Want to ski somewhere a little different next winter? Head east to the mountains of Bulgaria. Bansko is not your average ski town, and fun, friendly Snomads is definitely not your average chalet.
The ski area isn’t huge, but it’s got all you need for a week of happy snow hunting – plenty of lovely blue runs, some fun reds and two challenging blacks, all unusually beautiful and reasonably quiet. When we were skiing there was no snow at all down in Bansko, but there was plenty of the white stuff up high, including some fun off-piste winding through the pines. There’s a friendly, chilled-out vibe to the mountain, and for once, you can go for beers mid-ski without having to remortgage your house – massive beer bottles only cost around £2 and we spent most of our week in Bulgaria being pleasantly astonished at how cheap and delicious the local grub was. My favourite ski bar was buzzy BlaBla, mainly because they have a a resident cat named Lady BlaBla who is always keen for a cuddle.
Snomad’s chalets make the perfect base for exploring Bansko. Started by three friends with dozens of ski seasons under their belts, Snomads aims to be a comfy, fuss-free base for skiiers and boarders, with accommodation spread over three chalets. Walk through the old town, where ancient Soviet-era cars pass horse-drawn carriages in the street, and on a sleepy street corner you’ll find their largest chalet, Diana Ross. She may look like your usual Alpine hotel from the outside, but inside feels like entering a cool city hostel, complete with a young crowd, cold beers on tap and a disco banana hanging from the ceiling.
Bedrooms are simple and functional but there’s also a cosy dining room, a sauna and a sitting room complete with Nintendo 64 for Mario Kart battles, and outside in the garden a massive hot tub waits, ready to soak away all your skiing aches and pains. The star player for me, though, was the truly delicious cooking the lovely staff manage to rustle up every night (breakfast and six dinners are included in a week’s stay). It’s locally sourced, organic, often veggie and unerringly fantastic. And there’s unlimited wine, beer and homemade firey rakia to wash it down with. Heaven. All of this lovely stuff comes at a ridiculously cheap price, too.
If you think you can’t ski in style without splashing a ton of cash, think again – you just have to swap the haughty Alps for Bulgaria’s chilled-out charms.
Hit with a whiteout day? No worries, the Snomads guys will take you to a wonderful hot springs in nearby Banya, where you can laze away an afternoon in water as warm as a bath, nursing a seriously strong gin and tonic (they cost about 70p each, so it’d be rude not to). It’ll make you wonder why you ever skiied anywhere else.
STAY THERE: Snomads’ Chalet Diana Ross sleeps 25, Chalet Supreme and Chalet Levente sleep up to 10. A week of half-board with Snomads starts from £199, and a week’s ski lift past costs £145 per person.