When I initially imagined myself skiing in Europe, I pictured Chamonix and St. Antons, but when travelling on a student budget, Google became my best friend in helping me find the best, cheapest mountains. One place that promised great skiing and unparalleled prices across multiple “Best of…” lists was Bansko Ski Resort in the Pirin Mountains of Bulgaria. Wizz Air tickets bought and a hostel booking later, Jess and I were heading to Bansko!
We flew into Sofia late Friday night, picking up a rental car to drive the two hours in the dark to Bansko. While waiting to get the car, we met the sweetest couple, Jen and Terry, and their two year old son, Ethan. Jen and Terry document their nomadic lifestyle through their travel blog, Travel As They Grow, and Jess and I were immediately captivated by their adventurous spirits and warmth. They had arrived in Bulgaria to spend the month exploring to see if they might one day enjoy living there permanently. Car keys in hand, we bid adieu to our new friends, and embarked on our 150 kilometre drive to Bansko.
We arrived at the hostel around one o’clock in the morning, and immediately crashed into our bunks. To our luck, we didn’t have anyone else sharing the small room. “Le Retro Hostel” was absolutely adorable and cozy-as-could-be. Waking up in the mountains made me feel like I had a new lease on life! Home-cooked breakfast omelettes and cereal the next morning had us up and energised to go pick up our rental equipment.
A pair of skis in my hands, and a snowboard in Jess’, we were ready to head up the mountain. We were able to forgo the gondola line by driving up the mountain, where we lucked out (again) and got the BEST slope-side parking spot. We were able to spend the day skiing back down to the car whenever we needed to shed a layer, as it was warm and sunny. The first chair up to the peak had me grinning from ear to ear.
While Bansko is very much a budget ski hill, it had such a fun atmosphere. We went into one of the lodges for lunch and enjoyed sitting on the patio, laughing at the DJ and branded dancers bouncing around to techno music.
After a day on the mountain, we had worked up an appetite, and headed for an authentic Bulgarian meal. We are still unsure if the meals we ate were truly delicious, or if they just seemed to be because we were so hungry! Bellies full, we returned to the hostel and contemplated going out to the bar while we played Crazy 8s and War in the common room. Finally, we decided we should give it a try. Twenty minutes later, we found ourselves walking into a bar with a live band covering Kings of Leon, and all the bartenders juggling with bottles and sparklers. The place was packed!
The entire day had been perfect.
But…it had been too perfect, and the following morning met us with a series of mishaps. Two flat tires, a police incident that diverted traffic and meant we had to wait for the gondola, and delays in getting our rental equipment. All just minor inconveniences that had us laughing at the perfection of the day before. We had a few awesome runs that had us beaming, and there were more than a few promises made of “okay, this should be our last run.” We ended skiing right up until 4:00PM, before returning our rentals and driving back into Sofia for our flight the next day.
Leaving Bansko was harder than I wanted to admit. Being back in the mountains had fuelled my soul, and I could have stayed for just one more run…