Väsjöbacken is a small local hill in the northern suburbs of Stockholm. If you're looking for the Alps this is not the place to go, but if you're looking for somewhere to teach your children, or if you're looking for somewhere to go after work for a quick ski (this is what I used to do when I lived around the corner) or if you're looking for a place to go for a day when you're holidaying in Stockholm, then this is a great hill to try. The ski hire is excellent and the equipment if of the highest quality. There are minimal facilities beyond this, but that doesn't detract from the fun.
Sollentuna station + local bus routes
A skiing holiday in the Czech Republic needn’t break the bank. Rokytnice nad Jizerou is an excellent base if you’d like to hit the slopes and it’s easily accessible from Prague on public transport too (there are direct buses three times a day). Just because Easter’s almost here, don’t rule a winter sports jaunt out: there’s some snow on the peaks as late as May. There are two main resorts: the baby slopes of Studenov which can be reached on foot and for the more competent, Horni Domky which is served by a regular free Ski bus. A day’s pass for Studenov is 380CZK for adults (about £12) and 200CZK for children (about £7). The area is popular with Poles and Germans as well as Czechs so don’t expect the place to be overrun with Brits although there are plenty of English speaking instructors. As for food, if you can’t the Czech fried fare on offer in the stands and restaurants by the slopes then try the soups instead. There’s česnekova – a very garlicky broth bound to keep the vampires away – or porkova, a creamy leek concoction. Remember to ask for bread as it isn’t served automatically. A glass of švarak (mulled wine) or medovina (mead) is a great après ski pick me up too. We stayed at Pension Samohel, which is run by a former Czech ski champion: very friendly, good location, great food but take your own towels – the ones provided were tiny and had seen better days.
Rokytnice nad Jizerou 153, 512 44 Rokytnice nad Jizerou, Czech Republic
+420 604 200 934
Google map: bit.ly/YP8LZH
* Lisette is our Been there local for Prague. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/prague-local-lisette.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/LisettePrague
A company that teaches surf-kiting in the summer but runs from Brig in Switzerland in the winter specializing in snow-kiting. However, Oli, the owner, was happy to cater for us on our first ski/boarding holiday.
He knows the area well in terms of where is best to ski in which conditions, has many alternatives for a break from the piste ie 15km toboggan runs, cross-country skiing, trying out snow-kiting. He gave us skiing lessons at a very favourable rate, has deals with the hotel where he is based and a local kit hire shop. We started out with brand new boots for the week! He charged us for the "guiding" for the week. We found this invaluable having never been on a winter holiday before. We were so well looked after even to the extent of Oli telling us, while I was still investigating ski trips,about the Ski train run jointly by Eurostar and TGV Lyria. This took us all the way from St. Pancras to Brig on two very comfortable trains. Nine hours but actually equivalent in time and price to the air/hire car travel alternative. Much more pleasant than air travel, which played a big part in the choice, with bigger baggage allowances (teenage daughters!) and Big Blue Experience gave a discount for coming all the way by train.
Brig is a relatively undiscovered ski destination, particularly by Brits. Chats on the ski lifts prompted surprise to hear an English voice and questions about how I found out about the place. More experienced winter holiday takers told us it has the least busy pistes that they have been on.
In the end the holiday worked out about £100 less than the cheapest ski-package I was looking at for the same dates, in Borovets through Crystalski, and much less expensive than anything else I could find in Switzerland!
Head to Uzana, just north of Gabrovo and the geographical centre of Bulgaria, for a cheap and less crowded ski resort which hasn’t been completely saturated by tourists yet and so it’s mostly local people who holiday here. It won’t appeal to experienced skiers, given its size and smaller pistes, but it’s perfect for kids and us novices. The choice of accommodation will suit any budget from hijas (hostel-type accommodation) to affordable hotels, many of which offer lessons and have smaller slopes to practice on (and they let the dogs stay too!). Ski passes, clothing and equipment are a fraction of the price you’ll pay for at Bansko.
If you don’t fancy skiing, there are amazing walks and plenty of other things to do in the surrounding natural park and the views from the Stara Planina Mountain range are stunning. For cultural reprieve, the nearby cities of Gabrovo and historical Veliko Tarnovo are well worth days out.
On your travels: most restaurants will serve the homemade brandy (rakia) which is traditionally drunk with their delicious salads but be careful, if you drink too much of it you won’t be back on the slopes in a hurry! Or try a guvech: food cooked in a traditional clay oven pot, either with meat or cheesy vegetables, all washed down with good Bulgarian plonk. Happy days!
