BANSKO

Ski Resort in Bulgaria

Introduction

Bansko is Bulgaria's premier ski resort - it has the largest ski area, has a great deal of historical significance and has a real working mountain-town feel. Plus, it’s very easygoing on the wallet.

What sets Bansko aside from its Balkan neighbours is the selection of fantastic hotels (mostly built in the last 15 years or so) that wouldn't look out of place in some of the world's most prestigious resorts - here is the chance to soak up some seriously affordable luxury. This is the best resort for snow making in Bulgaria too, with plenty of snow cannons on hand to top up the slopes throughout the season if the weather isn't on our side.

To top it all off there’s a great ski school - as you’d expect in Bulgaria - voted as one of the top ten in Europe by our customers. Whether you’re a first-timer or even a competent intermediate, the level of instruction is superb.

If ski school isn't needed then there are some challenging runs to keep you occupied - including the FIS World Cup black run Tomba. Being generally a little higher up the mountain the tougher runs tend to have the best snow too.

The town itself is massive. The UNESCO-protected old town centre has cobbled streets and distinctive, ancient architecture - think stone clad buildings with terracotta tile roofs, and one of the largest churches in Bulgaria, The Holy Trinity Church. The new town though, is extremely lively - it has a main strip thriving with bars, nightclubs, restaurants and, of course, lots and lots of shopping. Everywhere is very inexpensive, whether you’re having traditional Bulgarian Shishche (meat skewers), burger and chips, or just a drink or two – the tiny amount you pay for a round is staggering.

A large ski area, diverse skiing, quality tuition and a vibrant town - Bansko is a great value alternative to other well known Alpine ski resorts.

SKI KINDERGARTEN
Children of 4 and up are invited to join the Junior Ski Club that will reveal them the first steps in skiing, combined with lots of fun and entertainment. Along with memorable experience kids also get a small gift to take home and the oportunity for further discounts.

OFF SLOPE CHILD CARE
Purposely located on your way to and from the first station of the Gondola, the Non-Skiing Kindergarten takes care of children aged 3-7 (English-speaking only). Supervised activities, fun, games and special entertainment take place Sundays through Fridays from 9.00 to 17.00. Please, note that reservations are made only through your holiday representative on the spot.

BEGINNERS
The abundance of blue runs and the availability of baby drags make Bansko a great place for first-time skiers and snowboarders. The ski-schools have some of Bulgaria’s best instructors and the ski depots offer the latest in ski and snowboard equipment.

INTERMEDIATE
Variety of blue and red runs, suitable to intermediate skiers, make the resort a very good choice both for those committed to becoming experts, as well as for those who take up winter sports merely as a recreational activity.

ADVANCED & OFF-PISTE
While some red runs and the “Alberto Tomba” black run should keep most experts busy, Bansko is probably more popular for its great offerings of extreme and off-piste skiing. The resort is a regular host to extreme competitions, but even on quieter days there is the alternative to compete on pre-defined slalom traces on the marked slopes. The ski and snowboard fun-park area and the half-pipe facility are popular playgrounds for experts to boast their latest tricks. If you wish to take it off-piste, please make sure that your insurance policy covers off-piste skiing and that you take a guide with you.

BIATHLON & CROSS COUNTRY
Bansko, with its biathlon and cross-country trails, is also the choice of Irina Nikulchina and Nina Kadeva, two Bulgarian women that are among the world’s top ten biathlon racers.


Legends

There are several legends about who founded Bansko. According to one, Bansko was founded by people who lived in Dobarsko, a village in Rila, itself, according to a legend, founded by the blinded army of Tsar Samuil. Another legend claims that Bansko was founded by an Italian painter by the name of Ciociolino, hence the existence of the name Chucholin in Bansko.

Still according to another version it was a Slavic tribe called the Peruns, who lived in Pirin and worshiped Perun, that founded the village later to become a town. There are a number of ethnographic texts, legends, prayers and oratories, which lend credence to this legend.

History

The archeological traces of the inhabitants of Bansko and the Razlog Valley in general date to the early periods of the Roman Empire. There are several housing structures at the outskirts of the town, which date to 100 BC. However, there is no consensus nor credible theory on who these people were.

Bansko, then part of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire was added to Bulgaria during the reign of Khan Krum, most probably around 811 AD, and passed back-and forth between Byzantines and Bulgarians for the next few centuries, before control fell to the Ottomans in the 14th century.

