Borovets Ski Resort Review Bulgaria
Here’s my review of skiing in Borovets, Bulgaria as a first timer…
The only time I have skied was at an indoor ski center whereby I learnt the very basics of skiing.
By the end of my three hour lesson I could at least put a ski on, lean forward and slowly go down a short and shallow slope.
So, when the chance came to go skiing, to Bulgaria I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what it is like to go to an up and coming ski resort.
As far as I am aware, winter sports are pretty expensive. I have never really participated but a quick look at skiing equipment confirmed this.
That said, clothing can be had pretty cheaply if you know where to look, however, I managed to get trousers, socks, gloves and base layers for about £150.
I already had a Musto thermal and waterproof jacket which worked really well, in fact it was really hot, a beanie and my old Carrera sunglasses which were fine, although in hindsight I would have preferred goggles.
The reason, it seems it is up and coming, particularly for British skiers is the price of actually skiing.
A ski pass for three days plus boot, ski and pole hire came to about £110 from Traventura Ltd which was based in the Ely hotel opposite the Samakov.
Return Fares from London Luton to Sofia return was £82 with additional luggage included using WhizzAir.
Transfers were £29 each from Sofia to Borovets arranged through Traventura Ltd.
The hotel was £100 per person for four nights including breakfast at the Hotel Samakov.
All-in-all, it came to £321 for Four nights, with skiing, equipment and the travel necessary.
I also got a meet and greet parking for my car at London Luton airport for the duration which came to £31.
So, that means £351 for a short skiing trip. Perfect for me as a beginner.
Once over there, it seems like a 500ml draught beer was coming in at around £2.50 so do not believe the hype of “…£1 pints…” that gets banded around willy nilly.
There seemed to be a lot of stag groups which has probably inflated the prices.
Food in restaurants was fairly cheap though, I think it was about £4 or £5 for a pizza for instance.
When we arrived in Bulgaria it was dark, but needless to say the airport was small.
When we landed it was around 9pm and there was one small shop open, but that was it.
A quick run through passport control and we were out in a cold, damp car park with an old Mercedes Sprinter minibus waiting for us.
Once we had left the city of Sofia the route to Borovets was windy, dark, and pretty uninhabited.
We couldn’t see much of the surrounding area as we travelled for the journey which took about one hour, or just over.
Needless to say, it did feel like we were heading to the middle of nowhere.
However, on the return journey it was daylight so we could see that there were rolling hills/mountains with sparse little villages that we would pass through.
The countryside looked very wild which I liked. The journey is not quick but its only a two way road that you travel on.
On the return leg we could see more of Sofia,too.
It had a very bleak Eastern Bloc style and feel to the place, I wish I had got more of a chance to see Sofia for the weather was foul and we didn’t have much time.
In the airport there was a cafe once you were past passport control and some sort of sparse souvenir shop.
It looked very Soviet and as if it had not changed since the 1950’s. It was all very small as well, that’s not to say it didn’t work.
All seemed quite efficient and it was easy to get through the airport. Just don’t expect there to be much on the other side, so if you get chance to eat a decent meal beforehand, do it.
The resort of Borovets from what we could see is pretty small.
From what I could tell there are two major (at least the largest) hotels in the resort with a smattering of other accommodation choices.
There’s a main ‘drag’ which is between the two hotels. Our hotel, the Samakov, is at the bottom with the Rila being at the top of a street. In between the two hotels are a number of bars and places to eat.
Pizza seems to be a popular option.
The only chain outlet I could see was a Subway, there’s no KFC or McDonalds to my knowledge.
There’s a bar/pub at the bottom of the drag on the corner called BJ’s which seemed to be the most popular place to go and it was usually busy each night and through the day.
They claim to cook breakfasts with bacon and sausages from Morrisons, on the whole the cooked breakfasts were okay, as were the pizzas but the fried eggs were under cooked on two occasion.
We did visit towards the end of the ski season so I expect the place to be heaving during peak times.
The pubs and bars stretched the length of the street with people vying for your business trying to get you in which is annoying.
There’s also a collection of bars towards the top of the street opposite the Rila hotel that span off on little streets, but we’re talking a few metres off the main drag, if that.
The whole vibe reminded me of being somewhere like Magaluf but just before or after the season had started.
At the bottom of the drag there’s another street that leads out of the resort and this houses a number of small restaurants.
The food in those was pretty nice. It seemed to be similar to Turkish cuisine, so plenty of meat. The fries were to die for.
There’s also a number of small convenience stores as well which offer plenty of things on the cheap.
Now, I have not been to any other ski resorts at all, however, I was assured the more well known and popular found in the likes of France are more polished than the streets around Borovets.
The resort also seems to be centered around one main mountain and you seem to ski down two slopes/areas.
At the bottom of the main drag is a long gondola style lift that looks like it is from the 1950’s (a few instances of it being shut for repairs were noted).
At the top of the main drag were the ski lifts to the other side of the mountain which wasn’t as high up. These were in operation all of the time and were open to the elements for about three or four people to ride.