Bulgaria is known as a cheaper skiing destination, but the culture, traditions and cuisine are all worth exploring. Just a few miles east of the popular resort of Bansko is Dobrinishte, a bucolic village at the foot of Pirin mountain. Tucked away in the far corner of the village is the 'Makadonska Kruchma', a wonderful tavern that serves some of the best food and wines in the whole country. They also offer very comfortable and attractive rooms.
Dobrinishte is the first stop on a little narrow gauge railway that winds northwards through the mountains past small 'pomak' (Bulgarian Muslim) villages. It's painfully slow, but well worth it for the fine landscape.
Close to Pamporovo, another famous skiing resort, is the stone-and-slate village of Shiroka Laka. It's wonderfully pretty in the winter snow, and there are plenty more taverns to sample the fine Bulgarian cuisine. Gela - allegedly the birthplace of Orpheus - is just along the valley.
Ulitsa Targovska 1, Dobrinishte
After years of skiing in Canada, France and Switzerland, this was a totally unexpected mountainside gem. This restaurant/cafe is right at the top of the Pamporovo mountain resort in southern Bulgaria.
After a hard mornings skiing we walked in to find a roaring fireplace by which we hung up our jackets, gloves and hats so they were warm and dry by the time we left. We settled ourselves at a characterful log table close enough to the fire to feel the warmth thawing our bodies and ordered a spit roast chicken and chips from the menu. A limited number are roasted at lunchtime daily, and this was genuinely some of the best chicken I've ever had, served by very friendly locals, and for the astonishing price of about £4!
The Rhodopi mountains themselves offered a great number of slopes for beginners, which made up the majority of skiiers on the mountain when we were there. The runs were well graded and signposted clearly, and at the end of the week there were still new (parts of) red and blue runs we were discovering.
It was only on the penultimate day that we first plucked up the courage to tackle the (appropriately named) 'Wall' - a very steep black run with some fantastic moguls to challenge us! From the top the views were breathtaking.
Get there as soon as you can!
After years of skiing in Canada, France and Switzerland, it was the most magical thing to discover "The Lodge" restaurant/cafe at the top of Pamporovo mountain in Bulgaria. We walked in to a roaring fireplace, by which we hung up our mittens, jackets and hats so that they were warm and dry when we finally decided to leave the haven of The Lodge for some more great skiing.
Moreover, the food was outstanding. There are (limited numbers of) whole spit roast chickens cooked at lunchtime daily for hungry skiiers. I genuinely don't think I've had better chicken, and it set us back all of about £5 which is extraordinary value for a captive audience. Washed down well with some spiced wine.
Skiing in Pamporovo itself is fantastic. The tracks are well rated, and clearly signed. There is an abundance of beginner slopes, and these were more popular at least at the time we visited. By the end of six hard days skiing we were still finding new (parts of) red/blue runs we hadn't yet run, as well as only getting the confidence to tackle the (aptly named) 'Wall' on our penultimate day. For the braver skiers this is a steep and challenging black mogul field that affords absolutely breathtaking views.
Get there as soon as you can!
Pamporovo, Smolyan, Smolyan 4700, Bulgaria,
You can get a sense of both the Communist and royal past in the ski resort of Borovets. Samokov hotel gives a glimpse of the Communist past with its huge 11-storey building within which you can find a full size swimming pool, ten pin bowling alley, conference centre and shooting range - entertainment and brutalist architecture for the masses. A sense of an earlier royal past is provided by the Royal Bistria hunting lodge built at the end of the 19th century for Bulgarian monarchs nestling in the woods. If you are a Communist or royalist the skiing is good: there are enough descents through picturesque pine forest to keep most amused and it's much cheaper than the Alps. The Rila mountains are beautiful. You get a glimpse of their many lakes (120) on the way up from Sofia and if not skiing, mountain biking and walking are alternatives. On the way between Sofia and Borovets Mitropolitska church in Samokov is worth a stop to see its remarkable woodcarvings.
Sofia is beyond amazing, where else can you get a vast cathedral, a huge mosque and an enormous synagogue within walking distance of each other?
For skiers Bansko must be the best. A magnificent mountain, with runs of all colours, and a village which is like a doughnut. At its core is the old town, wiggly streets with mehanas (bars/restaurants) dating back hundreds of years, surrounded by modern hotels, restaurants and apartments.
If anyone comes to Bulgaria and does not visit The Rila Monastery they have missed a world heritage site.
Bulgaria (in my humble opinion) is even better when the snow is gone, walking, birds, butterflies etc.