The Bulgarian Evangelical Church Community, the first Protestant church in Bulgaria, was founded in Bansko on 6 August 1868.

Climate

Climate data for Bansko

MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Average high °C (°F)3.1
(37.6)
5.5
(41.9)
9.6
(49.3)
15.7
(60.3)
20.8
(69.4)
23.9
(75)
26.8
(80.2)
26.9
(80.4)
23.1
(73.6)
17.2
(63)
11.1
(52)
5.3
(41.5)
15.7
(60.3)
Daily mean °C (°F)−1.6
(29.1)
0.7
(33.3)
4.3
(39.7)
9.6
(49.3)
14.5
(58.1)
17.7
(63.9)
20.2
(68.4)
20.1
(68.2)
16.1
(61)
11.1
(52)
6.4
(43.5)
0.3
(32.5)
10.0
(50)
Average low °C (°F)−5.7
(21.7)
−4.1
(24.6)
−1.1
(30)
3.5
(38.3)
8.1
(46.6)
11.2
(52.2)
12.6
(54.7)
12.3
(54.1)
9.0
(48.2)
5.1
(41.2)
1.6
(34.9)
−3.6
(25.5)
4.1
(39.4)
Source: Stringmeteo.com

Economy

Bansko, once mainly a stockbreeding and travelling merchant community, has become an international centre for winter and summer tourism. The mountain peaks near the town, the numerous lakes and the old pine woods make it a popular site for recreation. Bulgaria's share in European winter tourism is steadily rising, and Bansko increasingly competes with resorts in France and Switzerland due to the comparative lower costs but not in quality. Improvements to the infrastructure and organisation of the ski area on Todorka have been made annually to accommodate the rising number of tourists. A gondola lift was built from town in 2003, replacing the minibus ride to the primary base area of Banderishka Poliana. As of 2010, the ski area has 75 km (47 mi) of ski runs, 14 lifts and drags, serving up to 24,500 persons per hour. The lift-served summit rises to an elevation of 2,600 m (8,500 ft) above sea level. The vertical drop is nearly 1,000 m (3,300 ft) to the base area at Banderishka Poliana, and over 1,600 m (5,200 ft) with the ski runs to town

The nearby village of Banya, located only 5 km (3 mi) from the town, is known for its 27 thermal mineral springs.

The town is served by the scenic narrow gauge line from Septemvri to Dobrinishte. Regular bus connections are available to Sofia, Plovdiv, Blagoevgrad, Gotse Delchev, Razlog, among others.

Many of the infrastructure problems have been given attention to since 2009. The large portion of unfinished apartments are now being given attention as well. Due to the global recovery from the financial crisis and the more realistic pricing, apartments are attracting more buyers from across Europe. In 2010 the resort recovered from the crisis and has seen record profits.

Transportation - Get In


By plane

Currently 2 main airports serve Bansko, Sofia (around 160 km away) and Plovdiv (around 180 km away). A proposal for Bansko's own airport is currently well advanced, but no construction has yet started.


By train

Perhaps the most interesting way to get to Basnko is via the narrow-gauge train from Septemvri. Traversing beautiful mountains and valleys as well as passing by countless rural Bulgarian villages, the train is considered by some as one of the most scenic rides in the Balkans [www]. Septemvri is on the main rail line between Sofia and Plovdiv, so access is quite easy. However, this not the most practical route to Bansko by any means, as the train takes just under 5 hours with an operating speed of just 30–50 km/h to complete a journey doable in just 1 1/2 hours by car. For those with the extra flexibility required for the ride, however, this is the way to get to Bansko. See here [www] for timetables.

The nearest rail station served by standard-gauge trains lies in Blagoevgrad. Blagoevgrad lies on the main line from Sofia south and is easily accessible from the city, from which buses to Bansko are plentiful.

Night trains leave from Athens and arrive to Blagoevgrad in the morning, via Thessaloniki. You can catch the train at Thessaloniki or any other station. The round trip ticket from Athens costs ~€40 (Christmas 2008), plus ~€10 for a bed in a 6-bed room for each trip. (€60 for the round trip with a bed in both trips). You should book tickets and beds in advance, especially during holiday seasons. For there you must take a bus to Bansko, see "By Bus" section below. However, as of Jan 2013 all international trains to/from Greece are still been suspended until further notice.


