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Exploring Bansko

01/02/2017 15:00:26

Last week our ski team headed out to Bansko in Bulgaria, to find out what this Eastern European ski resort offers school ski groups.

Here, Beth, one of our experienced Ski Specialists, explains what they got up to and what you can expect if you choose Bansko for your next school ski trip.

Friday 27th January

I must admit, I had been feeling a little apprehensive about our inspection visit to Bansko, Bulgaria. This was my first visit and I wasn’t sure what to expect!

We flew from London Gatwick with EasyJet. The newly renovated north terminal was easy to navigate and, as we had already checked in online and printed our boarding cards, all we had to do was check our bags. The bag drop was really simple to use – just print a label, stick it on the bag and off it goes!

EasyJet was fantastic (as usual) and the cabin crew were particularly friendly.

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Upon arrival in Sofia, we passed through passport control and were met by Vasil, our agent in Bulgaria.

As we stepped outside the airport, we were in for a bit of a shock. There was a foot of snow on the ground here, how deep would it be at the ski resort?!

We were soon on the road, and the airport transfer took us exactly two hours from door to door.

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Our base for the weekend would be the charming Hotel Bansko. Our group was accommodated in a variety of rooms – either a mezzanine room with an upstairs bedroom and lounge area downstairs or, like mine, a large room with a hall, off of which was the bedroom and bathroom. There was also a lounge area and twin beds. All the rooms had a fridge, television, hairdryer, towels and plenty of storage space.

After a late two course dinner, consisting of a very fresh cucumber, tomato and feta salad, followed by chicken and roast potatoes, we headed to bed in anticipation of an early start!

Saturday 28th January

What a day - perfect conditions and wall-to-wall sunshine!

We started with breakfast in the hotel – a buffet with scrambled eggs, French toast, sausage, beans and a whole host of continental breakfast options, as well as freshly baked cakes, fresh fruit yoghurt and cereal. There was also a great choice of fruit juices and coffee.

At 8.30, the ski shuttle picked us up took us the few minutes up the road to the gondola station. We picked up our ski equipment from the ideally located ski hire shop, which is actually inside the gondola station.

We then took the gondola – a 7km, 20 minute journey to the top – before meeting the head of the local ski school, Bobby.

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The facilities looked fantastic and included a wide variety of restaurants to choose from at lunchtime. From this idyllic starting point, there is a nursery slope, where your skiers will have their ability assessed on day one, before being split into teaching groups. There’s also various chair and drag lifts up to the other runs.

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We were guided for the morning by Bobby and Milen, who is the Head Representative for the resort. The ski school are very good indeed and, typically, ski lessons run from 10am, with an hour for lunch. They also provide certificates to skiers at the end of the week.

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To begin with, we took the Kolarski, which takes you to some lovely confidence-building, low gradient blue runs. The beauty of Bansko is that you can get to the very top, at 2600m, and ski right back down to the gondola station on wide open blue runs.

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We did just that and worked our way to the very top. The slopes were in perfect condition from the volume of snow that had recently fallen. Your intermediate and advanced skiers can also access the red and black runs from the top.

There are also a further 5 restaurants on the mountain to add to those at the top of the gondola, where you can stop for very good value snacks and drinks – hot chocolate only costs a few Lev!

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We had lunch at the Barrel, one of the restaurants at the top of the gondola. A chicken fillet with steamed vegetables and salad was perfect after a long morning. Other options included omelettes, chicken skewers and pasta dishes, all for very reasonable prices.

One of the highlights of Bansko is the ski road, a very easy 7km blue run that takes you from the top of the gondola station to back to the bottom. This is just perfect for your beginners, and great fun to ski back down at the end of the day. It is a beautiful, quiet tree-lined slope and the conditions were perfect.

There are shops and food outlets available at the gondola base station if you’re peckish when you finish skiing. There’s even a Subway!

Saturday night gave us the chance to see some of the accommodation that is available to our groups. We were staying in the Hotel Bansko, which is a 4 star hotel. The facilities at the hotel are great – there’s a games room, large swimming pool with lifeguard, a large conference room which can be used for in-house activities, and a lounge area with WiFi.

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The Hotel Pirin is a little closer to the beautiful old town. This hotel also boasts a games room, swimming pool, lovely garden and an enchanting lounge area with a log fire.

The Hotel Mura is another fabulous option, with lots of space and a large restaurant and lounge area.

Milen and Vasil, our hosts for the weekend, took us to the newly opened Egur Egur restaurant in the Perun Lodge Hotel for dinner. This is an Armenian restaurant, owned by Hilda Kazasyan, the most famous jazz singer in Bulgaria. She also has a restaurant in the capital, Sofia. The food was exceptional!

I wasn’t too familiar with Armenian cuisine, so we let our hosts take the lead and ordered a whole host of traditional dishes. It was all delicious and gave us the opportunity to try something new!

Sunday 29th January

Our alarms were all set for an early rise, as we had arranged to participate in the Bansko First Run Experience.

The gondola opens early for those who want to participate in skiing the resort with the ski school before the lifts officially open. Skiing on quiet, freshly groomed corduroy piste is quite special.

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This was a definite highlight! The smiles were enormous – having the slopes to yourselves for an hour is an opportunity not to be missed! Breakfast is then taken afterwards in a mountain restaurant as part of the experience.

After breakfast, we took to the slopes again for the rest of the morning, taking advantage of the conditions and, again, enjoying the sunshine.

Once we had finished skiing and returned our equipment, we walked back to the hotel to take in the sights, sounds and smells of Bansko. It was only around a 10 minute walk and gave us the opportunity to see the town (and visit the souvenir shops!).

There is a beautiful pedestrianised area which has some real character, with some really old, traditional Mehanas (taverns known for their local cuisine and music).

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This evening our dinner was booked in a local Mehana called Molerite, just a short walk from the Hotel Bansko. It’s a typical Bulgarian restaurant, and their house band plays traditional Bulgarian music – great fun!

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Again, we took the advice of Milen and ordered a selection of food typical to Bulgaria and thoroughly enjoyed it. The atmosphere was so much fun, it would be perfect for a group meal while in resort.

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Our hosts were very attentive all weekend, and it was certainly indicative of how our groups will be looked after when they visit Bansko. With the support of our local agents, your school ski trip is certain to run seamlessly.

Interested in finding out more about school ski trips to Bansko? Please don’t hesitate to contact us – we’ll be pleased to use our first-hand knowledge of the resort to advise you!

And don’t forget, we currently have a very special offer for school ski trips to Bansko!

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