Review of Bansko

10th May 2011 by garethbeckett 

Bansko Boarding - Early January 2009

My girlfriend and I arranged this trip independently as we were looking for something cheap. At that time Bulgaria was a lot less expensive than most French or Italian resorts and by doing it independently we figured we could do it cheaper than the tour operators. I looked on the internet and found a great studio apartment, which was owned by a lady who was renting it out over the season. The apartment was in Bansko Towers, cheap and in a great location, just across the river at the bottom of the main gondola, however, even though the spa facilities were good the pool and hot-tubs were freezing. I also sourced a transfer from the airport to the resort, there are loads of companies now offering this service, a quick search online and you will find a number of them, but do shop around as the prices can differ quite a lot. At the time we booked there was only a few that did the route and the cheapest I could find was 130 Euro return. I know there are cheaper methods to get to Bansko via a bus service etc., but this is slow and, if you are like me, you just want to get there.
I had been to Bansko before and knew my way around the resort; however, this was in the summer so I had never been on the mountain to board. We got up early on our first morning to get our lift passes as I was told there can be crowds later in the morning; this was good advice as we only queued for around 10 minutes.  We got a quick breakfast, grabbed our gear and headed up the mountain. The gondola ride up to the main area takes around 15 minutes and can get very busy in the morning as this is the only way up the mountain, unless you have hired a car and can drive up, so get there early. We had a lie in one morning and arrived at the gondola for 10.30 only to find a 40 minute wait ahead of us, not nice. There was no snow whatsoever in the town but when we arrived at the middle station the snow looked great as there had been a little dump the night before. We wanted to ease ourselves in on our first day, so we headed for the Kolarski lift which would lead us onto a blue run called Todorka. The lifts are not bad, but they can be a little slow which can lead to a really cold ride first thing in the morning. The Todorka run is a gentle run but good with a few high banks on the right hand side and a kind of natural mound a little further down on the left hand side. This run leads you into the second base called the Shiligarnika area and gives you the option of 3 lifts and one drag lift to access a number of other runs. We mainly stayed to this side of the mountain for the first day and to be honest it was very enjoyable and I was pleasantly surprised.
On our second day we hit a couple of the red runs. One of my favourites was the Balkaniada run. This run started at the very top of the mountain and made its way down to offer you a number of options, you could take a black run, a number of red options, blue options or you could even split off and take the run all the way back into town. Two other great runs I enjoyed were Plato 1 and Plato 2. These runs are serviced by the Balkaniada 2 lift which also services the Balkaniada run. Plato 1 and Plato 2 are both blue runs but are both great fun. They are mostly straight but there are a number of small trees that you can carve your way through and the snow is normally light and powdery in this area. When we were there we got a couple of really nice powder days in this area. These runs then link up with Shiligarnik 1 and/or Shiligarnik 2 which are great and lined with trees, providing a number of short runs through the trees and small natural kickers. This is also a great area to head to when the wind picks up and the runs at the top of the mountain are totally blown out, and believe you me, when this happens it is white-out city up there.
Another run which I really enjoyed, even if it was almost flat in places, was the Bansko run into town. This run starts at second base and runs down the side of the valley, with trees on both sides to the base of the gondola. It is a narrow run and can get busy at the end of the day, but it has loads of tight turns and can be fast in areas. It is really just like a huge boardercross run minus the jumps. I was keen to try the Funpark but unfortunately it wasn’t completed when we were there.
The one thing about the mountain is that food is expensive; I would advise packing a lunch and just buying a hot drink up the mountain. I know every resort is expensive when purchasing food up the mountain but I was a little surprised to see how costly it actually was.
The town itself is really nice (minus the building sites), it has a good atmosphere and the people are super friendly. The old part of town has some great restaurants which are keenly priced and serve all kinds of food, from traditional meals to cheese burgers. It also has some good board and ski stores offering everything from rental to repair, I was, however, surprised at the price of some of the equipment which seems expensive to me. The outdoor ice rink looked like great fun but we never had the energy to try it after a day on the mountain.
All in all Bansko is a good, cheap and friendly resort, if a bit on the small side. You could probably do every run in a day, so if you’re after an expansive area and hundreds of kilometres of piste you probably should look elsewhere. It’s really a small family resort but we still had a blast of a time.

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