At Bulgaria’s town of Bankso the skiing tops out on a plateau at an impressive 2,600m and there’s a jolly 16km run all the way back down to base level and its surrounding hotels and apartments.
In between there are a decent amount of runs, plenty of them suiting beginners and confident improvers.
The cost of holidays here and food and drink in the modest, attracting big numbers of Brits, from families with young children to groups of those keen to try a mix of skiing and partying at a reasonable cost. There are nice views, too, over the red-roofed town which is often swathed in mist.
Skiing is on Pirin Mountain, a lofty Alpine environment with snowy ridges, rocky gullies, and pine-fringed runs. What’s so beguiling is that the base area, with modern and even more modern hotels, doesn’t appear to be in a ski area at all.
While snow-trimmed peaks are visible through the hazy cloud a number of miles away the gondola heads off in the other direction across the shallow beginner area. It’s only when it’s away from civilization that it starts to climb, over hillside forest (and the one run that reaches the bottom) but quickly enters a dramatic world of craggy peaks. Other lifts fan out from the top with most of the skiing at higher levels.
There is 75km of marked pistes with 90 percent of them served by snow guns, so good conditions. The ski school has instructors who speak good English.
The skiing at Bansko
From the top of the gondola a couple of chairlifts head up, amid peaks and gullies, then connect with far longer ones – the two-legged Banderitza reaches the summit with the new six-man Todorka shadowing it for much of the way. From the top various pleasing blues disappear off to one side down to the Plato chairlift or continue down amongst the trees to the Mosta chair at the region’s far reaches or keeping higher and on to the gondola station, a lively plateau – Bunderishka Polyana – with a clutch of places to eat and drink.
This isn’t a place where you can ski off and never do the same run twice yet there’s plenty of variety with both pistes and off-piste tucked into a neat network of lifts. There are stirring views down over the town – with its red roofs looking mystically ancient and eastern European – the plain and the distant peaks. The resort with its modest prices is somewhere that is a haven for youngsters and older novices, often in groups there to enjoy the decent prices.
The 16km run all the way back down is a game of two halves – first, the top which can be done as an easy blue or a more energetic red. Below Bunderishka Polyana it’s a weaving road that, as a decent skier, trying to second guess which beginner will weave in front of you, which child will mess about, which snowboarder will go head over heels. Halfway down the second section, there’s a diversion to the Chalin Valog chair for a red and even one of the resort’s two blacks. The runs finish outside varied hotels (particularly the Kempinski Grand Arena), with the big Happy End après-ski directly in front.