04 Mar A Bulgarian Ski Trip (Part 3: Actual Skiing!)
In my previous two posts (part 1, part 2), I described the process of getting from the airport to the Borovets ski resort. In this post, I’ll describe the town of Borovets and (finally!) what I thought of the skiing.
The Town of Borovets
Borovets itself is a mixture of hotels, restaurants, and bars — basically, everything you’d expect for a resort town. It is, if I may put this delicately, a bit rough around the edges. Maybe that’s harsh – I wouldn’t say it’s dangerous at all, but it lacks polish. The sidewalks were covered in thick snow, the town supermarket may or may not have ceiling cameras pointing at the the credit card number pads (where you enter your PIN), and almost every restaurant has a guy outside unwilling to leave you alone. Also, the tap water is untreated, so be sure to stock up on bottled water (you can buy it in town, or more cheaply in Sofia). The town is by no means a bad place, but you should understand going in that you aren’t paying for five-star luxury and fantastic infrastructure:
Why You Came to Borovets
Everyone I talked to generally shared the same reason for visiting Borovets: the price tag. Stuff’s cheap here. The food can be quite good at the right places, and there’s plenty of this to go around:
In addition to the food and drink being affordable, the skiing and accommodations were too. I got four days of ski rentals with helmet, lift passes, and four-hour small-group lessons each day for just over €200 (plus, the first day no one else showed up, so the class ended up being a private lesson – score!), and if I hadn’t wanted to secure a maximum group size of six, the price would have been even lower. I will admit this was one area where I didn’t go the DIY route – there are a number of ski schools at Borovets you can go through to take care of everything; given the prices, it was simply far, far easier to do it this way. The next time I go, I will spend more time investigating the independent options, but I honestly doubt it’ll be worth the hassle.
I am not a ski fanatic; it’s enjoyable but can be rather nerve-racking. Plus, I think it’s more fun to go with friends. (I do resolve, however, to not be the guy the in the group who complains or spends five minutes on the slopes and calls it a day.) Because I’m no expert, I fully admit I don’t know what to truly look for when judging the slopes. They seemed appropriate for my skill level; plus, there was plenty of powder and I rarely hit icy patches. The green runs were nearly flat but sometimes unavoidable – I think I actually pulled a bicep pushing myself along with the poles (I later got better at skiing those sections “roller blade” style, whatever that’s called).
The mountain itself is divided into two separate sections of ski runs. One set (the lower mountain? I’m not sure if it has a name) delivers you right to the bars and is easily accessible via numerous ski lifts.
The other set of runs is nestled higher up and accessible via a fifteen-minute gondola ride. Yes, the gondolas looked like they’re from the 70s or 80s (1880s, perhaps?), but they were fine and never felt unsafe:
While the lower runs were quite nice, taking the gondola to the top was well worth it. The views were fantastic:
If you’ve tried searching online for ATMs in Borovets, you’ve probably come across various forums with helpful descriptions such as “there’s one at ‘X’ Hotel,” or “near the Gondola.” To make things easier, I made you a map!
The ATMs I came across are located:
1. Near the northeast corner of the gondola building (outside)
2. On the south-facing side of the Hotel Rila (outside)
3. In the main lobby of the Hotel Flora (indoors, just past the reception desk)
I realize skiing is an inherently dangerous activity, but I would like to mention there were a number of times when our group felt some guard rails would have been very appropriate. Some of of the slopes, including the beginner ones, had steep drops on the sides into thick forest. This never caused any real problems, but every now and then we were left scratching our heads thinking “really? they couldn’t put up even a mesh fence or something?”
Overall, the skiing was exactly what I needed: easy runs to get me back into the swing of things, more difficult ones to challenge me, and relatively short lift lines. I think my longest wait was about ten minutes (maaaaybe fifteen), only because one of the other main lifts was closed at the time (it reopened later in the trip). Borovets has everything you need at a palatable price.
I guess, ultimately, most ski resorts offer the same thing. They each have their own personality, though, and you have to know what works best for you. In my case, pulling together a DIY trip like this surprised some people (“Bulgaria?!“), but it was fine for me.