By bus

There are many buses departing Sofia each day from different stations so be sure to check which station your bus is departing from. Room for luggage can be an issue as they are mainly vans so you may have to wait for the next one on occasion if you have bulky items e.g. snowboard. The cost is around 15leva/7.€5 each way. The timetable can be found here. [www]

From Blagoevgrad there is frequent bus service (every 30–60 minutes) to Bansko, the ticket costs 3-4 Leva. The bus station is very close to the train station, around 5 minutes on foot. From Bansko bus station you can call a taxi to your hotel, ask at the ticket office. You should agree on the price when you get in to avoid surprises (10-15 Leva should be enough). Note some hotels may suggest a bus ride from Blagoevgrad to Bansko, but at a much higher price.

Transportation - Get Around

Getting around in Bansko is relatively easy. The town is not large, and walking around is nice. Taxis are relatively cheap (5-10 leva), though you should arrange the price beforehand. Have your hotel reception call you a taxi if you can. If you get to Bansko with your car, bear in mind that few roads get cleaned from the snow and ice, so snow chains may be required even in the city. Don't be fooled by local cars not using chains, as they use winter tyres which make a lot of difference! Renting a car from Sofia for most tourists is considerably beneficial because of the flexibility. Taxi rides can cost anywhere from 1-5 Euro per kilometer and are not recommended when traveling outside the city of Bankso.

Ski runs & lifts

The ski pistes of Bansko resort are located on the northern slopes of the Pirin mountain in 2 main ski centres: CHALIN VALOG (1100-1600 m) and SHILIGARNIKA (1700-2500 m). 

The ski centres are situated about 10 km above the town. They are easily accessible from Bansko for approximately 25 minutes ride on the Gondola lift. The total length of the marked pistes is 70 km.

The snow conditions in the resort are excellent. The snow cover remains from December till May. The ski season lasts longer thanks to the 44 Technoalpine snow cannons that cover most of the slopes. There are 12 Kassbohrer slope maintenance vehicles as well.

For the snowboarders there is an extreme fun park – the first one on the Balkans. The snowboarders can build jumps according to their abilities and taste. Snow sport lovers can take part in different competitions organized on the new piste on Shiligarnika.

The total length of the lift equipment in Bansko is 26 km. 8-seats Gondola cabin lift and 5 high speed quads by Dopplemayer, one 3-seat lift by Poma, 7 drags and 10 baby drags operate in Bansko. The ski and snowboard equipment can be used by a chip-card from SkiData.

Big monitors are based on the first station of the Gondola lift. The monitors inform for wind and temperature conditions on different pistes.

The ski centres of Bansko offer ski runs for all type of skiers, a 5 km cross-country track, a 3 km Rollbahn ski run, slalom and giant slalom ski runs, etc.


Bansko Lifts

The ski zone in Bansko is serviced by 25 km of speedy and comfortable lifts:

1 gondola lift;
6 four-seat chair lifts;
1 tree-seat chair lift;
3 anchor type tow lifts;
3 single tow lifts;
10 children dragger.

The lift operator in Bansko takes care for the maximum comfort of the skiers and snowboarders with the exclusive 8-seats Gondola cabin lift by Dopplemayer, 6 high speed quads of the latest Doppelmayer models, one 3-seat lift by Poma, 7 drags and 10 baby drags.

The total length of the lift equipment in the resort is 25 kilometers. All ski equipment can be used by one chip-card from SkiData.

Working hours of the lifts in Bansko ski centre

8.30 am – 4.30 pm / At 4.15 pm is the last lifting of skiers.
8.30 am – 5.30 pm Gondola lift (At 5 pm is the last lifting)

The Lifts in Bansko:

Ski runsTypeLength [m]Elevation [m]
Bansko,BunderitsaGondola6315601
Shiligarnik 1,Strajite,Plato 1,Todorka4-seat2606581
Todorka,Bunderitsa4-seat2336705
Balkaniada,Bunderitsa,Todorka3-seat2336705
Strajite,Shiligarnik 14-seat2050480
Balkaniada,Bunderitsa,Todorka4-seat1750637
Plato 1T-bar drag1210315
 Drag1210315
Stara pista (Old piste)T-bar drag900200
Stara pista (Old piste),Bunderitsa4-seat800316
UlenT-bar drag600150
BunderitsaDrag41050


Bansko ski runs

Height of the resort: 925 m
Highest skiing area: 2600 m
Total length of ski runs: 70 km
Longest track combo: 16 km downhill race
Cross-country track: 5 km
Slalom and Giant slalom runs are available
Direction of slopes: North

Bansko is a resort which is developing with extremely fast temps. The concessionaire Ulen provides new opportunities for the skiers, the snowboarders, the extreme sports, biathlon and cross - country skiing.

