Editor Watts skis Slovakia’s biggest resort

20th February 2017, by Dave Watts

Good views of the High Tatras mountain range from the Jasná ski area

Good views of the High Tatras mountain range from the Jasná ski area

Can you name any ski resorts in Slovakia? No? Well read on.

Wednesday of last week saw me flying from Luton airport to Poprad-Tatras, in the valley between two mountain ranges. While flying in you pass over the spectacular High Tatras range which is long but incredibly narrow – it takes only a couple of minutes to fly over them. On the other side of the valley are the Low Tatras mountains.

I was heading for Slovakia’s largest ski area Jasná (pronounced Yaznah) which is in the Low Tatras and just 45 minutes by car from the airport. It has a top skiing height of just over 2000m and a very respectable vertical of almost 1100m. It claims 49km of pistes and that seems about right to me (unlike many resorts which exaggerate their size). I skied pretty much everything that was open in my first day there and there was certainly more terrain than in, for example, Courmayeur in Italy.

The mixture of red and blue runs deserve their classifications and a good intermediate would be happy here for three or four days.

Jasná suits confident intermediates best but has some gentle blue runs like this long one down to Lucky (pronounced Loochee). I’m told it’s not always this busy

The black runs that were open were no steeper than the reds. So the only interest for experts is the off-piste. There is plenty of that: ten or so freeride zones are marked on the piste map and specific routes are included in a free Freeride booklet with explanations in English.

Sadly, this has been a poor year for snow in Jasná (as in most of Europe) and the freeride areas were littered with rocks, so I stuck to the pistes. But in a good year there would be excellent off-piste terrain to suit all standards – with gentle open bowls on the south-facing side of the ski area and both good tree skiing and steep open slopes including couloirs on the north side.

In good snow the off-piste options are huge and vary from steep stuff like this to gentle open bowls

I’ll have to return when the snow is plentiful and explore the area with a guide.

The slopes were very busy on Thursday and Friday, when I skied there, because it was school holidays locally as well as in the UK. But the modern lift system (which includes four gondolas and three six-pack chair lifts) coped with the crowds well, partly because of the singles lines available at nearly every lift (very unusual for a European resort).

The slopes were busy but the lift queues moved quickly – using the singles line, this queue took Dave only 5 minutes

To get away from crowds there are Fresh Track mornings when you can start enjoying the slopes at 7.30am before the hordes are let up an hour later; this is followed by breakfast in the mountain-top restaurant.

But skiing is not the only attraction of Jasná. There is also the huge Tatralandia Aquapark and spa/sauna complex down the valley. And near there is the amazing Hurricane Factory where you can simulate skydiving. You can also visit a huge and interesting cave complex where opening ceremonies for World Cup races have been held. And there are evenings when you can ride in a snow cat for dinner up the mountain.

The Tatralandia aquapark is huge and varied and good for a day off the slopes

It is a shame that Jasná hss no village centre or focus – only buildings strung out along the approach road and up the slopes.

But the resort offers amazing value compared with Alpine resorts. You can get good rooms in 4-star hotels with extensive wellness facilities from around €50 B&B per person for two people sharing. A pint of beer costs €3 or less, many main course meals €8 to €10, a 6-day lift pass €196.

More on Jasná in a feature that I’ll write shortly. And look out for a new entry on Jasná in the Resorts section of the website in a few weeks’ time and another blog on two other Slovakian ski areas in a couple of days.

Dave stayed at the child-friendly 4-star hotel Grand Jasná at the foot of the slopes in a large, modern very comfortable room and enjoyed the excellent spa facilities including outdoor hot tubs and a variety of saunas and steam rooms.

He flew with Wizz Air which has three or four flights a week between London Luton and Poprad-Tatry. The planes are very comfortable with leather seats and good cabin service and both legs arrived on time. There are various paid-for options for both checked and cabin baggage.

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