Snowboarding in Bansko, Bulgaria
I decided to go snowboarding in Bansko for several reasons. First and foremost I have not seen snow for three years having spent the last couple of winters kitesurfing in the Caribbean and Far East. Secondly I wanted to stay for the season and not pay a fortune. Years ago I spent a season snowboarding in the Three Valleys which I absolutely loved, but I was sharing a tiny one bed apartment with three other people and still paying handsomely for the privilege. I wanted a place of my own without having to fork out premium rates! Finally I wanted to experience somewhere new and so I combined it into a 2000 mile road trip driving from the UK through France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and finally Bulgaria. On the return trip I plan on kitesurfing in the Adriatic travelling up the coast of Albania and Croatia.
This page will be updated frequently throughout the season. Here is what I have discovered so far.
Why do a season in Bansko?
Accommodation is super cheap. I am staying in a large one bedroom apartment including bills for less than £300 GBP per month!!!
A season pass gets you fast track access to the gondala – saving you from queuing an hour in the morning!
Beer is certainly cheaper than other European resorts although I am not drinking much.
Most visitors are beginners and many of the runs seem very quiet. In fact I have never seen so many people riding the chair lifts down and also there are hundreds of people carying snowboards onto the lifts by hand!?!
Downside’s of snowboarding Bansko
It is a small resort. 1 Gondola, 8 Chairs, 4 Drags.
The Tzarna Mogila lift does not operate so what looks like powder heaven is inaccessible.
The Peshterite (Ski road) run back to town is very flat and slow. Awkward for beginners, boring for advanced riders.
The snowpark never seems to be open.
The gondola queue peak season around 9:30 could take around 2 hours!
Bansko Off Piste
Snowboarding off-piste in Bansko is fairly limited, but can be found if you are willing to explore or hike. Officially I do not think it is allowed, but that might just be related to the basic ski lift insurance not covering you if you go off piste. From the top of the Banderiza 2 or Plato chair lifts is the main off-piste area. For an extra bit of altitude you can hike up the Tadorka peak for the best steep fresh powder.
The Plato side is pretty sheltered and holds plenty of powder. After the initial bit of fun when things flatten out you need to keep to the left and hook back around to the snowpark and bottom of the Plato lift. If you continue down towards the lake and beyond you will have lots of powder to yourself, but you will soon be in a thick forest and then have quite a long walk! (See further off piste below).
Alternatively if head to the right of Todorka there is probably the best off-piste snowboarding in Bansko. (Without a big hike…). Due to the prevailing winds it can often by icy and not much fun, but after a fresh dump of snow it will put a big grin on your face. Whilst the initial area looks like a very inviting powderfield, further down there are several steep chutes where small avalanches can quickly turn more serious, so it’s definitely not for beginners.
Instead of large open powder fields you can of course have a lot of fun snowboarding between the trees. Between the Mosta and Shiligarnik lifts and the upper section of trees to the right of the Shiligarnik 2 run are the best areas.
Bansko – further off-piste
With more snow on the way today I thought that I should venture further afield from the back of Plato. Whilst the initial bit that you can see is a lot of fun, the further you go down the more dense the trees become and it becomes quite tricky to navigate through the forest, but eventually I came out at the summer hiking path to the Demyanitsa Hut. There was a fairly long hike with a bit of snowboarding along the track until it meets up with the main road to Mosta lift, but the scenery is great. It is worth noting that the Pirin National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so do be careful to leave no trace.
More Bansko Off Piste details and photos.