Bulgaria, for a British person, is still cheap. The locals are ridiculously friendly. The skiing/snowboarding is good. The culture is amazing.
Bottom of the Ettelsberg gondola, bright, modern, fast service great basic fayre for families. Italian/German dishes that hungry children won't pull faces at. Very, very reasonable prices and open at 8.30am for early skiers and during the three nights they have floodlit skiing.
With aching shins and numb toes we zigzagged down from the summit at Haut Fleury with hope in our hearts; hope that Jean de la Pipe would be open for late lunch, and that it would live up to the images of warmth and restdom that the locals had so vividly conjured up the night before! What a relief therefore when our skis kindly deposited us outside the front door! We decided to bystep the happy vinchaud drinkers on the sun-filled terrace and snuggle up by the ginormous wood-burning fire that dominates the cosy interior. We feasted on beautiful copious slabs of cote de boeuf cooked over the fire that crackled away next to our table, and moved our heads in sync as huge platters of local Savoie meats were delivered to neighbouring diners! Needless to say that two hours later, the next port of call was a hot bath in the chalet rather than another ascent to the icy summit!
+33(0)4 50 34 22 08
Bottom of Les Molliettes ski lift
It's not cheap but then Vail isn't really and we had the attitude of we'd saved for 18 months so let's enjoy ourselves. Game Creek is accessed by snowcat from the top of the Eagle Bahn gondola in winter which is pretty awesome to start with. It sits on the mountainside in the Eagle Creek bowl so you get a great view. Food is modern American/ European - nothing amazingly creative but it's really tasty and well worth the trek. Only open for dinner though so you can't just ski off the slope to your table. But then it's kind of nice to be eating in that kind of environment without all your ski gear on anyway.
There are a bunch of places to choose from to eat at Plaine Dranse near Morzine in the Portes du Soleil but none of them are in the same league as Chez Babethe. The interior is packed with fairy lights, ornaments, fur drapes and people turning it into something of a magical alcove. Babette ushers you to your seat - and she seems to know everyone - and you sink into cushions and fur while you wait for an aperatif. It's not cheap - starters are about 16 euros - and you won't be back on the slopes any time soon. But if you're looking for a slopesie restaurant that you'll remember for years to come then Chez Babethe is it. And the thing is - she'll remember you too, which is a nice touch.
Not the greatest views in the Alps but the warmest atmosphere and the most delicious food. Startgels is in a league of its own in the Weisse ski area of Eastern Switzerland. Watch the owner Ueli Grand (known to us as the 'bearded man') grill your lunch over a roaring open fire. A wonderful haven for that final hot chocolate and cake on the last run home, but our friends also enjoy walking there from the top of the Foppa chairlift. Never been in summer but it would be equally lovely.
Postfach 79, CH-7017 Flims-Dorf
+41 81 911 58 48
The Startgels restaurant is open when the Weisse Arena ski lifts and cable cars are in operation.
Slope side hole in the wall snack bar with prices to reflect. BUT has fantastic spicy home made soups. "La patronne" travels to India a lot and brings home stocks of exotic spices. The soups are a welcome break from the usual resort offerings of saucisson and fromage and really hit the spot at lunch. Great for a quick aperitif too. Try Peche mignon (like a kir but with peach liqueur)
Place du Tour, Le Tour, near Chamonix
Google map: bit.ly/10ks8zM
Slopeside in that it's right at the bottom of the home run in Les Houches so you can literally ski onto the top terrace. Funky, kitsch, big and a large inside area for apres ski make it a great stop. They do lunch specials and though evening meals maybe push towards being a bit pricey its all wholesome English/French fusion cuisine so there's a lot more choice than just tartiflette and variations there of.
Live bands play regularly and if you're down in family-friendly Les Houches as opposed to knees-up Chamonix, you'll be thankful for the Kitsch Inn offering a bit of liveliness!
This is the alpine restaurant you secretly dream of owning. With the most wonderful views of the Alps all around you, it beckons you in from the (blue) slopes. Choose whether to curl up in front of the log fire, or sit outdoors in the sunshine ordering from a huge range of home-cooked food, watching in disbelief as expert off-pisters descend vertically in the distance. The food is delicious, the service relaxed, the bill very reasonable and the experience will stay with you for a long long time.
Opposite the St Esprit chair lift about 2km below Arcs 1950.
+33 4 79 07 44 18
Just wanted to share some knowledge on skiing and ski areas in the mountains of England. A few years ago when I stumbled upon an online forum discussion on the topic I thought it was some elaborate joke. However, having now skied at all bar one of the centers operating in the English mountains I can safely say that I have been proved wrong!
