Good morning, Ferals!
I do apologise for being on the quiet side for the last few weeks – I have been bogged down in pre-spring/summer season work bits and trying to get as much training in as possible. We did, however, manage to squeeze in a short skiing holiday to Borovets last week and we had a ball! I have never skied before so we had a two-hour private lesson at Chill Factore the day before we flew (I highly recommend that – I didn’t even know how to put on skis). So instead of putting together a diary-like blog of our time in Borovets (which would sound like eat-ski-eat-ski-fall over-eat-eat-drink-sleep repeat), I thought I would condense it into a few bullet points on what I would have liked to have known before I went to Bulgaria.
If I’ve missed anything, then add them in the comments section below so other people know what to expect!
- There is a good mix of abilities but Borovets is tailored well to beginners
Considering we went out knowing next to nothing, and we left being able to scoot-scoot down a few blue runs tells me that there was a lot to practice on! In a quick rundown, I thought the mountain fell into 4 different ‘main’ sections. There may already be names for these areas but I can’t find any!
Section ‘1’ – The BIG gondola takes you to 2369m where there are a few shorter green, blue, red and black runs all linked by a few button lifts, a 4 man lift and ski-ways. This section is high and feels a bit more exposed than the lower down runs, but is great fun! Bonkers serve simple foods and hot drinks at a relatively fair price (considering how high up they are!). You can either catch the gondola back down the mountain of ski down the ‘Musala pathway’ if it is open. Or you can go down to…
Section ‘2’ is directly under the highest section of skiing and can be accessed by a short blue run that leads down from the top station of the Gondola, or from the middle station on the gondola. We didn’t spend any time on this side of the mountain as all of the runs are Red and Black, so way out of our capability! The views heading up the gondola though were stunning and certainly not to be missed if this is your thing!
If you are facing the mountain, Section ‘3’ is on the left-hand side and encompassed a 6 man lift, a 4 man lift and a multitude of button lifts that are really useful if you just want to get some confidence on lower runs before heading up the mountain. This section has the most runs and the most variety – varying from a long, slow, beautiful green run that takes about 45 minutes to get down, to short, sharp black and red runs that will put your heart in your throat.
Section 4 is on the bottom right of the mountain, just to the right-hand side of the main gondola. This section is a cross country run the zigzags through the forestry at the base of the mountain. We didn’t get to play on here but when we come back, this will be first on my list!
- There are good Facebook groups with lots of info and discussions to take part in before your trip
Impartial Borovets is a good one and so is Borovets 2018 / 19- Winter Holidays, Snow, Ski, Board & Info Group (it changes the name every year!) – there is plenty of info and discussions already up, but it’s also a ‘safe’ place to ask dumb dumb questions if you have no idea what you’re getting yourself in to!
- Borovets is over an hour away from Sofia, but transfers are easy and competitively priced
We ended up going with Chris Borovets Transfers which was € 70 for a return trip for 4 of us – plus, we got a little discount card that gave us 10% off in a few of the popular bars and restaurants – bonus! There are plenty out there though, so it’s worth doing some digging and getting a few quotes.
- Most places cater for vegetarians but vegan options are harder to find
In fact, it’s really hard to find potatoes that aren’t cooked in butter or dishes that aren’t covered in cheese or eggs and most places just give you a puzzled look when you utter the word ‘vegan’ – but there is a wide range of vegetarian options and they cook vegetables REALLY well! If you are strict vegan I do recommend searching for accommodation with a little kitchen (we stayed in SDL self-catering apartments and it was perfect for us!) so you can prepare your own meals. The supermarkets did stock basic nut and soya milks, but there were about £4 a carton! That being said…
- The food will sweep you off your feet
The quality of food was fantastic and exactly what your body craves after a full day of skiing – you can opt for a pizza or burger or something lighter like soup or a toasted sandwich if you feel like it, but I highly recommend the Bulgarian dishes. Our favourites were Sach and Kavarma. Kavarma was my favourite – a bit like a stew, Kavarma is baked in a traditional red-clay pot and usually consists of meat, vegetables and lots of tomatoes. I found a great and easy recipe here. Sach is the dish in the photo below – it’s served on a big sizzling pot that is designed to go straight from the hob to the table. Sach is usually a mix of lots of vegetables, meat (pork, chicken, beef or a mix) and topped with a LOT of cheese. It is a lot of food, and one between two with a side of potatoes worked best for us! Although, we did manage to finish one each after a long day skiing!
- Forgotten your helmet? Goggles? Ski Boots? Don’t worry – there are plenty of decent ski shops.
Jamie bought himself a really good helmet for a not-so-scary price. We did a bit of hunting around the shops for prices but they all came up relatively similar (except for the very posh places), so don’t worry if you’ve forgotten something ‘vital’.
- Double check where your accommodation is actually located before you book it.
So our accommodation said it was 0.1 miles away from the slopes – it actually wasn’t at all. it was about a 10-minute walk to our friend’s hotel and then a further 5-10 minutes up to the slopes. We didn’t mind the walk at all, but if you are a bit injured or you have small children then double check when the accommodation is actually located on a map before you book it!
- Don’t throw toilet paper down the toilet!
That’s a big thing! The drains are tiny and the systems just can’t handle toilet paper. it’s a bit odd to get used to, but respect their rules and chuck toilet paper in the bin provided in the toilet.
- The initial sizing, trying on and collection of your hire ski kit will take around 30-40 minutes.
