Resort Profile: Bankso

By adamrowden, 6 Dec '12 at 11:11

Bansko enjoys the best snow record in Bulgaria, and is often regarded as the nation’s best. It is an old town that has relatively recently been turned into a cracking ski resort, with modern lifts and well groomed (by Bulgarian standards) pistes.

The town itself is situated at the bottom of the Pirin mountain in the south west of Bulgaria and it is 160km from Sofia. And, whilst there isn’t an abundance of skiing and snowboarding options, compared Alpine resorts, what it does have to offer is of a decent standard.

On the Slopes

As at present Bansko attracts mostly beginners and intermediates, the Tomba black can be nice and empty for belting all the way down (when the moguls have been flattened). Also the reds no.2 and no.4 are great for speed demons.

Right up until 2003/04 the draglifts of Bankso were only really accessible by army jeeps and minibuses, which would take you up a long and arduous 12km road. However, there is now an eight-seater gondola that takes skiers to Bunderishka, where there is a blue piste that can carry you back towards the main town. The gondola can, however, suffer large lift queues during the peak season.

This is a cracking resort for intermediates, so if you are thinking of working your first season, then it is probably a better choice for you than those vastly experienced riders.

Next to blue no.11 the snow park has a couple of massive tabletops and one or two small kickers. Burton AM have an event here every year, so after they've been the park improves quite a bit.

Off-Piste

Bunderitsa Couloirs: Eight couloirs on the western slope of Todorka, with the first two being just a few minutes hike from the top lift. They range from wide and relatively easy to narrow and pretty steep, so get some advice before you hit them.

Eastern Couloir: Crampons make this hike a bit easier, but it’s a pretty nice wide run when you get there – just watch out for avalanche danger as it's prone to slides.
North Face: Where the extreme Big Mountain Competitions are usually held, there are some good routes down with some challenging rocks, obvious couloir and a big cornice.

For the serious backcountry Bezbog, Dobrinishte to Bansko and the mountains behind the Todorka Peak are prone to having untracked powder stashes long after snowfall. There are plenty of huts used for walkers in the summer that make perfect refuges and lunch stops in the winter.

Knowing the route and being prepared is essential so going with an experienced local or a guide (always with transceivers, shovel and probe) is recommended, especially as at the time of writing there are no avalanche reports available in the resort and the Recco system is not yet supported.

Living in Resort

Due to the high number of apartments, finding something that is relatively close to the gondola but only a short walk to your favourite bar shouldn’t be too difficult.

If you want to chill out a bit more and save some cash, try one of the other villages, like Dobrinishte or Bachevo, but you'll need transport to get into Bansko.

There are loads of apartments in Bansko and if you start looking early you should be able to find reasonably priced rents, especially if you are not bothered about being next to the gondola.
The local buses run fairly regularly, if you can manage to find out the timetable from the surly staff at the station!

Tour operators, such as Neilson, send staff over here. Otherwise, there are a few independent British companies setup in Bansko, so check out the Natives listings, and if you can't find anything there, google and contact them directly. Working for a Bulgarian company doesn’t usually pay much (even for seasonaire wages) and involves really long hours.

Bars and Clubs
There are loads, but here are some of our favourites:

Happy End: Sitting right at the bottom of the main gondola, the Happy End club is a great après venue.
The Friendly Bar: Great live bands
The Lion Pub: Typical English pub, serving very good potato wedges!
Parfe: A bit more sophisticated for a chilled-out evening
Amigos: Great staff (one of whom won the bar-tending European championship two years running) who cheerfully encourage dancing on the bar.
Oxygen: Cave-like underground club with some great DJs (especially on Weds)
Amnesia: Decent club with a lively crowds and a good mix of music.
Retro Club: Can be good, as long as you don’t upset the HUGE bouncers!

Eating Out
There are literally hundreds of mehanas (taverns) dotted around, but here are some of the best:
The Metikita: up the mountain road past the gondola – their speciality pork dish is lovely, but you’ll need to book.
Kipreva Kushta: in Razlog so you’ll need transport but this is very popular with the locals and gets you away from the tourist traps.
Dedo Penne: near the old church in the old town, staff are very friendly and there is an interestingly shaped bit of modern art, or chunk of wood, depending on your point of view.
Friendly Bar: if you get bored of the mehanas, it’s a bit more expensive but the food is generally very good and a little bit different.
Mountain Restaurants
At Shiligarnika the food is better, but generally on the mountain the food is over-priced and the service not great. You’re better nipping back into town or taking a packed lunch! Having said that, pizza is usually a safe bet!

Away Days
Borovets is about 2 hours away and Vitosha is about 2.5 hours away, just remember to avoid the busy weekends. Sofia, the capital is an interesting city with great shopping, 2.5 hours away.
Plovdiv is a bit further away (using mountain roads), but is a much older city with an amphitheatre and a great old town.

Après Options
If you don’t fancy the bars you can try out the night skiing.
Or if you want to relax, you can always try out the Jacuzzi Bar – rest your limbs in the Jacuzzi whilst sipping a pricey cocktail, served by a waitress in a very small outfit (it’s warm in there).

[Thanks to Victoria Christopher for putting the majority of this guide together.]

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