Skiing in Bulgaria? It's snow joke...
Published 11/12/2011 | 06:00
Love the slopes but hate the cost? A lot of skiers feel like that this season, with many considering eastern Europe for the best deals.
Bulgaria is the bargain basement of the ski world, with price the chief advantage of a snow holiday there.
In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's the only advantage. There are people who proclaim they would never ski anywhere else. Well, they don't know what they are missing.
While a holiday there is kind on the pocket, the quality of the skiing bears little comparison with Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland.
Hotels, restaurants, lift systems, rental equipment and even the mountains themselves simply don't match up. Adequate snow cover is also by no means guaranteed.
However, the standard of instruction is very high.
If you've never skied or snowboarded and want to give it a try without huge financial outlay, or you're a family with small children on a tight budget, it is worth a visit.
But just don't imagine that Bulgaria is what this skiingusiness is all about. I've skied in all three of the main resorts.
Last year, I went to Pamporovo, which is the smallest and, in my opinion, the best of the trio.
Bansko is the biggest and supposedly best resort with a modern lift system, but the number of beds is now out of proportion to the uphillcapacity, resulting in unacceptable queues at peak time.
Borovets, the third main resort, is Bulgaria's oldest. Skiing started here in 1896 and cynics suggest that the lift system has since barely improved.
Perhaps the worst aspect of a stay in any of these destinations is the dismal hotel food.
On the bright side, half-board prices are low enough for you to be able to eat out every night.
Some years ago an entrepreneur hot-wired his fryer into a streetlamp in Borovets and made a fortune selling chips to starving skiers.
Cheap chips with everything, but Val d'Isère or Verbier it ain't.