Bansko Ski Resort
About a two hour drive south of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, in a valley below the towering Pirin Mountains, is where Bansko, one of Europe’s most exotic ski resorts, is located.
I didn’t typically think of skiing when I think of the Balkan Peninsula. But fact is that there are several smaller ski resorts throughout the region. And while they obviously exist under the tall shadow of world-class resorts like Zermatt, Chamonix, St Anton and Cervinia, the only one able to compete in regards to quality, variety and sheer beauty is Bansko.
The village of Bansko is divided into two quite separate parts, the older, more rustic and somewhat worn area closer to the valley and the newer, more winter-focused neighborhood where all the hotels, bars, restaurants and shops are located. This is also where all the ski rental stores are and, most importantly, where the gondola lift is.
I stayed at Ores Boutique Hotel, primarily for its near proximity to the gondola. The hotel has a good team working there, the food in the restaurant is tasty and our room was both practical and comfortable. Ores has a heated, saltwater pool, a sauna and a small gym in and addition to ski storage and a kids room. There are both more expensive and more affordable alternatives. But Ores has pretty much everything I needed for my visit.
Renting ski gear in Bansko is super easy and there are dozens of shops that provide good equipment, fast service and reasonable prices.
I opted to leave all my ski gear at the shop after each day on the slopes, which made walking to and from the hotel so much smoother.
On a less smoother note… the long line to the gondola lift was both time consuming and a bit frustrating. Bansko has clearly become so popular that the resort’s capacity can become maxed out. That said, once I got up the mountain, there was rarely more than a few minutes until I was sitting on a chairlift heading up the mountain again.
The view from the very top is nothing short of spectacular. From here I had an amazing 360 degree view of the Pirin mountain range, including the gorgeous peak of Mt Vihren at a whopping 2914 m/9560 ft above sea level.
Bansko has a surprisingly wide variety of slopes for just about every level of skier, from beginner to advanced. All the runs I tried (blue+ red) were meticulously prepared and it was just as fun skiing on them as in more traditional resorts in Switzerland, France, Austria or Italy.
Price-wise, Bansko is certainly a more budget-friendly destination than anywhere I know of in the alps. Food and drinks at restaurants and bars are more affordable and there are savings to be enjoyed on both ski rental and lift passes. Rares for hotels and apartments vary, but even though I chose to pay for half board (breakfast + dinner), I don’t think I would have found a less expensive alternative in a more established European ski resort.
So, if you’re yearning for a unique skiing experience, I can absolutely recommend a visit to Bansko in Bulgaria.
I flew with Wizz Air from Copenhagen to Sofia, the Bulgarian capital. My flight got in late, so I opted to stay a night at one of the airport hotels. The next morning, I had arranged for a transfer to pick me up and drive me the two hours to Bansko. I did the same for my return trip, but stayed in a hotell near the old town in Sofia.
Check prices for Ski pass
– Avoid the weeks in February when England has their school break. 2 hours stand in line for the Gondola lift that takes up to the rest of the system and crowded slopes –
Hotels close to the Gondola lift
Boutique Hotel Uniqato
Cosy to have a fireplace in a hotel room. The suites are big, stylish and very comfortable, most have of them have balcony. The bathroom is nice. The staff is great and they serve an excellent breakfast. Rooms have wonderful view of the mountains.
Hotel Casa Karina Bansko – Half Board & All Inclusive
Nice hotel and great location, 5 minute for walk to the Gondola lift. Pool with spa, restaurant is very good, nice selection of food at breakfast and evening meal. The rooms are functional, with plenty of space.
MPM Hotel Sport Hotel
Excellent location, just next to the Gondola lift, with a wonderful view over the lift and slope. You can ski in, ski out. The hotel has indoor pool and spa. Helpful staff.
Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena
Five-star luxury hotel that features 157 Alpine-style rooms just next to the Gondola lift, with ski-in, ski-out.
Big wellness center with indoor and outdoor heated pool and jacuzzi. Cosy lobby with fireplace.
Skirental 100 m from the Gondola lift where you can leave all the equipment when you are done skiing for the day and pick them up the next day. Very convenient.