Skiing in Zakopane

By | Category: Travel destinations

Jane takes the budget option in Zakopane, Poland’s winter capital and enjoys her first skiing trip in three years

“Only red or black runs; no intermediates or beginners”, I was warned before setting off. So, with a wing and a prayer and an article to write, I set off on my first skiing trip in three years.

There are many reasons to pick Zakopane, Poland’s winter capital: it’s a mid-sized resort, with 50 or so ski lifts, and plenty of charm. Its pretty wooden chalets, which line the pedestrianised main street, horse-drawn sleighs and abundant regular snow fall are just some of them. The main draw, though, is that the Polish resort offers very decent skiing conditions at a fraction of a price of other Alpine alternatives.

As I lurch up the slopes in one of Europe’s oldest cable cars, I take some comfort from the fact that Zakopane has a Papal blessing. Pope John Paul came from hereabouts and loved to holiday at this spot in the Tatras, the highest alpine range in this region of Europe that’s situated about 60 miles south of Crakow near the Slovakian border.

My party flew Wizz Air from Luton to Crakow (with flights from under £30, this option is a huge tick for budget conscious travellers from the UK). We then took a very reasonably priced bus ride for 15 zloty (about £3) for the two-hour trip from Kracow. It is also possible to drive – although the roads can become very crowded, particularly at weekends – or take the train, but this is a much slower journey.

We splashed out on the Hotel Belvedere Resort and Spa, a very reasonably priced four-star option, although we could have had a very decent chalet for about 20 pounds if we had really wanted to save money. If you want to do your trip on a tight budget, just look for Poles standing by the side of the road holding up signs saying noclegi or pokoje, advertising rooms in houses – usually for well under £10.

In general, the prices here were at least half of those found in ski resorts in Western Europe. Dinner could be had for around £15. We indulged ourselves with a few, very necessary I thought, bison vodkas at the bar which rang in for under two pounds each, with the cab home only costing about the same (don’t get your taxi from the rank in town, but ask someone to call you one as you will save about 30 percent of the price).

The next day only slightly worse for wear and raring to go, I set out for Kasprowy Wierch on the edge of town. Right in the heart of the Tatra mountains, this is by far and away Poland’s most popular mountain for skiing and snowboarding, which is why you are advised to reserve tickets for the cable car (which operates from Kuznice) well ahead of time. This area is not only Poland’s biggest but offers the best skiing conditions. Carving my route downhill, I enjoyed an exhilarating scene of sheltered, snow-covered spruce forest and a varied terrain which included deep bowls, towering granite ridges and some funneled runs.

Another option is Gubalówka, which is particularly popular with adrenaline junkies thanks to its very steep drop offs. This area can be reached by tram and enjoys artificial snowing systems and lighting, as does Polana Szymoszkowa, Nosal, and Koziniec (this last option is particularly good for beginners). In all areas, a ski pass costs around £12-20 pounds (although the ski pass system varies from slope to slope), ski (or snowboard) hire can be had for as little at £7 per day and a one on one ski lesson for about 10 pounds an hour, which is an unqualified bargain.

Zakopane enjoys a ski season which runs from the middle of December to the end of March, although this sometimes stretches to as long as the end of May. I would recommend that you get a snow report from the tourist office before setting off as conditions tend to be very unpredictable.

Need to know

Hotel Belvedere Resort & Spa
Droga do Białego 3
34-500 Zakopane
Tel: +48 (0) 18 20 21 200

Wizz Air
Tel: 036 30 664 9355

Zakopane Tourist Board

Polish Tourist Board

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