Planning your first ski or snowboarding trip can be daunting. I put together a comprehensive article listing all the winter and spring time school holidays in the UK, Ireland, Romania, Serbia, Greece, Turkey and Russia. Click here to help you plan when to visit Bansko. In this article (you can read part 1 by clicking here) I’ve updated the info to help you safely plan your first ski trip.
But first a recap. Bulgaria is a modern destination that more and more people are recognising for its outstanding value for money. But things change every season and lift and piste opening info is essential. Download and subscribe to the blog and Bansko App for up to date information including my live Q cam to help make the most of your time here.
Whilst the FAQ’s page will help answer your questions this article will help you decide what is best for you. Should you wish to call then try using a low-cost international calling service such a nobelecom.com.
Talking of calls, it’s worth noting that you can even top up NobelCom prepay card to save money in the resort.
My philosophy for a ski trip
I like to think that we are all a bit different. Because I don’t want to be packaged up, I know you probably do not want to be either. I am a little obsessive on the details. I am particular; I like things to be spot on. For over ten years I was the one organising ski trips for my group of friends. Before deciding to change my twenty plus year career in banking, I set up banskoblog.com in 2008. The mission was to help improve the experience of visitors, after it was clear that standards were often poor and dangerous at worst (see why Bansko transfers are not all the same).
This web site, and the services you purchase here, are for the type of traveller who does not like being packaged up. You know the thing, you’re waiting for others, flight times are not convenient for you, you have to fly at weekends and and you have to endure the sales pitch.
In short, I’m fussy. I changed my banking career to come to Bulgaria to offer a ski vacation for others that is specialised on Bansko. That is the best it can possibly be. I know your holiday time is precious and this is why I and the team here have gone the extra mile to provide all you need to know from live snow reports on Facebook.com/BanskoBlog to my trying many of the restaurants early every season so I can bring you the Top 10 Bansko restaurants.
You do not need to buy an all inclusive ski holiday package
All inclusive packages with flight included are not required to make your first trip to Bansko. Being independent means you get to choose what day to fly on and at what times and for how long to stay. For some resorts they seem to be a convenient option; but with so much great value accommodation in Bansko there are so many reasons why so many visitors put their own trip(s) together.
More reasons this season too because there are now more flights to Sofia then ever before. Most of the major airlines in Europe fly to Sofia including BA, Lufthansa, Bulgaria Air, EasyJest, Ryanair and Wizz Air.
When it comes to eating out there is a choice of cuisine from Japanese, sushi, Italian, Mexican, Irish, Indian and fabulous local cuisine. There are lively apres ski bars, night clubs and piano bars. There is something for every visitor to Bansko. Bear this in mind when booking evening meals as I noticed in review sites that this is often themes common form of complaint.
Start with the flights and dates
I like Kayak for “hacking” (i.e. choosing different airlines for out and return flights) but also I recommend booking direct with Ryanair, EasyJet, Wizz Air, Bulgaria Air, British Airways, Austrian Airways, Lufthansa, Al Italia etc. But I’m not sure I can recommend Ryanair flying into Plovdiv because the journey from Plovdiv is longer, and less reliable, in the winter season. But I can recommend Plovdiv as a city to visit; click here to read my Top 5 places to visit in Plovdiv
You’re booked, or about to book your flights, and you’re now researching your accommodation, ski hire, lessons, lift passes and airport transfer options.
What follows is a detailed guide to help not just first timers to ski or snowboard but first times to Bansko too.
Then put together your accommodation deal
After many years in Bansko I’ve formed a few relationships that I have some great options here, but of course there is booking.com, AirBnB, direct booking and so on. If your budget is mid range then a three or four star hotel, in a good location for the gondola lift is what I usually recommend. I’ve put it all together as an accommodation and ski package suitable for 3 plus nights.
Use the chat at the bottom right of the screen to get our latest recommendations.
We have twenty vehicles and this year have expanded the shuttle service from €13.95 (bookable only on Bansko App). The private transfers may be booked as part of your ski hire, lessons and lift passes by clicking on the colourful writing below:
You not only get free Wi-Fi — and my obsession with Wi-Fi want were, as far as I know, the first to offer this — but also everyone in your group gets a free cloth lens wipe (worth €5). Only available by booking on banskoblog.com and Bansko App.
It’s nice to start your trip with a friendly welcome and a safe drive to Bansko. We also can save you money by stopping (on private transfers) at low cost foreign exchange in Sofia… a very small deviation that could save you over €100 on a family trip.
I get many mixed groups — some have never put on a ski or snowboard ever before. It’s their very first time. They are are called “never evers”
Never evers always need lessons. I suggest at least the first four full days tuition and then half days after that. Or full days every days. The reason is this: it’s very easy to let bad practices slip in unnoticed. They should select regular skis on the ski form. These skis and snowboards are forgiving and they accelerate learning.
When you’re new to anything it’s what you don’t know is what is going to hurt you.
