Bansko was the resort that attracted the most of the hype and coverage in the British press a decade or so ago and as a result there was a huge amount of development, turning the small, quaint traditional mountain village into a Benidorm in the Mountains! There were hundreds, or more likely thousands of new apartments, hotels & complexes built, a number without proper planning, others built to a poor standard and many British and Irish investors lost an awful lot of money. There have long been the rumours of an airport opening, more runs being built and more lifts put in and connections with nearby small ski areas. Little of this has ever materialised.
After a turbulent start to Bansko’s reputation, it is now a popular ski destination, although does at times suffer from long queues at the one gondola taking people up the mountain, particularly in busy periods.
The old town of Bansko is lovely with cobbled streets and traditional Bulgarian architecture and some fantastic Mehana’s (restaurants). The ski area has had a fair amount of investment over the years and boats 290 snow cannons covering 90% of the ski area.
There are 15 lifts including the baby drag and 18 pistes, covering around 60 km of runs (seems to vary from 50 to 70km depending on which website you look at). The resort is at just under 1000 metres above ski level and skiing goes up to 2600 metres. There is a 16km ski road from the top to the bottom with the bottom 7km being flood lit for night ski-ing.
Its a long time since I have skied in Bansko. I first went there in 2005 when I was looking to purchase an apartment there and indeed I had put down a deposit on a 2 room apartment. Luckily I managed to pull out of that investment as apartments like the one I was looking to purchase for 60,000 Euros, are now selling for less than half of that! I ski’ed there a couple more times after that, the last time being in mid January 2008 and we queued for over an hour to get on the gondola. Although once up the mountain there were no queues and we had some good snowboarding. Only been back on flying visits in the summer since, including to the annual Jazz festival. But we very much intend to try and get down there and check out the ski area for ourselves.
Lift passes are priced at 58 levs a day (30 Euros) plus 5 levs refundable deposit for electronic lift pass. Children between 7 and 12 cost 40 BGN a day but the prices for kids under 7 is very very cheap at basically a lev a day! A 6 day ski pass is 340 BGN (120 Euros) and a season pass is 1500 BGN. You can buy a 20 day pass for 20 non consecutive days of skiing in a season for 800 BGN (400 Euros) and there are various family ski season passes available. On the whole ski passes are little more expensive than Borovets, especially for season passes.
The ski area is a comparable size to Borovets. The resort is around a 2 and a half hour transfer from Sofia, which is the nearest airport and with the new motorway now been opened the journey time is much reduced and not quite as stressful, although the final part through the gorge can be slow going if you get stuck behind a lorry .
The main website for Bansko is found here.
The development around Bansko now stretches towards the municipality town of Razlog and around where the new golf course was built as well as creeping closer to the nearby villages. There were serious problems with the management of many of the new apartment blocks in many cases back in 2008 and 2009. There were also many stories of holiday makers renting apartments only to find the apartment block is not completed or they are put up in apartments where the owners do not even know they are being rented out. But again things have improved a lot in the last few years. As time has moved on things have settled down somewhat and while still very over-developed, Bansko is now seen as a viable and comparable ski resort to other European resorts and has recently hosted the women’s FIS ski’ing competition.
Bansko is developing into an all season resort and there is plenty to do in the summer as well. As mentioned there is a annual Jazz festival in August that attracts large names in the jazz world, and Joss Stone headlined the 2016 event. The centre square is packed with people for the free evening concerts and there are stalls selling beer and wine and food. The area is developing fast for mountain biking and there are of course many hiking trails. There are mineral spa baths in the nearby village of Banya and also Dobrinishte. And there is the golf course at the Pirin country club. In one of the nearby villages there is bear sanctuary run by Four Paws for the rescued former Dancing Bears of Bulgaria and other Balkan states.
The village of Dobrinishte is a 6km drive away has one old chair leading to a long ski run. And Kulinoto is just 2km from Predel and 12km from Razlog and there are two drag lifts and plans to increase the ski area but would not hold your breathe.