A Ski Trip in Bansko – The Practical Guide

A Ski Trip in Bansko – The Practical Guide

Mr. Hola here with some tips on planning a ski holiday in Bansko, Bulgaria. We skied here in 2018 with friends, and guess who got to be the trip planner? After producing a nightmarishly detailed beautifully prepared and formatted ten page itinerary proposal, I was asked to “show my work” – that is, how I found the information and put it all together.

Bankso Ski Trip: Overview

Here are the basic components of a ski/snowboard trip:

  • Transit to/from the resort
    • This includes things like airfare or train travel. Many ski resorts aren’t directly accessible by public transit, but private or shared Airport Transfers fill this gap.
  • Lodging
  • Equipment Rental
  • Lift passes

Note: unless otherwise noted, I do not specifically recommend or endorse any particular business

Bankso: General Resources

AirBnb: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/s/bansko/
Bansko Blog: https://banskoblog.com/
TripAdvisor: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Tourism-g318870-Bansko_Blagoevgrad_Province-Vacations.html

Bankso Holiday Packages

Though I prefer the DIY nature of a trip, many opt for a relatively simple holiday package. These normally include airport transfers, lodging, lift passes, and rental equipment – that is, everything you need from the time you arrive at the airport.
Balkan Holidays
Traventuria

Transportation – How to Get to Bansko

 

How to get to Bankso from Sofia Airport

The closest airport is Sofia, about 2.5 hrs from Bansko. Finding a flight out of London or other major airports is fairly easy. ProTip for Londoners: it may be cheaper to fly in or out of Birmingham (BHX), which has its own train station with two-hour trains to London.

Airport Transfers

As cheap cost-conscious as I usually am, an airport transfer is the simplest and most convenient way to get to Bansko. It’s a bit more expensive than a bus from Sofia, but not by enough to justify the extra hassle. The airport transfer shuttles will generally drop off and pick up directly at your lodging. We used Traventuria Transfers but there are several operators.

Buses

Official Bansko Bus Timetables

Skiing and Snowboarding in Bankso

 

Equipment Rental & Ski Schools

Bansko offers a number of companies not only renting equipment, but offering lessons, as well. In some cases, the company may contract with a separate ski school for lessons. Ski equipment rental will normally assume the following:

  • Skis
  • Ski boots
  • Poles
  • Helmet

Snowboarding equipment normally includes:

  • Snowboard
  • Boots and bindings
  • Helmet

Snowboarding is slightly more expensive than skiing. Some places will rent ski goggles, but I recommend purchasing a set of your own. Prices for goggles can vary widely, but you can find good quality even at low prices. We used OutdoorMaster OTG Ski Goggles on our trip and they worked great – no fogging and cuts the glare off the snow really well.

George Ski School: TripAdvisor, http://skischoolgeorge.com/
Method: TripAdvisor,http://www.methodsnowschool.com/
Sankiy Ski: TripAdvisor,http://www.sankiyskischool.com/
Ski Mania: TripAdvisor,http://www.banskoskimania.com/en/
TSAKiris: TripAdvisor, http://www.tsakirisski.com/ski/

Lift Passes

Bankso just has one resort, so there’s just one main ski lift (the gondola gets you to the base of the slopes) and pass, but you can search for multi-day discounts. Busier times of the ski season will often also mean a higher lift pass cost — look for “high vs. low” season pricing. The lift pass can be purchased directly at the gondola, but it’ll save you time to coordinate the purchase with a ski shop if you’re renting equipment and/or taking lessons.
Excerpted from the Bansko Ski Resort website, prices for the 2017/2018 normal season were (as of April 2018):

Adults
Students/Retirees

1 day
58 BGN
52 BGN

2 days
112 BGN
101 BGN

3 days
170 BGN
153 BGN

4 days
224 BGN
202 BGN

5 days
280 BGN
252 BGN

The website prices were updated for the low season, starting from 15 March 2018:
Adults
Students/Retirees

1 day
46 BGN
42 BGN

2 days
90 BGN
81 BGN

3 days
136 BGN
122 BGN

4 days
179 BGN
162 BGN

5 days
224 BGN
202 BGN

Note: there is a deposit of 5 BGN, not included above, for the physical lift pass card.

The Gondola

If there’s one big downside to Bansko, it’s the gondola. You’ll find this mentioned in multiple forums. We waited roughly 30-45 minutes each day just to get on the gondola (it’s then a 20-30 min trip up the mountain). If you’re ok with a white-knuckle ride up the mountain, taxis and shuttles can get you up to the slopes, as well (some of the shuttles may be free, though with a queue).

To get back down, you can take the gondola, or there’s a nice ski road back down the mountain which is way more fun than standing in line for the Gondola, especially after 4pm when the line gets long. If you’re a beginner snowboarder, you might skip the ski road, as it’ll probably take a long, long time to get down. Along the ski road you’ll also find the Vlek Chalin slope, which was a little gem of a find (perfect for beginners but fast enough to be fun). The Gondola claims to close around 5pm but there was always a line and they didn’t tell people to leave.

The Gondola is owned and operated by Ulen and takes you up to the base of the slopes.  (PS, Ulen also offers ski rentals and lessons, though I’ve seen very mixed reviews online. I’ve read they also manage many of the restaurants/bars on the slopes, though I can’t confirm this.)

Piste Map

https://www.piste-maps.co.uk/Bulgaria/Bansko

Monies

The Basics

Bulgaria uses the Lev, which is effectively pegged to the Euro at a fixed exchange rate. Roughly speaking, if you assume 1 euro to 2 lev, you’ll be fine.

ATMs

Bansko has a number of ATMs from different banks. A Fibank ATM near one of the gondola building entrances (at the base) produced the best acceptance results for our group.

DIY Trip: A Sample Cost Estimator (2017/2018)

Let’s break down some estimated costs of an example trip, Saturday to Saturday, with five days of skiing. Food and drink are not included in the estimates below.

For one person:

Flights – normally anywhere from £50-£80 round trip, not including checked bags (from London).
Airport Transfer – £70 round trip
Accommodation – Airbnbs can be found without too much trouble for £20-£30 per night
Lift Pass – £130
Ski Rental – Loosely estimate £50-£70 (including a helmet) – snowboards tend to be about 10%-15% more.

Total: £435 – £555

For a group of four:

Lodging and airport transfer costs can be significantly lower with a group.

Here’s a potential trip for a group of four:

Flights – normally anywhere from £50-£80 round trip, not including checked bags (from London).
Airport Transfer – £35 round trip
Accommodation – Airbnbs can be found without too much trouble for £40-£50 per night (total)
Lift Pass – £130
Ski Rental – Loosely estimate £50-£70 (including a helmet) – snowboards tend to be about 10%-15% more.

Total (per person): £335 – £403

Checking bags with an airline can set you back £40-£80. If you aren’t bringing your own equipment, I can confirm it is possible to do a week-long ski trip without checking a bag 🙂

Grocery Stores

Bansko Food Prices (Feb 2017) – a quick tour of some basics at a local bansko grocery store: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLZy2q-go0Q

Questions? Comments? Dead links? Let me know in the comments!

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