What’s it like skiing in Bulgaria?

What's it like skiing in Bulgaria?

For many people, skiing in Europe means the Alps. It’s where I learnt to ski and I’ve been back again and again. France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy are home to Europe’s best-known ski resorts, but they come with a premium price tag – which only seems to be getting higher.

So it’s no surprise skiers are abandoning the usual resorts to their five-star clientele and €10 vin chauds and looking for better value in Eastern European destinations like Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria. So this year I joined them for a week’s skiing in Bulgaria with eco-chalet company Snomads in Bansko. Bulgaria might not have the polish of the famous Alpine resorts, but it’s got plenty of charm and some great slopes. But what’s a Bulgaria ski holiday really like?

Read more: Things to do in Bansko ski resort, Bulgaria: On and off the slopes

Skiing in Bulgaria at Bansko ski resort

Skiing in Bulgaria

Where can you ski in Bulgaria?

There are three main ski resorts in Bulgaria, plus a few smaller, less-developed ones. Closest to Sofia is Borovets, the country’s oldest ski resort. It’s best for intermediates with pine-forested pistes that could pass for the Alps. The modern town centre is only a 90 minutes from Sofia so you can easily combine a visit with a city break. An hour further away is Bansko, with a mix of a UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic old town and buzzing nightlife near the gondola.

Set in the scenic Pirin National Park, it’s Bulgaria’s most modern resort with fast lifts, the best snow record and longest ski season. Then there’s Pamporovo in the east, a 1.5-hour transfer from Plovdiv. Being more southerly means it gets a lot of sunshine but the pistes are limited so it’s best for beginners. It’s a quieter, more family-friendly resort with some good ski schools.

Bansko old town

Bansko’s UNESCO-listed old town

How cheap is Bulgaria really?

Skiing’s never going to be a budget holiday, but compared to my previous ski trips, Bulgaria was a bargain. You can book a cheap ski package but it’s easy to choose your own flights and accommodation to build your own holiday too. Even in the middle of the ski season in late February we picked up easyJet flights from London to Sofia for £33 one way (though you pay extra for bags). Budget airlines Wizz Air and Ryanair also fly from the UK to Sofia.

Once you get out to Bulgaria, prices are around a half to two-thirds of prices in the Alps. Our Snomads chalet cost €334 per person for the week, including transfers, an en-suite room and half-board with local wine. Then take lift passes – a six-day Bankso lift pass costs 272 lev (€140) for adults and 132 lev (€68) for children. Compare that to Morzine in France (which has a similar-sized ski area) where it’s €191 for adults and €143 for children.

Six days of ski, pole and boot hire cost 150 lev (€77) in Bulgaria, versus €100 in France. As ever you pay a premium for food and drink on the slopes, but lev prices were similar to what I’ve paid in euros – so 7 lev (€3.60) instead of €7 for a mulled wine or 5 lev (€2.50) for a small beer. But prices are much lower in town at 2 lev (€1) for a beer or 30 lev (€15) for a meal and wine.

Skis and poles

Skis and poles in the snow

Is skiing in Bulgaria just for beginners?

It’s true that Bulgaria’s a great place for new skiers (or seriously rusty ones like me). Instructors in the resorts speak good English and lessons are reasonably priced. Six half-day adult lessons costs you 209 lev (€107) in Bansko (versus €146 in France) or a two-hour private lesson costs 130 lev (€66) (versus €90 in France). The lower prices mean it’s a good place to try out skiing or boarding – if you end up deciding you don’t like it you haven’t lost much.

It’s not all about beginners though. The slopes are actually pretty diverse, and both Bansko and Borovets have a good mix of blues, reds and a few black runs. The extent of the slopes isn’t huge though so advanced skiers might want to look at off-piste or guided ski touring.

Bulgaria ski holidays

A Bulgaria ski holiday in Bansko

Are the facilities any good?

Apparently before 2003 you reached the slopes in Bansko in an army minibus. But things have changed a lot since then and the facilities in Bulgaria are as good as anywhere. Bansko especially has had a lot of investment over the last few years as it’s been hosting World Cup races. So there’s a modern eight-seater gondola up to the ski area then fast chairlifts.