DO NOT DO WHAT WE DID and turn up to the ski equipment hire shop 10 minutes before your lesson on your first day (we were a bit late but Ivan was very understanding and went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable on the slopes). The initial process of getting your skis, boot, poles and helmet if you need it, takes quite a while. Turn up at least 30 minutes before you intend on hitting the slopes or scooting to your first lesson. The equipment hire shops will then store your equipment for you (at a bit of an extra cost) so the following day only takes about 5 minutes to collect your equipment and hit the slopes.
- I highly recommend the Green ‘Sitnyakovo Royal Residence Ski Way’ and the Blue ‘Musala Pathway’
I am absolutely not about the ‘get down fast’ mentality of downhill skiing. I like a run that takes me 40 minutes to get down rather than 5. These were the two best ones we found! The Sitnyakovo Royal Residence Ski Way is an easy going Green run that takes you from the top of Sitnyakovo Ski Centre (1780m) where the 4-man lift stops and winds through the forests, across the top of a couple of steeper runs and back down to lower slopes. The path is a bit narrower than some of the lower slopes, but it’s gentle and beautiful the whole way down – we spent a LOT of time on this run!
The Musala Pathway isn’t open all year round but is definitely worth the trip down if it is. It isn’t an official ski run so it depends if it’s been pisted. At 10km it’s the longest run in Borovets and is a good mix of beautiful views with a couple of techy, twisty downhill segments. It’s narrower than most ski runs, so have a go at a few wider blues to build up some confidence before you head down! In my opinion, though, this is one of the most beautiful runs in Borovets! Take snacks and water in case you need a bit of a break cus it’s a long one!
- And if you DO go on the ‘Sitnyakovo Royal Residence Ski Way’ then stop a Georges’ bar (about a 2-5 minute ski from the start) for some mulled wine.
Nothing big and nothing fancy, but it has gorgeous mulled wine and is a pretty romantic little spot!
- The ‘Night Skiing’ Pass is a must!
Okay, confession time – I didn’t actually get a night ski pass – and it is my biggest regret! We spent most evenings tucked up inside the restaurants, refuelling for the next day and watching all the night skiers. On the map I included above you can see the runs that are lit up and included in the Night Skiing. The slopes are quieter and the runs are more atmospheric – definitely on my to do list when we go back!
- The exchange rate is usually better in Borovets than you can get at home
I didn’t believe it either! Take Pounds and Euros with you and exchange them in Borovets. Most places will accept Euros too – but you’ll get a better rate if you change them at the kiosks.
- You can get free wifi in most bars, restaurants and hotels.
Not that you’ll be on your phone much though, right?
- The tap water is fine to drink
Not that Jamie trusted it anyway, but the water comes straight from the mountain so it’s fine to drink!
- It’s best to avoid weekends and school holidays
We arrived at about midday on the Sunday, luckily,m with no intention of skiing on the first afternoon. Borovets had just had a fresh dumping of snow and Sunday was a BEAUTIFUL blue-skied, sunny day – so of course, everyone from the surrounding cities and towns were there. Grandma’s, children, dogs – you name it! It was chaos! Though, our instructor said it was nothing compared to the school holidays. So if you can, try and go mid-week and avoid the holidays! Our skiing days were Monday – Wednesday and, aside from the lessons happening at the bottom of the main slopes, the rest of the runs were relatively quiet.
- The bar staff, the instructors, the chefs, the chaps fitting your boots – everyone is incredibly friendly and have a wicked sense of humour!
Everyone we met was incredibly welcoming – most of the restaurants feel like you’re walking into someone’s house for a meal. They were all hilarious and really happy to welcome you to their sport/restaurant/shop – and always happy to help, even with odd requests!
- You will want to take home all of the street dogs
Okay, maybe that’s just me? But they were adorable! Very friendly and loving – I’m sure we had room for one or two in the case?
- Had enough of skiing for a day? Want to rest your achy muscles? Well, there are lots of other bits to do too!
Everything from horse riding through the snowy forests, to snowshoeing or even brilliant massage and sauna day – if you need a day off the slopes, then there is plenty to entertain you!
- It is a great place to take kids for their first ski holiday
We saw so many little ones having the time of their little lives! There are plenty of snow schools to get kids ready for the slopes – and it’s surprising how quickly they pick it up!
- Most accommodations come with their own ‘quirks’
Whether it’s that damp patch in the corner, the odd taste in bed sheets, the fact that you have to locate your fuse box and turn everything on, the odd choice in food at the breakfast buffet or your weird check-in protocol – you have to take it all with a pinch of salt. You’re on holiday after all – don’t take it all so seriously! But it’s good to note that…
- Tea bags are ridiculously expensive and there seems to be a distinct lack in kettles in Bulgaria
If you NEED a cup of Tetley’s in the morning to get you going, then do what our friends did and bring your own kettle and tea bags! We had a little hob in our apartment so we were able to boil water that way, but none of the accommodations seem to come with a kettle! All the coffee in the bars and restaurants is really good though, so don’t worry too much!
- You will have the time of your life
I’m probably projecting, but I am already planning our return trip – and we’re not alone. Families, friends and couples alike seem to come back to Borovets year after year. Maybe it’s the great skiing? Maybe it’s the great food? Maybe it’s the odd choice in decor at your hotel? Maybe it’s because a Bulgarian ski holiday is about half the price of everywhere else? Who can really put it down to one thing? Just trust me – you’ll have a ball!
Well, that’s it from me! If you have any questions or if you think I’ve missed a key point then add them to the comments section below!
Have a great week, Ferals!
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