for the whole range of winter sports — from Alpine to cross-country skiing, ski jumps and biathlon. The resort twice hosted World Cup Alpine skiing rounds, while the biathlon track is one of the best in the world.
The ski runs are of various difficulty, and are suitable for all, be they beginners, intermediate, advanced or expert skiers. The slopes and runs are maintained in perfect condition, and are designed with international markings and multilingual signs. A snow machine is also used.
The Borovets ski school, with more than 200 ski instructors, enjoys international prestige and long-standing traditions. All of them are fluent in different languages, and many are former professional skiers. Skiing classes are at 5 levels of difficulty, from A to E — in groups or individually — 4 hours per day, for 6 or 12 days. Cross-country skiing classes are for 2 hours daily. All course graduates receive skiing certificates.The Peter Popanguelov Ski School for Expert Skiing and its 10 highly qualified ski instructors are ready to offer their services to those who want to hone their skiing skills to world championship level.
Borovets has ten ski rental services, located next to the lift station. They offer 7,000 sets of skiing equipment from world famous companies, as well as toboggans, sledges, etc. Skiers can also leave their own quipment for safekeeping there.
A ski package is available, with a view towards saving time and money, and covers ski school classes, unlimited lift usage, ski and boot hire or storage of one's own skiing equipment.
The Ski Patrol, based at the first station of the cable lift, provides a round-the-clock emergency service. It is organised in four teams, fully equipped with all necessary equipment, including a helicopter, if needed.
The air in Borovets is crystal clear and totally free of any pollutants, while the average temperature during January, the coldest month, is -4.6ºC.
Toboggans, swimming pools, saunas, fitness centre, billiards, table tennis, bowling, sleigh rides and helicopter flights are some of the activities on offer.
During the summer, Borovets offers walks along scenic routes, including many ski-routes, in groups led by experience guides. Organised trips lead to picturesque spots in the Rila Mountains, such as Seven Rila Lakes, Malyovitsa peak, Moussala peak, etc. A photo safari and a visit to the Bulgarian kings' resience of Bistritsa are also organised regularly. Various trips to different tourist attractions throughout Bulgaria are offered as well. Melnik, with its unique pyramids and famous wines, Sofia, Plovdiv and Rila Monastery are among the most interesting ones.