The other resorts have a few older, slower chairlifts and T-bars but they’re slowly being updated. There are also snowmaking facilities and some floodlit pistes. Off the slopes there’s a lot of building work going on, some of the roads aren’t the best and resorts aren’t as chocolate-box pretty as some Alpine ones. But there’s a good choice of places to eat, drink and stay, from budget apartments (especially in Bansko where you can buy one for €10,000!) to a growing range of affordable five-star hotels like the Kempinski in Bansko or Borovets’ Festa Winter Palace.

But if you want to be looked after (even the idea of doing anything more energetic than sitting, eating and drinking after a day’s skiing tires me out) but without spending too much, a chalet’s the way to go. We stayed in Chalet Diana-Ross which has a hot tub and sauna to relax in.

Bansko gondola

Bansko gondola

What’s Bulgarian food and drink like?

One of the biggest surprises for me was how good Bulgarian food (and wine) was. It’s a bit like Turkish food with a twist, so think soups served in bread bowls, barbecue skewers and pots of slow-cooked meat and vegetables. There are also good salads, yogurt dips and filo pastries. Organic, seasonal food is a big thing in Bulgaria so the fruit and vegetables burst with flavour.

In our chalet everything was organic, fair trade and homemade, from the fresh bread at breakfast to the jams and pickles, and the chai tea made from locally picked herbs. The chalet hosts work with small producers to get the best and freshest produce they can, including organic red, white and rosés wines from a nearby vineyard (which went down a bit too well). We even had fresh organic trout straight from the lake at a fish farm in the Rila Mountains.

Bulgarian food

Bulgarian food at a mehana

How about après-ski – is it all stag dos and shots?

I won’t lie, Bulgaria’s bargain beers make it a stag-do favourite (I passed men in tutus and even a full T-Rex costume on the slopes in Bansko). Both Bansko and Borovets are known for their nightlife so you’ll find plenty of bars and clubs. And if you need something to get you going, the local shot of choice is homemade rakia, a type of brandy that burns its way down nicely.

If you’re not up for partying till dawn then there are a few quieter places to go out. There are some more relaxed bars and Bansko’s old town is full of mehanas, a kind of cosy traditional tavern where they serve food and sometimes have live music.

Apres ski in Bansko Bulgaria

Après-ski on the slopes

So, should I try a Bulgaria ski holiday?

If you’re a first-timer wanting to give skiing a go or a mixed-ability group wanting to ski together, if you want to make the most of your money or are just looking to experience a different culture and try something new, then Bulgaria’s definitely worth a trip. I was pleasantly surprised by the facilities and you can’t beat the value. But if you’re an expert who wants to cover a huge amount of ground or a luxury-lover who’s looking for designer shops and Michelin-starred restaurants, then you might be better off sticking to the Alps.

Read more skiing posts

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Everything you need to know about skiing in Bulgaria, one of Europes best-value ski areas – including the resorts, facilities, food and après-ski. #Bulgaria #ski #skiing #wintersportsA guide to skiing in Bulgaria – everything you need to know for a Bulgaria ski holiday from where to go and how much it costs to what the food and facilities are like #Bulgaria #ski #skiing #wintersports

Many thanks to Snomads for hosting me in Bansko. This article contains affiliate links, where I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, thanks.

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  • Reply
    March 26, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I haven’t been skiing in Bulgaria but did do a trip to Sofia and the Rila Mountains which was wonderful. I loved how affordable everything was and the food was delicious!

    • Reply
      March 27, 2017 at 10:52 am

      I’d have liked to have time to look around Sofia but we were just in an out this time – one to go back for though!

  • Reply
    Jordan @ Wayfaring With Wagner
    March 26, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    It sounds like you had such a great time! I’d love to go back to Bulgaria in the wintertime to go snowboarding! 🙂

    • Reply
      March 27, 2017 at 10:53 am

      We did, it was fab to be back on the slopes again – and so sunny!

  • Reply
    March 26, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    thanks this was really helpful, i’ve only skiied a few times and i’m definitely not willing to pick up the alpine price tag !

    • Reply
      March 27, 2017 at 10:54 am

      Bulgaria’s a really good option if you don’t want to splash out lots of cash on a ski trip.