For extreme skiers Bansko ski zone offers the so called fun - park zone. 
A bonus for the skier is the 7 kilometers long lighted ski - road between Banderishka polyana and the town. Some of the pistes offer wonderful conditions for night skiing, which is available for everyone from 18.30 until 21.30.

Snowboarders can enjoy the first on the Balkans Fun Park. It offers the option to ski over present artificial bumps and jumps as well as to build those on their own. Also, the half-pipe located by the place where Bansko’s famous snow towers are usually built, offers both skiers and snowboarders an arena to boast their latest tricks.

Bansko offers great variety of ski pistes that can satisfy everyone's tastes and abilities. 100% of the ski runs are covered by snow cannons, which guarantee sufficient snow coverage from December to May. Difficulty scale distribution is as follows: 30% beginners, 45% advanced and 35% expert.

The Ski Runs in Bansko

Ski runDifficultyLength [m]Inclination [m]
TombaDifficult ski run2567925
Shiligarnik 1Beginners2047487
Plato 1Beginners17300
TodorkaMedium1690470
Chalin Valog 2Medium1429310
Stara pista (Old piste)Medium970205
Chalin Valog 1Medium77575
BalkaniadaMedium00
BunderitsaLight piste00
KolarskiCross country00
BanskoLight piste00
Ski way Band. polyana-Bansko 00
Ski way 1Cross country00
Ski way 2Cross country00
UlenMedium00
StrajiteMedium00
Shiligarnik 2Beginners00
Plato 2Cross country00
Tsarna MogilaCross country00

Sights & Landmarks

In a nice day, with good visibility the view of the mountains is beautiful, especially if you take the lift to the ski tracks. (You should get to the ski tracks at least once even if you do not ski yourself)

  • Belitsa Bear Park - 33 kilometers from Bansko is the Four Paws Bear sanctuary, offering a new home to bears that were previously forced to dance. Situated in a huge park with several large enclosures, the bears can now roam relatively freely with others of their kind. Upon my visit, there seemed to be no-one there so unsure of entrance fee's etc. Information suggests that there are tours that leave hourly. A taxi (unofficial!) from Bansko, with 2 hours wait cost 60Lev though a lower price could probably be gotten with more bargaining over beer. Take good walking shoes.

Activities & Things to do


Skiing

Bansko is a good place for skiing in winter. The resort is mainly suited to beginners and those more advanced will get bored quite quickly. Also don't expect the runs to be groomed to often. Skiers and Snowboarders could find BanskoSki useful. [www] It is also a good idea to avoid any English school holidays as there will be insane amounts of people everywhere (and a 3 hour wait to get up the mountain via gondala) as well as the skiing world cup as half of the runs will be closed for the weeks leading up to it.

You can rent ski gear at the first station and get a discount at the lift ticket, though if you want to leave your skis there overnight there is an extra charge. A lot of ski rental shops can be found around the first station, where you can probably rent gear in better condition and get a good price if you book for more than 1 day (recommended) . (full ski gear for 4 days cost 100 leva - €50). You can probably arrange to leave the gear at the shop overnight for free. The weather in Bansko is obviously colder than some Greek ski resorts, so warmer clothes and a full face hood is nice to have.

You can get a multiday ticket for the lifts, although the discount is negligible. There is also a half day ticket after 12:30 or 13:00 each day, but you can also buy tickets at a better price from people leaving the ski centre before the end of the day, around the ticket offices.

Most hotels offer a bus service to the ski lift station in the morning and afternoon. Try to get to the lift station not later than 9:00 to avoid long queues. It is also advisable to buy the tickets from the previous afternoon for the same reason. There are also minibuses to ferry people up the mountain in the morning which is included in the lift pass.


