Bulgaria Skiing Holiday Review: Bank on Bansko for Skiing
We're on a plane playing the "name a famous Bulgarian" game and I am stumped.I can think only of footballer Dimitar Berbatov, while my companion reels off a list of unpronounceable heroes.<< Back to list of articles
But Bulgaria is fast becoming famous for its skiing, and Bansko, its largest resort, is where it's at.
Millions of euros have been invested, and there are plans for more hotels and apartments.
We check in to a warm welcome at the Kempinski Hotel close enough to the new gondola lift station to lob a snowball at it. The six-seater bubbles whizz silently past my spacious bedroom which has a fantastic view of the peak. "See you 9.30" says Rupert our host. The first day dawns to deep blue skies and winter sunshine.
Bansko has been described by Bulgarians as a "modern fairytale" – combining beautiful scenery overlooking a traditional small town. It's a fair description. Recently it has attracted ski legends like Italian Olympic champion Alberto Tomba. An imposing black run named after him dominates the resort.
As a confirmed coward I give it a miss this time. I'm an OK skier, but not that good.
Lunch was a bit of a scrum at one of the lower self- service restaurants, but at £5 including a beer I wasn't complaining. After a long day working those muscles I unwound in the calming spa of the Kempinski. I'm normally no fan of spas and "wellness" areas – life's too short – but I'm completely won over by this very stylish oasis.
It was the perfect place to plan the next event... the apres-ski. The easy-going feel to Bansko spills over to the bars and restaurants here. We kick off at the hotel's "Sing Sing" piano bar. Next stop the Happy End Bar, followed by a traditional Bulgarian pub called the Bash Bar.
In an English-syle pub called the Lion Bar I am introduced to "Jager-bombers" (Jagermeister with Red Bull). I don't remember much after that.
Bansko is "skiing on a budget", not cheap as in nasty but cheap as in cheerful. The usual ski-trip extras such as equipment and passes also come in at a reasonable price. The massive investment has paid off.
The pistes were impressive and despite the crowds there were no long queues at the lifts.
The five-star Kempinski was a treat but there's plenty of choice of three- and four-star hotels too, It's a different ski experience and a different culture – next time I play the "name a famous Bulgarian" game I'll do much better...