Ski Vacation in Bansko Bulgary - Travel Guide
Bansko is an ideal location for ski beginners. Wide blue tracks, lively after-ski night life, and cheap prices for everything. So besides the long line to the Gondola in the morning (details later on…), Bansko is all advantages.
The most obvious advantage for Bansko is the price. The flight cost surely depends on the flight distance, but once you get there, the prices are very cheap, sometimes half then other parts of Europe. Why pay more if you all you needs are several blue tracks? Intermediate skiers will also find enough red tracks to fill their time. Good skiers can complete all the tracks in two or three days, but it’s still fun.
After the ski, there are plenty of places to go out to. Restaurants, fast food booths, pubs, clubs, and cheap shops opened until late night. Everything is located at the small area in the center, near the Gondola. This is obviously a touristic area, so prices are not as cheap as downtown or in Sofia. But still, it is cheap enough to eliminate any need to leave this area.
Besides ski, there are various attractions and adventures – Spa places, hot springs, ski motorcycles, and more.
For the site map, press here:
This is the link for the official site, for weather, snow conditions, etc.: https://www.banskoski.com/en
It is also very convenient to download the official Bansko Ski mobile application.
Planning your vacation
March is the ideal time, where the snow conditions are still good, but the the site gets less crowded.
April is a marginal. There were years when there was no snow at all in April, and other years the site was open even till end of April. So for April, best would be to wait and book the vacation at the last minute. Here is a site showing the snow level in Bansko the last years:
Should you purchase a full package? There is no one answer for all. A package is a bit more expensive, but everything is taken care of for you. You get transfer from the airport, hotel, ski equipment, ski path, and sometimes ski lessons. In most cases, the package elements do not have much flexibility for a change.
For a first ski vacation, it is probably better to buy a full package. If you are an experience skier, or if you return to Bansko again, you can surely plan and prepare the vacation yourself.
Planning a ski vacation on your own
The first step is booking the flight. Search for a flight with international sites such as JetRadar . It is obviously more convenient to choose a direct flight without connections.
Second step is booking the hotel. The most popular site for booking online is booking.com. A good tip would be to view the hotel in a “map view”. The hotels are shown on a map, so you may choose hotels at a good location near the center. Location near the Gondola is a significant advantage.
The trip from the airport to Bansko is three hours ride. The most trivial way is to catch a yellow taxi at the airport. It would cost around 200 Leb. It is a bit expensive, but if several people share a cab, the price is reasonable. The transfer from the hotel to the airport at the end of your vacation should be planned and booked in advance, not to take any changes. Another way for the transfer is to book in advance at – Bansko Express or Sofia Bansko Transfer Shuttle, 19 Eruo per person.
After arriving to Bansko, rent the needed equipment at the main street, including a helmet. You can also rent ski clothes, i.e. a coat and trousers. Goggles are also available for rent, but not gloves. There are several shops at the main street for renting equipment, and you may shop around and compare prices. At the end of the season, a reasonable discount is expected. Traventuria offers online website with 10% discount, so you may order in advance or just get familiar with the prices before you arrive. One parameter to pay attention to when selecting a ski equipment rent shop is the opening hours. Sometimes you will need to replace or fix your equipment, before or after the ski hours, so long opening hours are important. Other recommended equipment rent shops are Snow Limit and sport4you.
After you are all set with the ski equipment (skis, boots, and poles), it is time to shop for clothes and accessories in the main street. Clothes in Bansko are really cheap. Beware that not all brands are original, and in some cases it may explain the cheap prices. In SnowLimit shop at the center the merchandise is original, and the prices are still compelling. Here is a 10% coupon to show at the shop:
Finally, buy your ski pass in the Gondola building, or at the MPM Sport Hotel which opens for longer hours (same prices).
That’s it. You are ready to start skiing!
Ski Packing List
Tips and recommendations
- The Gondola area is the center of night life for skiers. Most of the shops and food places are open until late night. It is clearly a touristic area, so prices are more expensive than the Bansko city center, and certainly more expensive than Sofia. But still, the prices are very cheap compared to France or Switzerland for example. In a relatively small area, you willl find many ski equipement shops, winter cloths shops, restaurants, pubs, hotels and fast food places. There isn’t really any reason to leave this Gondola area…
- The ski pass card is good for one day or several days, and you need to leave a small deposit. When returning it back, at the automatic machines near the Gondola, you’ll get your deposit back.