On the whole the resort was a bit rough around the edges but was a pleasant enough place to be. Hence the popularity of the stag groups.
So, bear in mind this was my first time out in the wild with a pair of skis…
At the top of the mountains was a nice green slope that was great to try and get the hang of my equipment.
There was a button lift to take you to the top of the run and you could slowly glide down.
There were also a couple of bars/shacks whereby you could pay an extortionate rate for a can of coca-cola or a coffee.
Then to the side were the steeper and more narrow slopes with further chair lifts to the top for different runs.
I enjoyed all of this massively because wherever I may be tumbling around, other members of my party were never too far away, regardless of what coloured run they were on.
I did noticed a tracked ambulance all over the mountain, so rest assured help is always nearby if required.
There’s a good number of black runs and red runs with a winding green.
On my first day my friend asked if I wanted to ski back to the resort and forget the lift. The slope looked okay so I agreed.
About 3 hours later, and with a black eye I finally reached the bottom exhausted and realizing that it was a red run all the way down.
At the top of the mountain we experienced a white out which was difficult to see through, but otherwise, while it was cold, it was not too cold and I was sweating quite a bit with merely a base layer and jacket on.
On the other days we experienced the other side of the mountain which had varying degrees of difficulty for the different slopes.
A few runs were cordoned off because of snow melt but a couple did have snow cannons and one had floodlights for night skiing.
This side of the mountain’s runs culminated right at the top of the drag and in from of the Rila hotel. However, the slopes weren’t as good or as varied compared to the other side.
The other more experienced members of our party said that the only real issue was the lack of variety.
What I liked about the resort – never being too far away from other people I knew – was the main issue for them. They wanted more different runs as not to get too bored.
On my final day, and due to the gondola being out of action, everyone was on a very busy smaller side of the mountain, however, the final chance to ski I hit the top and determined not to stop or fall over I skied to the bottom without fault and straight in to a bar.
Nightlife – Apres Ski
As already mentioned, there’s a long drag of bars and pubs charging around £2.50 for nearly a pint of local beer.
The six nations was on so rugby was being aired in a few of the bars, as was football and even rugby league for the northerners.
While we were there it did seem to be mainly groups of guys but there were a few groups of families too, pretty much all seemed to be Brits, at least those on the party scene later at night.
The overall atmosphere at night was pleasant and casual, plenty of ski gear still being worn and no overbearing bouncers.
In the hotel Rila there is a small casino if you want to lose a load of money.
On a couple of occasions the electricity for the whole street seemed to go, which left a load of drunk people singing Neil Diamond hits until we had the power back up and running.
At one point, during a power cut I fell asleep in the dark on a badly plumbed toilet…
I didn’t stay up until it was too late because I was shattered but some of the other guys said they weren’t rolling back in to the hotel until 5am, so if you want it. It’s there.
We stayed in the colossal Samakov which is hard to miss, quite frankly.
It is like a traditional Swiss ski lodge of gigantic proportions.
It is almost like they wanted to build the best hotel back in the day and by doing so, it had to be the biggest.
Unfortunately, once inside, it doesn’t look like it has been updated since before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It’s pretty stark and very dark throughout. The furnishings and design is very dated.
However, it has a vast array of amenities including:
- Sports Bar
- Rifle range
- Crepe station
- Cake stall
- Main lobby bar
- Conference centre
- Ski equipment shop
The rooms were basic but functional, and, to give it its dues, the whole hotel was very clean and tidy throughout.
So while it was dated, it was not dirty or a horrible place to stay. I actually quite enjoyed it, it was like being from a different era. Very old school Soviet.
I didn’t have the breakfast that was available but from all accounts it wasn’t much to write home about.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Rila which I have mentioned looks a lot more modern and would probably fit right in at the more well established ski resorts throughout europe.
Then there was a smaller five star hotel that looked like it had been plucked out of a Disney film just around the corner.
The Samakov claims to be four star, but unless that rating is based on cleanliness alone, I’m not sure it would live up to UK four star ratings.
Again, though, I will reiterate it was fine and completely nice enough to stay there.
It was very warm throughout and the shower was powerful.
Overall Experience at Borovets, Bulgaria
On the whole I really enjoyed it. If it wasn’t the easy to navigate resort and mountains it was the old school Soviet character.
If you are a keen skier, judging by some of the comments from the party you may find the slopes are not varied enough or he resort not large enough. For a beginner I really liked it.
There’s some aspects which are rough and ready, the main drag for instance which is
basically like those places where teenagers go on their first friends holidays.
It sells lots of booze and it a good laugh, but hardly the last call on a luxurious break away.
As a result, there were a good number of guys in groups on stag holidays or lads holidays.
That does mean the night life is good fun, and as stated, you can be out until the next morning in bars or even the casino.
Overall, it does sound like, rather predictably, prices have inflated due to this influx of stag weekends.
There’s definitely a certain charm about the place and it is easy to familiarize yourself with the resort so you can find your hotel easily enough if you want to go skiing a bit earlier than your group or stay out a bit later.
Considering the price, its worth the three hour flight and hour transfer from Sofia.