Borovets has a growing reputation as a good value, no-frills Bulgarian skiing resort well suited to beginners. But information about the resort is still thin on the ground. Read on for skiing holidays expert Matt Barr’s hassle free guide to booking a skiing holiday in Borovets.
Bustling Borovets is a perfect microcosm of Bulgarian skiing in general: compact, cheap and very, very cheerful. As with the country’s two other main resorts, Bansko and Pamporovo, this isn’t really a resort for experts looking to spend a week ticking off steep, powder-filled runs. But if you’re looking for a destination that offers great nightlife and straightforward skiing at a cost that won’t require a second mortgage, Borovets delivers. In particular, Borovets is a great option for beginners. On-slope access is easy, the slopes themselves tend to be fairly mellow gradients, and there’s a good English-speaking ski school well used to putting newbies through their paces. Intermediates will also enjoy exploring the three distinct ski areas, and the lively après-ski scene. It is also very good for families, as much of the accommodation here tends to be large, self-contained hotels offering everything under one roof.
When to go
As with all European ski resorts, the winter season in Borovets runs from late December to early April, but you should choose your holiday time within that period carefully. February half term and Easter are always the busiest time for any resort, with prices rises accordingly. January and February offer the best snow and the coldest temperatures, while March and early April (assuming the snow lasts that long) tend to feature sunny, summery afternoons and slushy snow.
Getting the best deal
Avoiding the Christmas, New Year and February peak should see you bag the best prices, but Borovets is generally one of the cheapest resorts in Europe with the town’s bars, restaurants and hotels all very competitive. As a rough guide, a week in a four star in Jan will cost around £300, while an equivalent week at February half term can spiral to around £600. The same applies for ski passes, which are very competitive compared to somewhere like France or the USA. As an example, a one-day pass in Borovets comes in at £23, while the equivalent in Whistler, Canada’s flagship resort, costs a whopping £60. Another way to save is to buy in bulk: booking a pass for a week is always cheaper in the long term than buying half or single day passes each day – £121 in Borovets compared to almost £400 in Whistler. Note that in Borovets there is no discount for buying your pass in advance, although if you book with a major UK tour operator you will be able to purchase your passes directly from them before you go.
Check here for up to date in-resort lift pass prices. You can also compare resort pass prices on the Ski Club of Great Britain site which has day, week and season pass prices for all of the world’s major resorts.
Travel to Bulgaria doesn’t require any injections or special medical preparation, other than making sure your travel insurance is up to date, and ensuring it covers winter sports. You can buy basic insurance cover with your lift pass for a supplement, which includes initial health care and transportation to a hospital or medical centre. Ordinary travel policies require a winter sports supplement to cover you for skiing and snowboarding in resort areas, and equipment loss or damage – although these usually don’t cover for any off-piste activities. If in doubt, check before you go.
Packing and baggage
Taking ski gear can involve navigating a small labyrinth of red tape, particularly if you’re booking with a low cost airline. Almost all of them will charge a supplement for carrying ski equipment and baggage, and many will charge more if you try to arrange this at the airport. If you don’t own any ski kit, hire skis and boots in resort through either your operator (again, most good operators will allow you to organise this before you go) or the local Ski School Borovets, who are based in the Rila Hotel. Our advice is to organise before you go with your operator. That way you’ll avoid a potentially stressful task as soon as you arrive in resort.
The closest airports to Borovets are Sofia (www.sofia-airport.bg) and Plovdiv (www.plovdivairport.com, and there are year round flights to both from the major UK hubs with BA, Easyjet, Monarch, Thomas Cook Airlines, bmibaby and Thomson Airways. Flying with a specialist such as Balkan Airways from Bristol is one way to sniff out a bargain- they’ll use charters to keep the price down.
Surviving the airport with your gear
Both Sofia and Plovdiv are fairly chaotic, due in part to the fact that these airports have suddenly been called upon to handle many more passengers than they were previously used to. Make sure you double check carrier policies on ski and snowboard bags to be sure before you leave and be liberal with the fragile stickers. When you arrive, make a beeline for the outsize baggage conveyer, as this is where your precious kit is likely to end up.