Some clients have been to a snowdome or dry ski slope before coming to Bansko. This helps. Ski level assessment is essential for this category — you will complete a little short ski to demonstrate your level and be allocated a class accordingly.
Being more modest about your skill level is a good thing, but if you’re an intermediate learning to carve or do more on a snowboard this is when you meed VIP equipment. Stiffer skis and boards help you feel the turns and apply the correct amount of pressure.
When planning your ski trip be realist about your abilities. Bansko on a good day provides world class skiing — so many strong intermediates are surprised at the quality of the ski pistes here. They can have a great time too whilst relishing the financial savings that Bansko offers over almost anywhere else in Europe (and the US).
Stuck in the intermediate rut?
For years I was stuck in the intermediate level “rut”. Part of this was probably lack of practice — but actually, in hindsight, a lot of the issue was not receiving proper instruction.
I obviously manage to get this fixed several years ago with my ski school partners here in Bansko — but it is still an ongoing process where I take a lesson to find some bad habits and progress that little bit more. Every time I take a ski with George, he corrects my technique and I feel it’s more than worthwhile. I continue to enjoy my skiing more and more.
Both group and private lessons will help you get you technique back on track. You can also develop skills for dealing with ice, moguls and fresh powder.
Tips for improving your ski technique
Book some lessons; even if you think you’re expert level. Booking just one lesson makes a difference. I do this for myself every start of the ski season because it helps fix bad habits and also helps your technique for trickier conditions.
I recommend the ski lessons and ski hire here on banskoblog.com — it’s been designed to be super convenient. You just book your lift passes, quality new or nearly new skis and lessons (and transfers) all on one form. Great discount, convenient (to avoid queues) and a hassle free formula. But especially important is the quality of the tuition.
Private lessons ar from 09:00 till 11:00 and group lessons ar from 11:00 till 13:00 and 14:00 till 16:00.
Here is a guide to the skiing ability levels. Which one are you?
Level One: “Never-Ever”
Level One skiers are first time skiers who have never skied before. That’s the level that no-one can argue with!
Level Two skiers are cautious novices who are able to do a “snow plough” (wedge) turn both ways and are able to stop, but linking turns smoothly may be difficult.
Level Two skiers may have skied once or twice before.
Level Three skiers are confident novices who are able to stop and make round snow plow turns on easy beginner trails.
Level Four skiers are cautious intermediate skiers who can link turns but still moderate speed. Level Four skiers ski in a small wedge and their skis may even be parallel at the end of the turn on green or easy blue trails. Level Four is a transition level in which skiers will begin to ski more blue intermediate runs.
Level Five skiers are intermediates who are confident on easy blue runs and ski mostly parallel but may at times use the wedge to begin a turn or to stop. Level Five skiers may be cautious on intermediate trails that are slightly steep or icy.
Level Six – Advanced skis optional
Level Six skiers confidently make parallel turns on blue runs but do not ski many advanced trails. Level Six skiers use their poles to time turns. A Level Six skier is interested in learning to ski better on more challenging terrain.
Level Seven - Advanced skis optional
Level Seven skiers ski controlled parallel turns and can ski very well on blue trails.
Level Seven skiers can control their speed and rhythm on black pistes, but they are looking to ski on challenging trails with better style. Level Seven skiers can adjust the size and length of their turns and are learning to ski on a variety of different types of snow and terrain.
Level Eight – Advanced skis recommended
Level Eight skiers ski with good technique on all terrain and snow conditions. Level Eight skiers can ski moguls and are able to black runs with confidence using carved turns.
Level Nine - Advanced skis recommended
Level Nine skiers enjoy the challenge of difficult ski pistes and ski moguls, steeps, and other black diamond terrain.
So thats ski hire and lessons sorted. Transfers and lift passes are also on the booking form.
You can relax knowing that you have cut out the pain or “stress” points of your trip. I look forward to seeing you in Bansko.
The youngest for group lessons in 6 years old. Five year olds may book 1:1 private lessons. There is a ski kindergarten located up at the top of the gondola lift, but this is only bookable in the resort. Go to the gondola lift to book this. From both personal and other people’s experience the quality and experience is generally fine — but variable. It may not suit your child so try one day first.
Children are put in with other children. This is more fun for the child, for you and for the instructors. Children learn in a different way and the instructors make it a lot of fun for them to learn and progress at a rate that will surprise you.
One more thing…
I know, if you’re like me, we all like to show our best side. Video and pictures are an essential part of the ski trip. We are keen to look good. But your holiday is a lot more than a photo — it’s about you and your family’s enjoyment.
Proficiency in any endeavour enhances the pleasure of the activity. Learning and practice also keeps the risk of injury lower and helps us get the most out of the conditions.
Major brand new or nearly new ski / snowboard equipment helps you a lot to progress as does proper tuition. Fancy and fashionable ski wear (a link to my ski fashion article in 2009 — fashion looking a bit retro!) is great but it will not prevent injury. Try some cross training, cycling and a gym program now. Extra fitness prevents injury and helps progression because it delays the onset of tiredness cutting your ski day short.
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