Bulgaria is a brilliant, cheap alternative to the French Alps where you can learn on the slopes

Bulgaria is a brilliant, cheap alternative to the French Alps where you can learn on the slopes


I’M standing on a snow-covered mountain in Bulgaria, nervously eyeing the misty drop ahead.

Above me, eager skiers and snowboarders are throwing them- selves down the icy slope.

Below, my ever-patient instructor Krassimir is waving his arms in the air, bellowing the instructions: “Remember, down, stick, up and turn.”

I take a deep breath and count to three. One, two, two and a half . . .  now!

I launch forward and my skis slide down the slope before I yank them into a turn, repeating my desperate routine again and again until, finally, I have made it, breathless, safe at the bottom.

I’m here in Borovets, Bulgaria’s first ski resort, for a week of skiing — an activity that is not second, or even third, nature to my quaking Australian knees.

Bulgaria may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think winter wonderland. But I can tell you this: It is jaw-dropping.

Now a hotspot for ski fanatics, the wintry runs of Bulgaria are a cheaper alternative to the more traditional French Alps — and it’s a great place to learn, with plenty of beginner slopes.

Thanks to my expert instructor, I am soon joining the dozens whizzing down the picturesque mountainside.

Even when you are not skiing, the views alone are a good enough reason to visit.

Snow-drenched pines stretch over a mass of mountains, which on a sunny day sparkle with snowflakes galore.

Just when I thought we had seen it all, we board a gondola and make our way slowly upwards to the Musala peak.

Towering 2,925m over the Rila Mountains and National Park, swathes of countryside lie below its myriad slopes.

A scenic six-mile stretch through mighty Bulgarian fir trees leads us back to the freshly renovated Rila hotel, a modern, all-inclusive spot that is in the thick of the action.

Rooms are cosy with brightly patterned carpets and wooden decor that give it a chalet feel, while the spa feels airy with rows of indoor loungers overlooking green woodland.

Down in the lobby, families are soothing their muscles by an open fire, sipping mugs of hot chocolate as the hotel’s five bars and restaurants prepare for an evening of apres-ski.

With great snow, affordable hotels and beautiful scenery, it’s no wonder Bulgaria has become a top spot for skiiing holidays.

In recent years some of its resorts have been given a bit of a facelift too with new lifts and quality restaurants.

But it’s not all about the slopes.


Take a trip to the hot springs at Kotvata or head on a torchlit night walk through snowy forests, where you’ll hear local tales, including the story of a gypsy who became queen.

Kids are in their element, switching between ski school on the slopes, and activity nights and craft sessions back at the hotel.

One afternoon, we even jumped on roaring Ski-Doo snowmobiles to heave us up the mountains to the picturesque Black Rock before we thundered back down in time for dinner.

Bulgarian food is not what you would call fine-dining, instead the local restaurants serve hearty grub that will keep you full for a tiring day on the slopes.

If fancy food is your thing though, the Rila hotel’s restaurant should do the trick, serving gourmet dishes of slow-cooked mountain trout with dill and butter potatoes and sous-vide pork knuckles with sauteed root veg.

Make sure to book in for a massage while you’re here, too. Your tight muscles will thank you for it after a week of ski practice.

Back on the peaks, I look out at the still mountains, the sun reflecting off the untouched snow.

Despite my nervous turns and yelps as I whizz down the mountain, this is the most fun I’ve had in a long while.


STAYING/GETTING THERE: Seven nights’ half-board at the 4H Hotel Rila in Borovets is from £531pp, including flights from Gatwick in January and March.

The package includes discounted lift passes and ski packs on seven-night stays, departing on January 7 and 14 as well as March 11, 18 and 25. See balkanholidays.co.uk.

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