Hiking

Bansko is an excellent entry way to the Pirin Mountains, Bulgaria's wildest and least developed mountain range. Vihren hut, named after the nearby Mt. Vihren, is the best place to begin both short and long distance treks. During the peak season (2012 - June 15 to September 15) a bus will take you several times a day to and from Bansko. Great one day hikes include Mt. Vihren, the 2nd highest mountain in Bulgaria and 3rd highest in the Balkans, and The Koncheto, a ~200m long and ~1m wide ridge between the second and 3rd highest mountains in Pirin with vast cliffs on either side. With a full day it is possible to hike them both.


Other

  • In the beginning of August an annual jazz festival, the Bansko Jazz Festival, is held in the town.
  • The highest peak of Pirin Mountain (Vihren - 2916m) is at a day's walk from the city.
  • My Bansko - Mein Bansko. The Movie - free production. open for everybody. http://www.mybansko.com/The_Movie_.html

Restaurants & Nightlife

Bansko is rife with traditional Bulgarian taverns ('Mehana'; plural 'Mehani'), as well as cafes and modern bars along the main roads. Price should be around €10 per person in most places. There are also a lot of places where you can get a slice of pizza or a sandwich. The "Friends Pub" near the first ski lift station is really nice, you can get a slice of pizza in the kiosk outside, or a full meal inside.The best tavern in Bansko is Matsurev han.The inn offers Bulgarian national cuisine, traditional dishes from Bansko, prepared on live coals, on a plate and in an oven. ”Matsurev’s Inn” is located at the foot of the Pirin mountain in the heart of the town of Bansko. It is located over the church “St. Trinity” at 100 m from the central square of the town and only at 15 minutes walking from the first station of the cabin lift.

By the end of the ski season (March–April) many restaurants offer large discounts to repeat customers too, sometimes up to 60% off, making eating out at this time incredibly cheap.


Eating out

Bansko has an enormous range of places to eat. There are over 40 mehanas (traditional eating houses) alone, and there's little different between them so take your pick - they're generally cosy and serve hearty Bulgarian food and fine local wines. As Bansko's popularity has grown, so has it's international offering, and there are now around 60 other restaurants and snack bars in town.

• Amvrosia, Premier Mountain Resort  A contemporary but cosy interior and an award-winning menu that includes slow-cooked Tomahawk steak, kobe beef, lamb rack, pork ribs and duck - a carnivore's heaven.

• The Avalon, Avalon Hotel  If you're missing home, head here for proper English cuisine like homemade sausages and mash. The weekly curry night is famous and definitely one to book in advance

• Mehana Momini Dvori – Possibly the best mehana in town, this was the first of its kind in Bansko and has a big menu of Bulgarian and international dishes. If you order in advance, you can feast on roast piglet.

• Leonardo, Lucky Hotel  A stylish Italian with live show cooking and delicious plates of antipasti, pasta, risotto, pizza, meat and fish, rounded off with homemade ice cream.

• The London Pub  Traditional British décor and a friendly atmosphere are complimented by the classic pub grub menu. They even do a roast banquet on Sundays.


Mountain restaurants

• 180 Degrees (piste 4) – The location at a crossroads means this is a great place for mixed groups to meet and enjoy some good Italian food and live music.

• Peshterite (home run) – An independent eatery with an authentic atmosphere, friendly staff and tasty, great value food.


Nightlife

Bansko's new town is thriving with bars and nightclubs and the drinks are very, very cheap. In terms of afternoon après, there isn't too much about, but once the sun goes down the bars are rammed and the drinks are flowing. 

 The Happy End  This is Bansko's largest après bar located right next to the gondola station. This Austrian-style chalet has a DJ playing all the latest tunes from 3pm daily. 

 Jack's House  Descend into this loud, pumping venue with professional dancers, cheap drinks, dancing on the bar and fire-breathing bartenders. What more could you ask for?

• Sing Song Piano Bar  Inside the 5* Kempinski hotel, this musical bar is the perfect ending to a perfect day. Combine cocktails with live music and you have the premise for a good night out. 

 Euphoria  Split over two floors, this trendy restaurant come bar is definitely worth checking out. Live bands perform well into the evening and their fishbowls are absolutely huge. 

 The Lions Pub  As you can probably guess, it's usually packed with Brits. This is a popular joint for those coming straight off the mountain and stays busy well into the evening.

Festivals & Events

In recent years, the town has gained international popularity as a pop and jazz scene after the start of the annual Bansko Jazz Festival and consequently the annual Bansko pop-star concert featuring top pop stars. In March the town hosts the British underground dance fete Horizon Festival.

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