Pamporovo ski resort
One of Bulgaria’s leading ski areas, Pamporovo has gone from strength to strength since its privatisation in the early years of this century.
Although still offering one of the most affordable winter sports options in Europe, the resort, located in the country’s Rhopdope Mountains, has shed some of its budget-only image. Now visitors can find several modern, 3- and 4-star properties gracing the base of the slopes, with similar investment being made on fast, comfortable chairlifts on the mountain.
Despite on-going expansion plans, the extent of the slopes remains very modest compared to the well known areas in the Alps, with less than 500m (1,640ft) of lift-served vertical. Consequently more advanced skiers will likely find themselves unenthused with the offering.
Pamporovo therefore is best suited to beginners and early intermediates, and due to its location as one of the most southerly resorts in Europe, it is also one of the continent’s sunniest ski areas.
Pamporovo lies in the centre of the Rhodope mountain chain in southwestern Bulgaria, 260km (162 miles) from the capital Sofia. The range borders Greece and peaks at Mount Snezhanka, which is 1,926m high (6,319ft).
On the slopes
In spite of its low altitude, sunny weather and mild climate, Pamporovo usually enjoys a reasonable snowfall with a season lasting between late December and the middle of April. The automatic snowmaking system helps to maintain reliable cover on most of the terrain when snow is scarce, and there have also been recent improvements to the lift network with the addition of several quads and a six-seater chairlift.
Most of the main runs fan out from the peak at Mount Snezhanka, which has a viewing tower at the top. Advanced skiers and boarders have limited options, including the Snezhanka 2 black run (known as ‘The Wall’).
The majority of the runs are suited to beginners and intermediates, including the main beginners’ ‘Tourist Track’, a 4.2km-long (2.6 miles) trail from the peak to the base. The ski schools here have a good reputation and employ over 100 qualified instructors, while ski gear can be hired at both Malina and Studenets.
In addition to over 37km (22 miles) of ski runs, there are also 38km (24 miles) of cross-country ski tracks and some off-piste opportunities for experts. The two main cross-country trails connect the villages of Studenetz and Mugla and Ardashla and Stoykite.
Snowboarders, meanwhile, can enjoy the fun park, which also includes a halfpipe – the first to be constructed in the country.