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02 January 2013

Skiing in the Tatra Mountains

Jacqueline Wise explores mountains of Poland and Slovakia

Words and pictures by Jacqueline Wise.

Can’t afford to go skiing this year? Think again. It’s time to widen your snowy horizons! Skiing in the Tatra Mountains in Central Europe could provide an exciting and affordable alternative to consider this season as I found out for myself.

Having always enjoyed the excellent skiing available in the Alps and USA I did have reservations about what I might find in Poland and Slovakia. However, unable to afford a ski holiday that fitted my friend’s and my own frugal budgets, we set out to see what other options were out there...

Arriving in March in Zakopane, Poland, we were greeted with boyish enthusiasm by Sunshine World’s Managing Director Alan Garcia. An exceptional skier/boarder and entrepreneur he promised us a ‘totally epic’ time - and the first day did not disappoint. Glorious sunshine prevailed across the whole mountain as we explored the slopes. There were no one-man lifts to be seen as I had been led to believe; instead mostly fast chairlifts, some even with heated seats!

Skiing in Zakopane

At lunch a hearty soup, Polish ‘Kabanos’ sausages  and beer came to no more than a fiver a head, which went down exceptionally well. The food in general was tasty and very cheap with a three-course meal easily available for around £15. Also, worth looking out for is the traditional cylindrical shaped GoÅ‚ka cheese, an excellent mid-lift snack. Zakopane also offers a decent park where I was delighted that my nerve prevailed and I managed to conquer various jumps, rails and a massive dome. My friends loved it; the blow up landing pad had some of them spinning upside down in no time. After just five days of experience on snow the Sunshine World instructors even had one of my friends successfully doing back and front flips! However, although the beginners and first time skiers in the group were content, some of us soon felt the need to explore further afield, especially as the snow was starting to disappear.

In addition to the popular cable car to Mount Kasprowy, the funicular to GubaÅ‚ówka hill and chairlifts in Polana Szymaszkowa, Harenda and Nosal offer good skiing. However, those of us in the group who were relatively experienced still sought something a little more stretching after a time - someone used to the size and choice in the Alps could risk feeling a bit constricted. This was further exasperated as the areas and lift passes are not linked together. This is where a trip to Slovakia can come into play. Basing yourself in Poland is an exceptionally affordable option and gives you the chance to find your ski legs for the beginning of your trip and then to move onto more challenging pistes if you desire.

Skiing in Zakopane

The trip to Chopok Sever 2024m in Slovakia took a few hours by mini bus on slightly alarming icy roads, but soon we were being whisked up a breath-taking mountain in our cosy bubble lift. We skied all day and still had plenty left to explore; the Biela Put' chair lift and Otupne cable car making things rather quick and simple. The pistes were immaculate even lower down the mountain with good quality compacted snow. Almost 80% of the resort has new snow cannons, so skiing is guaranteed for five months of the season and we were lucky to have the real fresh stuff. The resort is also building a 24 seat cable car Funitel Priehyba, which will be capable, I am told, of transporting 30,000 people per hour, even on the more windy days.

The food here’s also incredibly good value with a three-course meal coming to only 11 Euros a head in the ‘Wellness Hotel Chopok.’ Later in the day a blizzard set in; some of the more challenging blacks we had yet to explore were closed off.  This was very disappointing, however at Al’s suggestion we took a route through the trees, which literally just ran on and on. I've never enjoyed a piste more! We skied for what seemed like forever through twisting and beautiful forests layered in fresh snow. Narrow at times and with jumps off-piste either side; it was one of those runs that sticks in your head. Unfortunately, it was the last run of the day and it certainly left us wanting more.

There’s no doubt that the Tatras are beautiful and have excellent skiing at a very attractive price. However, to fully enjoy a holiday in this region, especially if you are an experienced skier, you must remember that variation is the key. Ensure you make the effort to travel around and who knows, you might be very pleasantly surprised on what’s on offer in this region.

Sunshine World (020 7581 4736 sunshineworldpoland.com) is a company specialising in affordable winter holidays for British skiers and snowboarders has introduced a number of credit-crunch specials – including a seven-night ski and/or snowboarding package to Zakopane from £495 per person. Includes airport transfers from Kraków, half-board accommodation in a catered chalet, equipment hire, professional English-speaking instruction, lift passes, transfers to and from slopes, fully ATOL protected including direct, return flights. Three-night weekend trips are also available from £185 per person, excluding flights.

More about Zakopane on skiclub.co.uk

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