I’m recently back from a week in Bansko, Bulgaria, with Snomads. They’re the environmentally-friendly, super cool chalet company who want to give you the ultimate ski holiday, for a decent price.
– The Snomads Diana Ross chalet, where I stayed
I’d been wanting to go to Bansko for yearssss, it’s known as the best value skiing in Europe. So, when Snomads invited me to check out what they’re doing to change the way we view chalet companies, I was well up for it.
I had a brilliant week – absolutely made by the lovely staff at the Snomads chalet. I really liked Bansko resort, the mountain slopes and the nearby Old Town too.
A week of skiing in Bansko
One of the best things about Bansko is that it’s not just about skiing – there are plenty of other activities to enjoy there too. If you’re looking for somewhere for a mixed group to ski, or it’s your first time, then I think Bansko would be my number one recommendation from anywhere I’ve ever skied.
– Bansko loves you, especially when you get to the top of the slope
You could go ice skating, check out the Old Town, go on a day trip to the nearby villages, visit a hot spring, or just hang out in the shops, bars and restaurants of the New Town. It’s not all about the skiing here, although obviously, it’s pretty important!
– Bansko Old Town is a great day out to explore
If you are planning on going skiing in Bansko then I’d absolutely 100%, no doubts, recommend going with Snomads.
“Snomads have been in Bansko, Bulgaria since 2012, providing independently-run chalet holidays with a responsible twist.
We’re a British team passionate about locally sourced, organic produce, making your catered stay with us as authentic and memorable as possible. Plus, we’re now Carbon Neutral and even offset all guest flights from the UK.
All our holidays include return airport transfers, daily shuttles to the slopes and unlimited wine, beer and local rakia with meals, allowing you to just kick back and enjoy the mountains.” – Snomads.
To see what a typical week would be like, in the Snomads in Bansko world, then read on.
Day in the life at Snomads in Bansko
7:30am wake up
I’d wake up and get mostly ready, in my thermals, and with the rest of my stuff I want to take packed up. I’d triple check I have my ski pass and money, which is just in the sleeve of my jacket, and head on down to breakfast.
Every day there was bread, jams, porridge and cereal for breakfast. Then, there’d be a changing hot option too. Over the week at Snomads we had pancakes, scrambled eggs, a delicious Turkish shakshuka and fried eggs too. There was always enough, and more if you wanted too.
Coffee, tea and local orange and apple juice came as standard.
You could ask for breakfast anytime you wanted the night before, between 7 and 9am.
– LOVING my head to toe TOG24 look. They’re a Yorkshire brand, making sturdy and cool ski wear for men and women. I had the thermal trousers, thermal top, gloves, trousers and coat to keep me warm in Bansko. They worked!
8:30am to the slopes and gondola
The whole chalet (just 4 of us this week) needed to be ready to go for 8:30am when the Snomads bus would do the 5-10 minute journey to the slopes. Boots, skis, poles, helmets, gloves, rucksack – all in the van ready for a day at the slopes.
The week I was there (11th to 18th January, 2019) was quiet, so I was told. If you’re in peak season you might want to book your Snomads transfer earlier to beat the gondola queues. I only ever queued about 15 minutes to get on, but I heard of queues taking over an hour sometimes.
Alternatively you can actually book a taxi to get up the mountain, which means you miss all the gondola queues and can get up to the top of the gondola quicker.
If you’re one of those skiers or snowboarders who cares about getting to the slopes first, then this is a great option. Get up there for the first lift opening!
9am coffee up the mountain
By the time I got to the top of the mountain it’d been about an hour since breakfast so I liked to go to the nicer toilets, in the restaurant pictured above, to the right of the gondola.
The coffees were a little more in here but I found it was a nice rest from the furore of getting up, and a good way to start the day with a coffee, and some decent toilets.
I liked to just sit in here and chat to my friend Dan while I worked up the energy to ski, basically.
9:30 ski, ski, ski
And then, lift off. I skied for four of the six days I was in Bansko. I pretty much skied every red and blue on the mountain. I didn’t really feel the need to ski another day, thanks to the pain in my feet, the aches in my body, and the fact I felt like I’d done all I could.
I loved my morning ski though. Being on the very top of the mountain was just incredible, and also, kinda scary for some reason. We were just SO high up there – 2600m to be precise.
I had one lesson while I was in Bansko. To be fair I probably should’ve done another one, but, being cocky, I just felt like I knew enough and never felt the need to be any better.
For some reason I did feel like I got worse as the week went on, so maybe I could’ve done with another skiing lesson in Bansko really. All the lessons start at 11am.
I enjoyed the lesson I had though. The instructor was really nice and the two other students in the class were about the same level so I didn’t feel intimidated, or like I was wasting my time.
Ski lessons in Bansko are around 55 BGN / £24 per two hours, and in a class of three I definitely got my money’s worth. You can bulk book for less. When we checked in to our chalet with Snomads they organised what we wanted and booked us in. You can also do this before you leave if you want to save the faff.
Bansko resort is all about pizza. Pizzas everywheerrrrre. They’re pretty big though so the two I had, I shared. Food is understandably more expensive up the mountain than down the bottom, but it’s totally worth it for the views right?
– Pizza lunch for two at Ethno, by the gondola at the bottom in Bansko
One of the things I became obsessed with in Bansko was just how good their potatoes were – both fried and roasted. Also, chips and cheese is a big thing here. The local Bulgarian cheese is YUM, and combined with the tasty fries made up at least three tasty meals for me.
