Borovets

BOROVETS

Borovets has 58 km of ski slopes and is the oldest ski resort in Bulgaria, dating back to 1896. It was originally built as a hunting place for the kings of Bulgaria and then gradually developed into a ski resort.  Now there are three ski areas (linked by tracks) – the Sitnyakovo area, Markudjik at the top and Yastrebetz and there are 160 snow cannons giving 60% snow cover of the pistes (the main area in front of the Rila hotel and the central resort and the Yastrabetz chair). The resort is at just over 1,300 metres and the ski-ing goes up to 2,540 metres. There is one old gondola taking you right to the top ski area (20 minutes) and 4 chairs and 9 drags (although one of those is rarely open). 

Borovets used to be known by the name Chamkoria and it is just 10 km from the town of Samokov and 73 km from Sofia, where the nearest airport is with regular EasyJet flights & Wizzair. 

Super Borovets Project

In 2004 the Super Borovets project was launched, which was supposed to see 3 new developmental areas of Borovets – a lower level development just outside the town of Samokov to provide 5000 cheaper hotel rooms, expansion of the main Borovets resort with a further 10,000 beds and then the actual Super Borovets project with 2,500 luxury hotel rooms and to expand the number of pistes by 19, 12 new ski-lifts including a multi-station gondola from Samkov to Lower Borovets. There were also plans to link up to the village of Beli Iskar and down towards the other side where the villages of Raduil and Dolyna Banya are

The Super Borovets project caused much controversy since it was first mooted. It was the brain child of the former Bulgarian King, who managed to ‘regain’ a lot of forested land around Borovets and the head of DZI bank was financing the project. However, the King, who was also President for a time, lost power and the bank boss was shot and the project looked in jeopardy. However, the bank boss’s wife, after much deliberation, sold her share in the project to Glavbolgarstroy- the leading construction company in Bulgaria. A British investment firm, Equest, then bought a stake also. The Sultan of Oman was apparently also involved. The plan was to build a further 80 km of ski runs and 15,000 extra beds and the resort would have a capacity of 30,000 to 35,000 skiers a day. But it never happened, despite property being sold at inflated prices based on this promise.
 
The whole project was meant to be completed by 2009, however it was only given the go-ahead in 2007 and there was a ground breaking ceremony. Numerous hotels and apartment blocks were built in anticipation of the expansion, there is a random ski lift on the edge of samokov that is never working and many people bought apartments expecting to be able to get a lift from close to their door. But there was much opposition from environmentalists, key financial backers were shot or disappeared and the former King of Bulgaria and former PM were no longer in power and so the project ground to a halt. And following the economic crash in 2010, everything stopped. 
 
But Borovets is still an excellent ski resort, close to the capital and airport (with Easyjet flights from Gatwick and Manchester now available and WizzAir from Birmingham and Doncaster) and with stunning scenery. The transfer time is around an hour from Sofia or around 2 hours from Plovdiv.

Ski Pass Prices

Ski pass prices are 55 levs (about 28 Euros) for a day’s pass, children between 7 and 13 are 30 levs and the youth pass (14 to 22 years old) and the OAP pass (64+) are 40 levs.
 
A morning pass is 38 levs and an afternoon pass is 32 levs.
 
A 6 day pass is 304 levs for an adult or you can get a 6 non-consecutive day pass for 310 levs (you can’t use this for 6 consecutive days though).
 
A season pass is 1000 levs.
 
Night ski-ing is 22 levs but is included in the season pass. 
 
There are discounts on family passes. 
 
The lift pass price includes insurance cover and accident cover for marked ski runs and trails and will cover the search team in the event of an accident, first aid on the slope or at a mountain rescue centre. But the cover does not extend to freestyle parks or the runs determined to be Free Ride pistes (i.e. not piste’d). 
 
Ski passes are electronic so you just put them in your pocket and they get scanned as you go through to the lift. Borovets lagged behind Bansko for many years having out-dated ski pass systems but has now caught up. 

The Resort – Hotels, Apartment Blocks, Restaurants, Bars…….

Borovets underwent a fair amount of development but not on the scale of Bansko and as it is a purpose built resort, nestled in the mountains and surrounded by forests, the new apartments and hotels are not as obvious as around Bansko.

