News from the snow
Borovets is the oldest and the biggest mountain resort in Bulgaria, well known internationally, in part because of the excellent value it offers compared to other top resorts around the world. Virtually all of the major mass-market international tour operators are here. Borovets is known also as a good place to start skiing in a fun and unintimidating atmosphere, with a highly regarded ski school and without risking a huge spend on something you're not sure you're going to enjoy. The resort does, however, have some expert skiing and a specialist advanced-level ski school to help you make the most of it. Another selling point is the lively and varied nightlife, again fired on by the low prices and exuberant atmosphere. The downside of Borovets can include varied conditions on the piste. Although the north facing slopes have some of the best snow conditions in Eastern Europe this is not always comparable to the Alps. Some visitors have also complained of unhappy experiences in their accommodations and the restaurants, although many report the opposite. Established at the end of the 19th century as a hunting centre for the former royals of Bulgaria, Borovets has gradually developed into a modern ski centre with a wide range of accommodations. Fortunately most of its growth in the modern era has not been too disastrous, with the large hotel complexes generally shaped rather than rectangular, sometimes wood clad and always set within the forest. The resort is situated at 1350m above sea level on the northern slopes of the Rila mountains among ancient pine woods. The local mountain, Moussala (2925m) is the highest on the Balkan Peninsula. It's an easy resort to reach, only 73km (45 miles) from the capital Sofia. The nearest town of Samokov is 10km (6 miles) down the road from the resort. Visitors to Borovets should take a few practical steps to counteract local practical instabilities and uncertainties. You should also take your money in hard currency, such as US dollars, as Eurocheques, travellers cheques and credit cards are not widely accepted. Where credit cards and travellers cheques are accepted there's usually a heavy surcharge of around six per-cent on average. Non mainstream currencies and, for example, Scottish sterling bank notes or torn or damaged money are not welcomed. Many visitors will find they need a visa to enter Bulgaria and should check on this prior to travel.
Best known of the Bulgarian resorts, with a wide range of facilities and après ski activities (including sumo wrestling reportedly). Borovets has the largest ski area in Eastern Europe and a popular ski school and ski kindergarten, it was privatised in 2000. This is high value skiing in the famous Bulgarian wine belt, but beware of food shortages.
The second ski area is at Yastrebets, reached by a wonderful 5km/3 mile long gondola ride by a six seater. This accesses the resort's most testing terrain, which includes three runs which are used for international competitions. There are long reds, and a World Cup black beneath the upper section of the gondola, which will take you back to the gondola base station, mid station or to the resort's only T bar, and a very long one it is. Alternatively you can continue over to the Markudjika area. This is served by six short and parallel button tows and accesses the highest skiing in the resort and the only above-tree-line area, also known as the Moussala basin. Naturally it holds snow the longest. One of the runs here, Markudjik 3, has been approved by the International Skiing Federation (FIS) for giant slalom competitions.
For the 2006-7 season ATV Rentals (www.atv-rentals-bg.com) began offering skiers and boarders the option to take a snowcat ride to the top of Mt. Moussala. The machine can carry up to 12 people for a two hour tour, or during the ski day can carry skiers and snowboarders to places they can't normally go. Mt Moussala is only accessible by snow cat, snowmobile or on foot and ATV rentals also rents snowmobiles. .
The highest lift at Borovets is to Aleko at 2728m (8953ft). Mt Moussala is 2942m (9652 ft) giving bigger verticals and more snowsure conditions..
The Borovets ski school is well known and respected internationally. It has more than 200 ski instructors, all of them fluent in different languages and many former professional skiers. Skiing classes are divided in to five difficulty levels, from A to E - in groups or individually with lessons for four hours per day. The additional The Peter Popanguelov Ski School for Expert Skiing employs ten highly-qualified ski instructors able to teach those who want to hone their skiing skills to the 'world champion class'.
Cross-country and biathlon tracks are located 2 km away from the resort together with the cross-country tuition tracks.