With Sofia around 80km away and Plovdiv 150km away, the easiest transfer option is to get a coach from your airport to resort, rather than hiring a car and negotiating the somewhat hair-raising roads. There are plenty of local operators such as Plovdiv Airport Transfer, Ski Borovets or Motor Roads offering such services.
Once you are there
Fun on the first night
It’s worth taking some time to orient yourself once you arrive. Borovets isn’t huge, but the sprawling hotel complexes can be slightly overwhelming. There are really only a couple of streets to explore, and initially you may be put off by the garish bars and restaurants, and the inordinate number of strip bars populating the place! If Michelin stars and sophisticated service are required, it’s probably fair to say that Borovets isn’t for you. But if you’re prepared to get into the often-rough-and-ready spirit of things, you’ll have a brilliant time. The locals here are friendly, food and drink is cheap and there’s a good mix of cuisine to get stuck into. Read the reviews and you’ll see that Mamacitas, the local Mexican place on the main road in town, is popular and this would be a good place to start. It’s run by a local ex ski racer who typifies the big-hearted appeal of the resort.
Practical considerations for planning your skiing
They like to say that there are three separate ski areas in Borovets (Central Borovets, Yastrebetz and Markudjik), but calling them by the grand title of “ski area” is overstating the case somewhat. Instead, think of them as three distinct zones, and choose which one you’re going to explore by carefully examining the piste map over breakfast on your first morning. Beginners should really book a lesson with one of the excellent English-speaking local schools and you can expect to join the massed ranks of new skiers assembling in front of the Hotel Rila each morning. Two hour lessons with the local ski school start at approximately £13 for a day, £52 for three days and £97 for six days. Intermediates will have fun exploring the predominant number of red runs and handful of blacks on offer, but beware: the different areas don’t link entirely logically so keep an eye on that map when you’re going to shift to a new one. Experts will likely get frustrated after a couple of days in Borovets, and should think about trying nearby Bankso instead. On slope access is very simple, with many hotels within walking distance of the runs, and others providing free shuttle services.
What to do if the weather is too bad or warm for skiing?
There isn’t an amazing amount to do when bad weather comes in, which is where hiring a car could be a sensible option. Ski Borovets offer pick up and drop off from both airports. That way, you’ll be able to escape the confines of the resort and explore other nearby attractions such as Sofia, Samokov and Rila Monastery. Otherwise, you may well be confined to base and have to make do with the in-resort facilities, which can be limited.
Borovets Hassle Free – the map
View larger map
Getting home should be straightforward enough, particularly if you’ve booked transfers. During high season the airports can get busy and delays are subsequently possible. Facilities at both are fairly limited in comparison to UK hubs, so take food and drink with you, particularly if you’re travelling with a family. And, as ever, give yourself more time if you are going to be dropping a hire car off at the airport. Click here for more details on drop off and pick up locations.
Borovets has a surprisingly active online life, with sites such as www.myborovets.com and www.bulgariaski.com both having discussion boards. Other online locations to find out more and leave feedback include the very good Ski Club of Great Britain site, which also has discussion boards and full resort coverage, and other websites such as Snowboard Club which are full of skies and snowboarders sharing tips, images and memories.
- Borovets resort information: http://www.borovets-bg.com/en
- Bulgarian skiing information: www.bulgariaski.com
- Lift pass price list for Borovets: www.borovets-bg.com/en/prices/
- Sofia Airport: www.sofia-airport.bg
- Plovdiv Airport: www.plovdivairport.com and transfer information www.plovdiv-airport-transfer.com/
- Car hire: www.skiborovets.bg
- Skiing lessons information: www.skiclub.co.uk
- Snowboarding information: www.snowboardclub.co.uk
- In resort information: www.myborovets.com
- In resort information: www.bulgariaski.com
- Regional information: http://www.sofia.bg/en/index_en.asp
- Samokov Monastery information: www.samokov.bg
- Rila monastery information: www.rilamonastery.pmg-blg.com/Home_page_en.htm