- A useful application for iPhone or Android is called Bansko Ski. It shows a map of the ski slopes, weather forecast, and the snow level.
- The ski equipment stores and winter cloths stores are cheap, sometimes very cheap. There is a big question mark whether the top brands are genuine.
- You may rent cloths, helmet and goggles. Sometimes the rent price for a week is more than half the new item, so you may consider to just buy it. “Bansko Sport” near the traffic lights junction is one of many shops which offer such renting.
- Shops are open till late, 10pm or 11pm. But rental places close earlier, around 8pm.
- Recommended restaurants: La Skata- an amazing meat restaurant. Victoria – the best Italian food restaurant. In high season, you will need to book in advance for getting a sit.
- Changing money is easily done in one of the dozens change shops in the street, all are open till late hour. All the exchange rates are pretty much similar between the places, so there isn’t really a need for market research. There is a chain of change booths called ‘crown’, which offer a decent exchange rate, which is the same in all their branches. A little better exchange rate can be found in the small path across Kampinski hotel.
- Cellular phone sim card can be purchased in Sofia or Bansko, and the price is real cheap.
- An hotel with a spa is a great bonus after ski. Hot sauna, Jacuzzi, and massage will relax all your sore muscles.
- About ski cloths: goggles are a must in snowy weather, but in sunny days there is nothing like sun glasses. In cold days, you’ll need a cloth to cover your chin, neck and nose. It can be purchased at a low price in most shops. Helmet is important for your safety, but still many skiers in Bansko don’t use it. In sunny days, don’t forget to put sunscreen on your face. You can buy knee protectors, but it is more for the extreme surfers and snowboard surfers.
- Night life is very good in Bansko. Here are some favorite clubs, with main activity on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday): Flash club, Jack house club, Oxigen bar, Bounce, Amigo pub.
- Here is a link to Sport Depot, to get some idea about the merchandise and prices: https://www.sportdepot.bg/en
A four stars hotel, located about 100 meters from the Gondola. The hotel is very pleasant, and has a large spa area with saunas and pools. A bonus attraction is the heated outdoors pool. It is heated to quite high temperature, allowing a relaxing bathing, even when it rains or snows!
The hotel offers a decent dinner included in the price. The Astera hotel link in booking.com.
How can you avoid the Gondola long wait?
Bansko is a very nice city to visit. However, when you come to ski, you don’t really care… You main interest is the Gondola lift and the snow slopes above it. The Gondola is the only lift up the mountain from the city. You would also prefer an hotel near the Gondola, for getting there by foot rather than a shuttle bus.
So what should you do to wait less time in the morning?
You may go up by taxi, but that will cost more. Also, in the busy season also the taxi station has a long line. The cable lift opens officially at 8:30am. However, it actually starts going at around 8:15. So if you arrive early, 8:00 or 8:15, the line will be significantly shorter.
Obviously, if you arrive early, you need all your ski equipment with you. But you may be surprised to know that some of the renting companies open their gates only at 8:30. So they do offer the service of keeping the ski slides and poles overnight. But it is your decision if to take this offer, or take the equipment with you to the hotel… One other option would be to sleep late and arrive to the Gondola at 10am or later for avoiding the moring line. However, this is not what we came here for… 🙂
After saying all the above, for those who have no problem to pay, you may buy a VIP ticket and avoid the line altogether.
To sum up with and optimistic note: the way back to the city is fun. You can slide all the way down to Bansko in a nice and easy slope.
Tips for Bansko Ski School
Bansko Ski Levels
The Bansko ski site has one large ski school which rules the mountain top, with dozens of teachers and classes. All the teachers are highly skilled, speak good English, and know their job perfectly.
The ski school offers 3 skill levels:
Level 0 – beginners: For people who try to ski for their first time.
Level 1 – beginner/intermediate: For people who have skied before, at least once.
Level 2 – intermediate: People who ski quite well, can do red courses, and control parallel skiing.
