On tour in Slovenia

25th January 2010, by Chris Gill

The lowest of the three Krvavec mountains: Krzisce 1660m

The lowest of the three Krvavec mountains: Krzisce 1660m

I’m on a bit of an adventure this week – a short driving tour of Slovenia’s ski resorts in the Julian Alps region.

I flew into Ljubljana airport on Saturday afternoon, and it was very pleasing to see snow to valley level. Promising news for some decent skiing in the Julian Alps in the next few days. There has been a lot of freezing fog around, with a few snow flurries, but otherwise cold and dry.

I spent the first two nights in Bled – a very pretty lakeside village and castle, just 30 minutes drive of the airport. After a change of hotel, I checked into the Savica – a family 3-star, and very comfortable. Lucky for me, my arrival coincided with a major event in town: the World Championships in Winter Swimming. Ok, so not a ski event – these international teams like to plunge into icy cold water for fun! But I was invited to join the celebrations at their gala dinner, taking place in the sister hotel to mine on Saturday evening. While Bled isn’t a ski resort, it does have a steepish local slope that is floodlit until 9pm. And you can reach several small ski areas within a half hour drive in various directions.

Sunday saw me on a minibus heading back towards the airport – well, to the ski centre just north of there: Krvavec. From Bled there is a regular free bus service taking you to the slopes in the morning, then bringing you back late afternoon. All perfectly doable for a day out from Bled or Ljublijana. The ski area is just 8km north-east of the airport and a very dynamic, jolly place. As it was the weekend, the local families were out in force (about 3,000 people on the hill that day) but it never felt too crowded; it was all fairly relaxed and with no queues.

Krvavec: View from the high point – great cloud inversion

I cruised around the varied but mostly intermediate runs, which are spread across three hills up to 1970m and dotted with trees. A newish six-pack, quad and upgraded two-seat chair serve various points, with a few other old chairs. There was a fabulous cloud inversion, with fab views and blue skies above. On the horizon you could just see Mt Triglav poking through the cloud – Slovenia’s highest mountain. I was surprised to find the snow in very good condition considering the slopes are all below 2000m – good snowmaking and colder temperatures are keeping it in decent shape too, despite only 10cm new snow in the past week or so. And the pistes were well groomed. It’s hard to believe that the whole region was ravaged by flooding and with green slopes just a month ago.

I met up with the director of the lift company, Luka, for lunch and a chat about the resort, which is still little known to British visitors. Snack huts serving fast food are popular, though we had some hearty soup and strudel. Oh, and a warm-up shot of the local blackberry liqueur, Borovnicke! All of these are extremely cheap compared with the Alps: a hot chocolate was only 2.50 euros and a meaty soup just 4 euros.

Watching some folk get togged up for a high rope swing, I was soon roped in (excuse the pun!) for a go myself. On with harness and helmet, then get hauled up to a decent height and released for a few seconds adrenalin rush. All a good laugh. Time then for a few more runs on the short but steepish third hill – the blue here is really a red – before catching the 4pm minibus back to Bled. Most of the lifts close at 4pm.

Monday morning I drove 40 minutes westwards from Bled to Kranjska Gora, the resort most familiar to Brits and very popular with families and beginners. Again, the snow was better than expected, with cover to the valley and plenty of snowmaking but there was a lot of ice and scraped snow later on. Not surprising with it being quite low, but they do have a high proportion of snow-guns now. The best cover was in the virtually deserted Padkoren sector, where there are several gentle blue runs. It is a bit of a trek to get there, hence I think that’s why it was quiet. Kranjska has a great new terrain park too, which was well used.

The men’s World Cup racing, Vitranc Cup, comes to town this week so I was really excited to ski across and stand in the finish area then ‘race’ down the steepish red run beside it. And as the day ended, there were slalom teams tanking it past me too. Surface conditions will be perfect for them – firm and fast. I’m in the very smart Kompass hotel for one night (so there was just enough time to try the pool!) before a more adventurous drive to Bovec on Tuesday. This resort is the one newly connected with Italy, so I can’t wait to see it. You can also read about that resort in our Tri Border skiing feature.

Kranjska Gora: Finish area for the Vitranc World Cup men’s giant slalom. Cool!

More to follow when I have wifi again!

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