Budget snowboarding in Bansko is easily done.  You just need to book everything early and separately.  Its far from being the biggest ski resort in Europe, but if you’re looking for a cheap skiing or snowboarding trip within Europe, you could do a lot worse than Bansko in southwest Bulgaria.

About Bansko

As mentioned, the snowy wonderland of Bansko is located in Southwest Bulgaria.  Its the biggest of Bulgaria’s 3 main ski resorts which also includes Borovets and Pamporovo.

Now the alps Bansko is not, its not for the accomplished skiers and boarders amongst you who expect top notch equipment and facilities.  Its more for newbies to the slopes and those on a budget.  In total there are 70km of ski runs available to punters, the highest of which start at 2600m above sea level.  The views from this height are incredible believe me.  There’s a mix of beginners, intermediate and expert slopes, just not in the same numbers as with other, bigger ski resorts.  To get a better idea of how many exactly, click here to see a piste map of Bansko.

Of all the runs on that map, my favourite has to be the blue run number 1.  Its whats commonly know as the Snow Road and stretches for 7km from the top of the gondola, all the way back down to the edge of town from where the gondola begins.  Of an evening when the floodlights are turned on its a very atmospheric and scenic ride down the snow road once you’re finished on the higher altitude slopes for the day. Conveniently, also in that same spot where the snow road ends there is a bar called ‘Happy End’ that skiers and boarders flock to for a spot of apres ski – the happy hour gets things moving nicely.

Throughout the town both food and drink and both reasonably priced.  A local beer will set you back roughly £1.50 – £2, and a large pizza around £5.  Most bars and restaurants also come with free wifi which made my real time instagram photo post on Bansko a lot lot easier.  Add to that free wifi at the top of the gondola, yep truthfully they have it at all the way up in the mountains, and its both a cheap and easy place to communicate home from.

Apart from the queues for the gondola in the morning, I could find very few negatives about my snowboarding experience in Bansko.  As an beginner to intermediate boarder it was spot on!

Bansko

The Bansko Gondola … soon to be Gondola’s?

Now, at present there is only a single gondola taking you from the town up into the snowy mountain range.  As mentioned, the gondala queues can get long at peak time, VERY LONG, and naturally this means waiting a while before you’re able to reach the snow.  Most lessons start around 10am so I would aim to have collected your equipment from the workshops and be getting in line for the gondola no latter than 9am.  If you can do 8.30am ever better.  If on the other hand you don’t have any lessons booked, why not have a lie in and get the gondola around 11am, once the queues will have died down a little.  If you ignore this advice expect to wait in the queues for an hour or two.  The queues are also pretty savage, be prepared to stick your elbows out a little and fight for your space, there’s quite a lot of people who like to queue jump.

So that last paragraph probably sell any holidays to Bansko, but its worth bearing in mind that talks are currently ongoing with regards to building a 2nd gondola in Bansko so things could get a whole lot better on the queuing front.  In fact one local we spoke to said it was already a done deal, they just need to build the thing.  It’ll take a while, roughly 2 years according to city mayor Alexander Kravarov, but still, its promising news that a new gondola is on the way!  Watch this space.

Bansko Bulgaria

The Budget Bit

Right, so here’s what my four night trip cost me …

Flights £160 London Gatwick to Sofia.  3 hrs each way
Accommodation £40 Self catering apartment
Transfers to and from Sofia Airport £25 Roughly 3 hrs in a minibus from Sofia Airport to Bansko
3 days lift pass, board and boots hire £125 Cost would obviously increase if you have lessons.  Ski rental is usually cheaper than snowboard rental
Total £350  

Now that’s pretty cheap for a snow holiday, hitting the slopes in France or Austria would cost you a lot more, but you should also bear in mind that my friends and I booked our trip to Bansko pretty last minute.  If we had got our asses in gear we could have got those flights for under £100, therefore taking the total below the £300 mark.

At a tenner (£10) a night each between 4 people, the accommodation was an absolute steal.  Adding a couple more nights to your stay in Bansko is minimal, you would only have to cover the extra £20 each for accommodation and an additional day or two’s equipment hire if you wanted to ski/board for more than 3 days.

If I was to stay for 6 nights instead of 4 and book early enough here’s what my revised costs could look like …

Flights £100 London Gatwick to Sofia.  3 hrs each way
Accommodation £60 Self catering apartment
Transfers to and from Sofia Airport £25 Roughly 3 hrs in a minibus from Sofia Airport to Bansko
3 days lift pass, board and boots hire £200 Cost would obviously increase if you have lessons.  Ski rental is usually cheaper than snowboard rental
Total £385  

That’s a frickin steal.  Ok there will obviously be spending money, but with your own apartment you could save by cooking your own meals, and just because the bars are open till 2am it doesn’t mean you have to stay out drinking till then … trust me, going home earlier makes getting up the next day for lessons a whole lot less painful.

Inspiration

You didn’t really think I was going to publish a post with only two photos did you?  Come on, I love photos.  Here’s a few of Bansko and even a video I made which will hopefully act as a bit of encouragement for when you’re preparing to book your trip there. I hope you like.

Bansko Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria

Bansko Bulgaria

Useful Links

I wasnt sponsored by either of these companies, but I found them to have good values.

Board hire and lift pass – http://www.skibansko.bg/

Transfers to and from Bansko from Sofia Airport – http://www.banskoexpress.com/