Top 5 tips when arranging a Bansko ski trip

Oct 02, 2014 1 Comment by
Above top station

Todorka ridge. March sunshine.

I know the feeling when placed in charge of arranging a group ski / snowboarding trip for friends. I used to organise the annual “lad’s trip” for around ten years. I picked various ski resorts in Europe. It was when someone asked me me, “Why Bansko?”.

It got me thinking back to the time before I decided to try Bansko back in 2005 and to last season when I helped out a number of group leaders organise successful trips to Bansko. But much of what I talk about here is applicable to wherever you may be visiting to ski.

The first thing is that if you are the organiser, I know the pressure on making sure everything turns out right. You do the research, but I think there are five things that will ensure that you have a trip that caters for everyone in the group. Read on to how make your trip to Bansko satisfy everyone in the resort.

Subscribe to Bulgaria Now, my weekly podcast channel for forthcoming shows on choosing the right skis for you and other insider tips for Bansko visitors:

 

1.  The Seven P’s

Proper, prior, planning, prevents, piss, poor, performance. Like when I discussed ski safety, making a check check list is my best tip. Include all the elements of the trip.

This can be written on a spreadsheet or form (excel is great, but try Quip which is an easy to use mobile app. This military style list organisation comes in handy when collecting money owed per person in the group

Bansko gondola

2.  Everybody loves a great deal (but will blame you if it’s rubbish quality)

So if you know your friends ability well, and you have in mind a budget that you believe will be acceptable to most, then you, as organiser, have the right to picking the actual resort and accommodation.

The big name Swiss and French resorts like Verbier, Chamonix, Avoriaz and so on have their merits. However after a while, I then I moved on to less well known resorts, at the time like Baqueira Beret (Spanish Pyrenees).

Then there are Italian resorts… then there’s Bulgaria.

I found Bansko as being the best of Bulgaria’s skiing for as wide range of abilities. Plenty of night life that puts most resorts to shame. But most of all our overall spend, including ski hire, lift passes, big long nights out, lunch, piste drinks, dinner, lessons and absolutely everything, on a five day trip worked out 50% less.

Assuming you have now chosen to come to Bansko, then the next piece is to look out for convenience once in resort and location to enjoy the restaurants and nightlife. Other considerations, but secondary for us, but possibly essential if there are non skiers are, a Spa, swimming pool.

Level of comfort was compromised to save money in the expensive big name resorts. But I realised that really nice and comfortable accommodation elevates the ski trip enjoyment factor.

An much more that expected.

Obviously, if you have  students in the group then more spacious and comfortable accommodation is probably much less important.

 

3.  Hack a flight for price and convenience

Time to review flights; Skyscanner and Kayak are my favourite starting points when flight hacking. Kayak is especially good for mixing up airlines for out and return journeys.

The skill here is to choose flight time that you like. For example if you have super keen skiers who don’t mind getting up early for the 06:15 flight From Gatwick to Sofia then you could (assuming you;re just taking hand luggage) take advantage of Bansko Blog’s free afternoon ski offer.

See article:

How to ski the same day as you land in Sofia

But remember airlines (like hotels) are fighting back with some of the best deals booked direct. In particular checking Bulgaria Air and British Airways own web sites has uncovered some of the best deals.

Ryanair flights (landing in much less convenient Plovdiv airport are usually excluded) Let’s assume that you’re decided on Bansko.

You have a number of scheduled airlines to consider from many airports all around Europe and the Middle East. For example, if most of your friends live in the London area you have a choice of the following airports and schedules airlines.

  • London Heathrow (Terminal 5 British Airways and Terminal 4 Bulgarian Air);
  • London Gatwick (Easy Jet);
  • Luton Stansted (Easy Jet, Ryanair);
  • London Luton (Wizz Air)

Booking flights requires a whole article, but the best advice is to book online on a Wednesday. Book at least 6 weeks before departure and in some cases six months before departure is the most sensible option — especially for holiday periods.

Due to Bulgaria’s location there are many visitors from Russia and this extends the holiday season over the New Year because Russians have a 10 day New Year break starting December 30th and ending the day after the Russian Orthodox Christmas Day, on January 8th.

Be mindful of everyone’s budget is easy in Bansko. But also if you are doing a larger group, then give people two options. Maybe apartments and 4 or 5 star, but make then close together for ease of meet up. If there are total beginners in the group its worth making sure they understand the need to buy ski gear for the first time.

The whole cost needs to be considered.

From Flight, transfers, accommodation, lift pass, ski and snowboard hire, food, beer/wine/drink and after ski entertainment.

Because Bansko has such a huge range of places to eat out covering traditional Bulgarian, to Greek, Italian, Indian and so on. (see Bansko App see iOS link; Android link for most places), it is fun to go out and eat most evenings. But accommodation options range from studios, one to three bedroom apartments, apart hotels with spas, small family two and three star hotels, all inclusive chalets and four and five star hotels.

It is this huge range in varying locations that makes the choice hard to make, especially as price differences are not always that large, so staying near the gondola lift and the main Pirin street strip is affordable.

 

4.  Book rooms

Bansko room rates vary. Cheaper periods from 12th January to 6th February and from 26th February (approx). Consider grabbing a spot of five star luxury, The Kempinski Grand Arena and Premier Mountain Resort and Regnum are favourites.

So typically you would start at booking.com. Which is once of the easiest site to use. Try skibooking.com too.

But often best the deals are by registering direct on hotel websites (or Apps… Bansko Royal Towers and Saint George Palace have great apps (well I would say that they are developed by App Factory).

 

5.  Book transfer ski and snowboard hire, lessons and lift passes

This is the part where I felt was always a lot of trouble and the area I have spent many years specialising in here in Bansko.

I received this email from Stuart W, a client from last season

 ”Let me take this opportunity to give you some feedback from our trip last year. We arrived around the end of Jan under the party name Donnelly, and used your services to book ski hire and lessons. We were really impressed with the efficiency of the team in the shop on day 1, I think the 4 of us were in and out in 15 mins. We also booked 4 days of lessons and had Nick as our instructor. He was superb, and we all really progressed in the week, he also took the time to build the confidence of the least confident member of the party, which was really important. We all can’t wait to come back, if only it wasn’t so far in the future.”
You can see many more in You Say section. Not all ski instruction is the same in any resort — and Bansko is no exception to this. Most of the ski instructors come back every year to work doing the job they love.
They are not student instructors having a working holiday.
So whoever you use be sure there is a sound reputation, small class sizes.
Most important of all it is essential to book ahead. Firstly it makes the whole process of hire and very simple with no need to make payment in the shop. If you arrive before 7pm then you can get fitted the afternoon before you start.
Finally, classes fill up for busy periods. Private lessons (from 09:00 till 11:00) are always full over New Year and February school holidays and some popular weekends as well.
So that’s it, preparation, organisation and then finally the ability to book everything on one form, well ahead makes a bog difference.
You’ll also find our transfer partners are friendly, fully insured and have  free on board WiFi as well as one of our lovely piste map cloths for everyone on your group. Absolutely for free.
Sign up to my newsletter for more exciting Bansko tips for the coming ski season.

 

 

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About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.

One Response to “Top 5 tips when arranging a Bansko ski trip”

  1. Anita Grant says:

    Thanks for the tips Lance . We enjoyed a week in Bansko in 2013 and are hoping to return in February half term 2015 . As some members of our party are teacher’s we have to travel in the school holidays which is usually very expensive. Bansko offers great value for all aspects of the skiing experience. We were also very impressed with the
    Service we received in the ski shop.
    I will be using your tips to find the best price flights.

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