If you want a healthier choice, you can get soup in most places too. I had a tasty chicken soup at Kolibata on the ski road, which was only a few levs, and worked so well with the cheesy chips that I felt the need to order on the side.
At this time the bars at the top of the gondola were getting going with pumping music and the odd person dancing on top of the snow plough, trying to get the crowd going.
“With around 75km of well-groomed pistes, 5 blue, 9 red and 2 black pistes, 9km of cross-country skiing, modern lifts, 161 snow guns and with the highest point being 2600m; Bansko is a clear winner.”
2pm ski again
Annnnd back up to ski. I stayed skiing till 5ish on the first day but the slopes were getting icy and I was cold so I didn’t do it again. I usually left at around 3pm.
It was great to give it another go with the energy of lunch though.
One of the best things about skiing in Bansko is that you can ski right back down into the town, all the way. It’s known as the Bansko Ski Road and is actually 7km long. I felt every km on the first day but then really enjoyed it from then on.
There are two apres bars on the way and it’s a super easy ski, with just a few little slopes. My new friend Florence, from the chalet, managed it after two lessons. Basically you just stood there and your skis took you to the bottom of the mountain.
My kinda skiing.
You come out at the bottom of the gondola, with all the apres bars in easy reach.
The most popular bar for the apres party was Happy End, at the bottom of the gondola. We tried to go on the second day, but seriously, it was SO loud. I’m not being old. We wanted to eat and chat and there was no chance of that.
Instead we went to Ethno just over the road. Tasty pizzas, huge beers and a bit of rakia too.
When in Bulgaria…
One of my other favourite bars was Jack’s House, which served two beers or mulled wines for the price of one. Their mulled wine was deelish. To be honest I’d had a few rank mulled wines in Bansko before I discovered this place so it was a welcome addition to my Bansko bars arsenal.
It’s nice and cosy inside and apparently the place to be a bit later on in the day too.
5pm pick up
Snomads would come and pick you up anytime between 4 and 5, although you needed to give them some notice beforehand. They’d come in the van and collect whoever was around to take them back.
5:15pm snack and rakia
On some of the nights we’d arrive back to a little snack – popcorn, or chocolate cake. It felt good to top up the energy levels with that and a hot tea or coffee from the tea station.
One night we asked to try some of the rakia, which they had a massive vat of. We had a little jug to enjoy. Go on, try it.
Snomads have a hot tub to ease those muscles after a day on the slopes. It’s always on so you can use it whenever you want. We went in twice over the week, with a few beers from the Snomads honesty bar to help us wind down.
One day we went to the nearby hot springs. Bulgaria has the most amount of hot springs in Europe, after Iceland, and so it’d be rude not to. It was so nice being in the water with a G+T of two.
I wouldn’t say the massage was worth it – seemed very expensive for Bulgaria, especially when I learnt it was only for half an hour, but the rest of the hot springs experience was really good. I’d definitely take Snomads up on the offer to drive you out there, if they do.
Every night we had a delicious three-course dinner cooked for us by the chalet crew. Didn’t have to lift a finger.
Just as an example:
Starter: Goat’s cheese tart.
Main: Locally sourced trout with veggies and potatoes.
Dessert: Chocolate bread and butter pudding.
Through the week we also had a hot pot, an amazing cauliflower cheese burger, some tasty, tasty, pork belly and on the final night, a mezze platter feast.
So much food. There’s no way you’ll go hungry at the Snomads chalets!
There was always loads, even after a day apparently burning 300 calories an hour on the slopes. And wine and beer came with the meal, as much as you liked between starter and dessert. What more could you want?
On the week I was there the four of us were a chatty lot so we basically sat round the table finishing off the wine we’d ordered and putting the world to rights.
There was a games room downstairs though, with an N64 and loads of board games. Or you could use the sauna or hot tub, or generally just chill out.
Night out in Bansko
We did go out in Bansko on one night. Every Wednesday the chalet staff have the day off and so we went for dinner, bowling and karaoke in the town. Of course we ended up at a bar, and then another club, and then, got a taxi home.
Be careful of those rum free pours!
Why do Bansko with Snomads?
– They have ski hire on site, so you know your stuff will be cared for and looked after. Also means you don’t have to trudge out to a ski shop on your first night, just go across the garden.
– The food was so nice. I didn’t really make the most of the breakfasts, as it was so early, but the dinners were yum. I also really enjoyed just having what they’d made, rather than deciding. This made sure I tried some new things.
– Oh and make sure to leave some money for a tip for the chalet hosts. I had to put my English money in as I didn’t realise it was a thing. They work really hard to make sure we have a good time.
– Free wine and beer with meals, and an honesty bar throughout the day. Always a drink when you need one!
– Weeks at Snomads start from around £300, which includes your airport transfer, 6 dinners, 7 breakfasts, 7 nights accommodation and a hot tub and sauna, whenever you want it.
From the moment I was picked up from the airport I felt like they had my back. The Snomads team are all so lovely and I felt like they genuinely just wanted us all to have a great time, and whatever they can do to help with this, they will.
* I was invited to stay at Snomads in return for a review on my blog. I had a brilliant week and wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Snomads to anyone who wants to practice their skiing in Bansko.
Just let me know in the comments below if you have any questions.