Borovets resort map

Borovets itself is a small collection of old communist style hotels, most of which have now been modernised to some degree and the large Rila hotel at the bottom of the slopes has a pool and spa area and lovely terrace overlooking the pistes. There are some newer, smaller hotels with some new apartment blocks very close to the ski lifts and a handful of luxury spa developments a little higher up (around a 2 km or so drive up the mountain). There is one chalet type accommodation we know of. 

In the old centre of Borovets, on the other side of the main road passing the ski resort and around a 500 metre walk from the lifts, there are various other hotels and a few a bit further away. There are of course several unfinished and abandoned developments in-between the trees and there are then several developments, wooden chalet type apartments for rent and hotels a kilometre or two down the road. 

Certainly when I visited in 2008 it was much more tacky and the touts outside the restaurants fairly aggressive in their persuasions to try and get you inside. But much has changed in the last few years. The people outside the restaurants now trying to entice you in are polite and friendly, the ‘in your face’ strip clubs have gone and now the couple of strip bars that remain are very low key on the outside, so much so, that you hardly notice what they are. Many of the hotels have been renovated and look lovely. And there are many more improvements and modifications planned. 

Borovets ski resort at nightThere is a lively acres-ski scene with loads of restaurants and bars at the bottom of the main ski area. There are several bars close to the gondola and then the main ‘triangle’ has numerous restaurants and bars and there are further restaurants down the road. These cater for traditional Bulgarian food, there are steak houses, a Mexican of sorts, a Turkish restaurant, a Caribbean themed restaurant (the jerk chicken and pork is excellent and wonderfully spicey) and of course many places to get your English breakfast or a pizza.

Borovets ski resort

There is now a Subway and there are numerous kiosks to get burgers, kebabs and sandwiches from. We intend to try as many of these places as we can and write reviews. 

 

The Ski Area & Mountain Restaurants

We have chosen to base ourselves in Borovets and bought a home close by and so far we are not disappointed. Whilst the ski-ing is not on the level or extent of say Courchevel, there is plenty for everyone. At the base of the ski area, in front of the large Rila hotel, there are a couple small drag lifts and the beginners area. Its a great place for beginners and families to learn, the only criticism being that the red runs come down through the same area and so it can get a bit chaotic at the bottom, especially when there are lots of ski groups in lessons or when the weather is bad and everyone stays lower down to ski. 

Borovets Piste Map

 

Borovets ski runsThere are two chairs that go from in front of the main resort centre (Rila Hotel) and serve various reds and blue runs, with a green  track down and a couple of blacks. The reds are quite steep in places and the whole area is within the tree line. The night ski-ing also uses this area. There are some great little bars and restaurants on the edge of the pistes as you come down into resort. There is one restaurant at the top of the Sitnyakovo chair. We have only stopped there for a drink so far but it looks to have a nice outdoor area when the weather is sunny, made from old chair lift seats! 

The Yastrabets area has some great wide cruising runs in-between the trees lower down served the chair and the gondola takes you to the highest ski area – the Markudjik area. Here there is a small drag lift for a beginners fairly flat slope and then a red and a black off the top of a chair and a double drag lift by a blue. These are really good wide runs. There is another drag but it does not operate all season as the run off it is through an area prone to avalanches.

You can catch the gondola from the car park at the bottom of the resort  and either get off half way at the middle station or go to the top. There is a restaurant at the top of the gondola and then another 3 restaurants a short ski down towards the Markujik ski area and the odd snack bar. The ‘evacuation’ route known as the Musala pathway (not on piste map as a proper groomed run and not covered by insurance) is a lovely long green track down, a bit flat in parts of boarding but a great way to get down from top of mountain to bottom, when open. Its also a good long run down from the top of the gondola, down past the Yastrabets area and back to the base of the gondola or over to the Rila side. 

There are several car parks for Borovets, one towards the lower end of the resort, one at the gondola, one by the Samokov hotel and then you can drive higher up and park near the Yastrabets chair lift. But it is rather expensive at 10 levs a day for parking (5 levs if after 1.30pm I think). You can also get the free shuttle from the Gondola up to the Yastrabets chair if you do not want to go up to the gondola or if the queue is a bit big. 

Ski-ing Close to Borovets

Malyovitsa is 27km from Samokov and has 5 drag lifts, Govedartsi is just 10 minutes from Samokov and has one long run of 1700 metres served by one lift (not always open that often) and Sapareva Banya has a long chair and a drag lift and a couple of the hotels have their own drag lifts. We hope to be able to ski all these areas this season. 

Bug 1Bug 2Bug 3Bug 4Bug 5