Bansko Ski Level 0
Total beginners will obviously be assigned to level 0. As for the other skiers, they will need to pass a skill test. The tester will assign to the best fitting level. Tests are being held every day from 10am to 10:30am, and include a short and easy downhill ski, of about 50 meters. If you barely manage your way down with the triangle basics, you will be assigned to level 1. If you ski with confidence, straight yet flexible body, bent knees and a bit of parallel, then you’ll be assigned to level 2. There is a little bit of luck here also, I would say.
Level 0 for total beginners is very slow. In the first day the group does not use any lifts of any kind. They walk up a few meters and slide back – very frustrating… Also, with all this walking, you feed would probably start hurting side the hard ski shoes. Who should join level 0 group? Elderly people, people in poor physical shape, people who fear skiing, and people who have no alternative for learning the basics. And who should NOT join level 0 group? Young people and people who are in good physical shape. These people really want to start skiing down the slopes, but find themselves walking up hill the whole day… A problem.
So what should you do? Must you accept the first day “punishment”? In our opinion, it is preferred to find a solution like private teacher for a couple of hours, or a skilled family member who is willing to teach. The teaching should include the very basics of triangle skiing, and then go for the test! You will most likely be assigned to level 1.
Bansko Ski Level 1
Beginners level starts with lifts and easy mountain slopes, which is good. The group pace aligns with the slowest person in the group, which may be a drawback (unless you are this person 🙂 ). The teacher gives good exercises and personal tips. Also being in a group can push the slow people to improve. On the other hand, the young motivated people will want to advance faster, and be a bit frustrated from the slow pace. These people can slide also alone to gain more confidence and mileage, and try the test for level 2.
Bansko Ski Level 2
This group is for people who ski well, in high speed and red tracks. The advantages of skiing in a group, besides the tips and ski exercises, are the new stuff you’ll learn. Jumping, new techniques, new paths etc.
A small reminder: Skiing skills
Here are the basic ski principles everyone must remember.
- For hooking the slides to the shoes on the slope, put the slides in horizontal position. Make sure the back knob is open. If it is close, you must press on the plastic knob for opening. Otherwise, you may find yourself trying endlessly to hook the slide and failing… The lower slide down the hill is first. Scrape the ice off your boot by scrubbing it against the slide hooks. Then place the front of the ski boot in its place, and lower the back side of the boot forcefully into position. You should feel the lock.
- Taking off the boots: press the knob with the tip of your stick, and the take boot off. Then, do the same for the second boot, or use your free leg to press down the knob.
- Walking up hill: you may climb your way by standing horizontally to the slope, and taking side steps up hill. This is not easy to do, but may be useful for rather steep slopes. In mild slopes, you may walk up by spreading the front of the slides to a V shape, and just walking up step after step, using also your sticks.
- Beginners Triangle Sliding: Your body should lean forwards, with the weight on the front of your boot. The pressure should be there. Leaning backwards will result in losing control. Hands are spread to the side and forwards. Back is straight and relaxed. The triangle will slow you down. For a turn, lean forwards and press on one side.
- knees are always bent. Weight is forwards always. Back is straight and relaxed. Body is flexible, especially in the knees.
- 70% pressure on the low hill slide (when skiing sideways) and 30% on the high hill slide.
- Chest is always pointing downwards. There is a good exercise of holding the sticks in your hand, horizontal in front of your body (or just your fists can be as good), and then making sure it always points down hill. You’ll need to adjust your chest position, for not letting it follow your legs. Never let your chest point to the side or up.
- In triangle skiing, the slides inner edges cut the snow. In parallel skiing, the slides work together, either left sides or right sides of both skies.
- Your body should go down significantly during a turn, by bending your knees. Your behinds would actually be taken back, as if you are about to sit. After the turn, you should start shifting the weight to the other leg. This is done by straightening your knees and standing tall.
- Shoes must be small enough to hold your feet firmly. The heel should not move at all. Obviously the blood must keep flowing, but not much more. This is important to prevent the skis from shaking.
- For beginners, when upgrading your triangle to parallel technique, do parallel when sliding forwards, and triangle for turning. Then, towards the end of the turn, the high hill ski will slide its way and join the low hill ski. This is sliding, not lifting. If you must lift, then don’t lift the whole ski, only the hill side to allow easy sliding of the ski towards the parallel position.