Operational Ski Tows:
2. Yad Moss
Top Station: 830m
Bottom Station: 720m
Price: £20 membership (compulsory) £15 for a day lift pass (members only)
Raise is wild and rugged, sitting in the midst of some of the tallest peaks in the Lake District. The ski tow itself sits in a high bowl serving a snow-holding gulley on Raise, which is one of the summits on the ridgeline leading to Helvellyn. The hike in is a tough one, regular members can conquer it in under an hour, but be warned, attempting this on a hangover carrying more kit than you absolutely need can easily double the time it takes and the pain you will go through. Once you get up there the views are fantastic. The skiing is rough and ready, the tow track dug out by hand, and the “pistes” maintained solely by nature. If the conditions are good it is an epic day out, but not for the fainthearted. In good conditions talk to the club committee members who run the tow about routes to descend. Off the back of the summit there is a long snowfield followed by a gulley that holds the snow incredibly well. Descents of up to 500 vertical metres are possible. For the more adventurous there are several serious freeride descents within striking distance of the ski area, but be aware of snow conditions. Last time we were there (December 2012) we saw debris from a slab avalanche, so treat these mountains with respect.
My advice would be if you’re fit, and not scared to earn your turns, hike up to the ski area and check it out. Talk to the locals and if the ski conditions are stable then go exploring, if not then just hit up the small, but fun area served directly by the tow.
Top Station: 725m
Bottom Station: 600m
Yad Moss is a banging place. The longest single lift in England (650m) serves wide open pistes in the heart of the Pennines. They have a piste basher and when the snow is good you can be ripping up perfect corduroy. There is a hardy crew of locals, some of whom are enthusiastic about freestyle. There has been talk of building some rails and some jumps over the previous years. However, the downside is the area is not that steep, and any jumps that are built by locals end up having flat (or when we visited, uphill) landings. The advantage to Yad Moss is that it’s very easy to get to. The ski area starts around a 100m hike from a main road. On days when the conditions are good, get there early to ensure you can park, and bring a shovel in case you need to dig out a parking space.
My advice on this one would be it’s a good introduction to skiing in England, friendly locals and an easy to access area. There is also a good variety of runs when conditions permit. However, if you are looking for more than just laying out some chilled out turns in beautiful surroundings on home soil then look elsewhere. The cost is around £20 for a day lift pass.
Report from our trip to Yad Moss in ’09: www.winterhighland.info/publicreports/index.php?50,1308
Top Station: 655m
Bottom Station: 488m
When the conditions are good, Weardale is dope. It sits on the East side of the Pennines approximately level with Durham. Two lifts (the F1 and F2) provide runs of over 1km. The club has a piste basher which they use to good effect, and a large club-house with decent facilities. The F1 serves a number of shallow wide pistes which are similar to (but less extensive than) those at Yad Moss. The F2 is a short lift (perhaps only 200-250m long) but it takes you to the fell top, where the terrain is far more undulating and varied. In ride anywhere conditions it’s simply awesome for England, and there are a load of spots prime for shaping kickers. For those prepared to hike the gullies about 600m to the right of the top lift can be awesome.
My advice, if it’s absolutely dumping head here! It’s the best place in England when the snow is good! Last time we went it was £20 for the day.
Top Station: 686m
Bottom Station: 607m
Located in the same valley as Yad Moss it, Harwood provides a quieter area with shorter runs (500m) served by a rope tow. A day ticket is around £15. The members are friendly and the ski area, whilst smaller than Yad Moss, is equally fun.
Top Station: 539m
Bottom Station: 479m
Allenheads is a small area about an hour from Newcastle, served by two rope tows. It is sheltered, and the grass is short, so needs very little snow to open and be running. Often locals will shape a small jump. Not somewhere to go for adventure, but definitely a place to go if you want a couple of casual runs followed by a pint.
Cost is £20 per day.
The web addresses are all in the above
Skiing ( and boarding ) in Scotland can be great. A brilliant weekend or short break. BUT never take the weather for granted. When the snow is there, it is glorious, but how to be sure a 400 mile trek north is going to be worth it?
Simple. Just log on to Winterhighland, the completely independent home of Scottish snowsports lovers. Up to date reports, webcams and expert information from the locals. Don't travel north without it!
On an average weekend at Cairngorm, you can find yourself queuing anywhere from 30-60 mins to purchase a lift ticket. Instead, stop off at the Glenmore Shop, by the shores of Loch Morlich and purchase your ticket there.
Not only do you beat the ticket queue, but you can also get up the funicular before that queue becomes massive too!
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