I should say at the outset that this feature pertains only to recreational, resort-based snowboarding excursions in Bulgaria; in terms of back-country powder it is of course possible but not necessarily something we can be in a position to recommend given the inherent dangers.
So to drill down into the why and what, let’s begin with a mental snapshot of why people might choose to go snowboarding in Bulgaria over the established (and perhaps somewhat pedestrian) choices which have dominated the market over the years. The first thing that most people will leap on with regards to holidaying in Bulgaria generally and not just for snowboarding, is cost. It is true that Bulgaria is an inexpensive country to visit relative to Western Europe and North America. However, to go out in search of a downmarket Chamonix is (in my mind at least) to miss the point.
Yes, you can find resorts which share many of the trappings of Western taste and cosmetically similar enough to what we already are familiar with to steady the nerves of conservative adventurers, but if you draw comparisons all day long you will of course conclude that much of what you are comparing is synthetic and superficial. If you go to Bulgaria, do it like a Bulgarian does it. Food, lifestyle, the lot.
There are three major commercial resorts in Bulgaria: Bansko, Pamporovo and Borovets. Borovets is my recommendation, and for the reasons outlined below.
In the first instance, Borovets is, at 70 kilometres, closest by some distance to the capital Sofia. Since I personally hate long connections after flying, that fact has already given it a headstart for me. Bansko is double that, and Pamporovo treble the distance.
Borovets is also what might be described as a boutique resort: with only half-a-dozen or so hotels within the enclosed resort, there are enough venues to provide nightlife options without feeling like an adult Disneyland which most ski resorts either intentionally or otherwise seem to end up gearing themselves towards.
To really get a feel for Bulgarian food culture, skip the hotel restaurants and eat at one of the many mehanas that line the roadside leading to the peak. These cosy huts serve guaranteed superb, fresh traditional dishes (Bulgarians have extremely high standards of taste, so even OK places tend not to survive, leaving only the best to muddle through). Ask for recommendations, but as expert barbeque-rs and with endless inventive salads, you can’t really go wrong. The wine is superb too.
Conditions-wise, it absolutely dumps it down with snow. Online guides may be able to predict snowfall with greater local accuracy, but I have never heard anyone say that it didn’t snow enough in the mountains of Southern Europe.
All of the instructors I know of in Borovets have spent time travelling in search of snow, and so they are both worldly and multi-lingual. The mountainside runs cater for beginners to expert-standard, and there is also a little fun-park in the neighbouring Osogovo mountains if you fancied a change of scenery. On a free day, follow the hiking path around the edge of Borovets resort to find a stately home housing a mind-blowing public art collection in the most arresting setting you will ever come across, and remind yourself there is more to Bulgaria than price.
Given your relative proximity to Sofia, it is strongly encouraged to do at least one night there if you can draw yourself down off the mountain. Sofia is one of the coolest undiscovered cities remaining in an increasingly homogenous Europe, and dinner in the restaurant-lined boulevards around Vitosha Boulevard followed by a stroll through the cool neighbourhood bars of the Shishman district will allow you to experience a city from the inside, before the tourist theme-pubs and stag parties descend.
Our trip to Borovets, as indeed every trip we undertake throughout Bulgaria, was with super connectors Kool Events. Contact the owner directly via his email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Feature image: Georgi Peltekov-Gumata big spin at Borovets. Photo credit: Constantine Trupcheff
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