  • Reply
    March 28, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    I love the post as I’m a huge fan of Eastern Europe. I haven’t yet been to Bulgaria, but I tend to do my skiing in the Czech Republic. And judging by your article, the Czech prices are even cheaper as the tourists tend to be either from the Czech Republic itself, Germany, and recently, even Poland! You’ll be hard-press to find natuonalities from elsewhere. I don’t believe that I’ve met even one British person outside of myself lol! 😀

    • Reply
      March 29, 2017 at 9:35 am

      That’s really interesting, I’d never have thought of the Czech Republic for skiing but will have to have a look for next time!

  • Reply
    Kathryn Burrington
    April 1, 2017 at 11:09 am

    I’ve only been skiing once, many years ago, but would love to give it another try. The cheaper prices in Bulgaria certainly make it very tempting. The food sounds fab too!

    • Reply
      April 3, 2017 at 9:56 am

      I really didn’t know what to expect with the food but was pleasantly surprised how good it was – you can really taste the freshness of the produce they use.

  • Reply
    Jaillan Yehia
    April 1, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    The phrase ‘there are also good salads’ literally jumped out of the page at me as I am a salad fiend. I am not a skier but I do actually really enjoy being in the mountains so I’m not adverse to a ski trip. One thing I find is that the food is always really heavy, Bulgaria would not have come to mind before but having read this I would definitely consider it.

    • Reply
      April 3, 2017 at 9:57 am

      I used to ski a lot but I’ve found I do less and less now, I’m just as happy soaking up the scenery and going for walks – I just love being in the snow! The salads were a bit of a surprise but there were some really nice combinations and not just the usual one or two on the menu either.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    April 1, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    Sounds like a good place to try out skiing for the first time with the lower ski hire costs, lessons and prices in general – also looks good for families. The weather looked amazing. Would you go back as a more seasoned skier?

    • Reply
      April 3, 2017 at 9:59 am

      I don’t think you’d go more than once as a seasoned skier as you’re likely to have skied all the runs by then, though that’s unless you’re into off piste. A lot of the people we met though were in mixed groups so there were some beginners and some advanced and it seemed to work really well for them.

  • Reply
    November 18, 2017 at 1:41 am

    How are the lift lines? Short or long? Do skiers queue up properly or is there a lot of elbowing for position? I’m from the US and generally we are polite in line but I’ve heard it may not be so in other places. Thanks!

    • Reply
      November 19, 2017 at 9:34 pm

      Hi – to reach the slopes in Bansko there’s a long lift which does have some big queues, especially first thing in the morning, but once you’re up in the ski area queues were small and moved quickly. The queue was pretty well ordered though and not too much pushing in!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    Hi Lucy, we just came back from our first ever ski holiday at Bansko and we enjoyed it so much (! Where do you usually tend to ski? Have you tried other ski resorts in Bulgaria?:)

    • Reply
      February 2, 2018 at 8:30 pm

      Sounds like you had a great time! I learnt to ski in the Alps in Meribel-Mottaret so I have a bit of a soft spot for it and have been back a few times since, but I’ve been to Zermatt and Morzine too, so Bulgaria was a bit different but really enjoyed it (and it was such a bargain).

  • Reply
    joanne williams
    January 8, 2019 at 9:13 pm

    Hi Lucy,

    Im a good skier and have skied many times in France, USA and other parts of Europe, my boyfriend however has never skied and I would love him to try it, so reading about Bulgaria and the different levels of experience has made me think Bulgaria could be the place to go !! what is the snow fall like ? and would late Feb be a good time ?

    • Reply
      January 9, 2019 at 8:48 am

      Hi Joanne, the snowfall in Bulgaria has been pretty good this year so far and Bansko usually has a long season so you should be fine into Feb. Bansko’s a great place for beginners and has enough that you shouldn’t get bored (there’s some good off piste too).

  • Reply
    Carla Fendt
    March 8, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    Hi Lucy,

    We’re a large family group interested in trying Bulgaria but were hoping to do something in the period just after Christmas. I know in France this is really early in the season and you’d normally have to book a resort at very high altitiude to guarantee any sort of snow – would this take Bulgaria off our list of possibilities for that time of year?

    Thank you,

    • Reply
      March 10, 2019 at 6:01 pm

      Hi Carla, Borovets and Bansko are both fairly high altitude (2560m at the top slopes) – the season in Bansko starts in early December and they have decent snow cannon coverage. Last few years have been variable in terms of early snow so although chances are you would be fine in early Jan there’s always a bit of a risk.

  • Reply
    Phil Pennington
    June 30, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    Hi Lucy

    My last experience of Skiing in Borovets was of poorly groomed slopes, sheeted with ice, and the Piste Basher drivers (all 3 of them) being in the bar by 9pm. Also, no on Piste facilities, restaurants, toilets etc. other than George’s Place (which was the highlight of the holiday). This was around 20 years ago. Has the resort improved in terms of slope maintenance quality?



    • Reply
      July 8, 2019 at 5:42 pm

      Hi Phil, there’s been a lot of investment in the Bulgarian ski resorts in the last few years so the facilities should have improved a lot since then. It’s not going to be up to Alps levels but is good enough for beginner/intermediate skiers.

  • Reply
    October 10, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    Hi Lucy,
    I really enjoy your article about skiing in Bansko. Being born in Bulgaria, I know the good the bad and the ugly about it. Bansko is a resort that changed a lot in the past few years. Also, the service is much better than then before. Lately people are getting on board with the organic movement that gives traditional Bulgarian cuisine a pleasant twist.
    I understand that Bansko cannot compare to the Alps or at least to the top resorts.. Bansko has its own beauty and charm. Walking through the old town will bring you back in roman time ….. One thing about skiing in Bulgaria, I just got back from Zermatt where it is hard to get to the town of Zermatt sure. For untrained people, altitude can be a challenge in the Alps. On the other hand Bansko is easily accessible from the capital Sofia or even from Greece or Macedonia. I have been living in US for the most of my life but I still miss skiing in Bulgaria. It may be a nostalgia but at the same time I think it is the atmosphere, the people, the history, the food and the local rakia .
    Again Bansko cannot compare to the top resorts in the Alps but if you want to experience something different, try Bulgaria. BTW there are few other resorts that are worth visiting; Borovetz, Pamporpvo and Vitosha mountain that is in the hard of the capital city of Sofia.

    • Reply
      October 13, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      Thanks for commenting, I really enjoyed my trip to Bansko and would like to try out some of the other resorts one day.

  • Reply
    October 26, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve spent a lot of time in Bulgaria over the last 10 years and this is a nice article but I think you skimmed over Pamporovo a little too quickly. It has a greater variety of slopes and is only 90 minutes from Plovdiv, the 2019 European City of Culture, if you do want to combine a city break. It’s also close to the Greek border and although I love most of Bulgaria, it’s the Rhodope mountains I keep returning too. The prices are much cheaper than other resorts but it’s charm comes from close neighbouring towns where prices aren’t inflated for tourists in season.

    • Reply
      November 11, 2019 at 6:24 pm

      Thanks for the tips, I’ll have to check out Pamporovo next time, the idea of a city break/ski trip combo sounds really good.

  • Reply
    Arkadiusz Elwicki
    December 7, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    Hi. Thank You for very helpfull article. I`m planning a 10-days-trip to Bulgaria with my family in the mid-Jan. All of us are begining skiers. Have you any info about hiring a skiing equipment at Bansko location? Hope there is no problem, and the price reasonable. Thanks and apologies for my english- beginers as well:))

    • Reply
      December 12, 2019 at 9:34 am

      Hi, the ski hire prices in this post are based on Bansko so yes it’s quite reasonable – we used a ski hire shop next to the luft station but there are a lot of them around so you should have no trouble. Have a great trip!

  • Reply
    January 24, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    Skiing the same piste day after day should not be a problem. If you are into touring, sit in a train and watch the scenery go by. If you are into skiing, take a two hour lesson every day and work on your skills. Can you carve like a pro, can you ski switch and take on some air off the jumps?
    So many skiers appear to be happy with just being able to move from point A to B. Why not learn to ski the slope with carved turns, short turns and enjoy the G-Force delights that your skis were made for?

    • Reply
      January 27, 2020 at 3:06 pm

      I think I’m a bit of both – want to improve my ski skills but also really enjoy experiencing the different scenery in the mountains!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    True Lucy. Sitting in a deck chair in the sun at lunchtime with great food and rehydration is yet another absolute delight!

  • Reply
    April 27, 2020 at 11:17 pm

    I have been skiing around 10 times and its always been in Austria. I haven’t been in years and I am tempted to try Bulgaria. My only reservation is the range. I am worried that I would get bored. Also, how was the ski lifts in Borovets? I am worried that the lifts are out of date and slow. Thanks in advance.

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