New Year’s and mid-term school breaks are that time of the year when many people in Europe go on vacation. As you can probably guess, this means that the gondola lift line in Bansko will be longer than normal, much longer (and this doesn’t apply for Bansko only, but for many other ski resorts too). Thankfully, the situation on the slopes is better, with normal lines on the lifts. To make your stay more pleasant we have put together a list of tips for getting to the slopes faster. Mind that outside mid-term holidays lifts queues run smoother and without delays.
It’s all about timing and being organized. The best time to be on the line is 15-30min before the gondola opens. Normally it starts at 08:30 but during peak seasons (February most of all) it sometimes opens at 08:00 (check exact working hours when you get there). While many other ski shops open at 08:30-09:00, Ski & Board Traventuria (www.skibansko.bg) opens at 07:00 and for our clients getting on time on the lift queue is generally not a problem. The lift line starts to diminish at around 11:30-12:00, but is still substantial. As with any big line, it’s best to be patient and not try to push or cut ahead. In the morning the slope conditions are much better, than in the afternoon and you can expect to get some quality skiing done by noon.
GET YOUR LIFT PASSES AND EQUIPMENT HIRE BEFOREHAND
The key is to already have a lift pass, you have done your ski fitting and collected your equipment hire all before you get to the gondola!
If you have to get your card from the ticket desk at the gondola, before queuing for the lift itself, you’re guaranteed to be waiting a while (and potentially skip your ski lessons if these start in the morning). By the time the ticket desks opens, the line for the gondola will likely already be over an hour (or two!) long. Save yourself the hassle by buying yours the previous night unless you have pre-booked it as a part of a ski package. From Thursday to Saturday the ticket desks work all day until later in the evening, so you have plenty of time. There are also hotels, where you can buy lift tickets from (they change every year, so better check before arrival; normally these include hotels MPM Sport, Kempinski Grand Arena etc.). These hotels offer normal lift tickets at their receptions at the normal rate. The bonus is that you can get it earlier and on your way to the gondola. If you have pre-booked a ski pass along with your rental equipment (and/or lessons), you should be able to receive yours from the ski shop of your supplier the previous evening.
Picking the right rental shop is crucial! Make sure they open early enough for you to be able to go, get your skis (and boots fitted the previous evening!) and be at the lift on time before it opens. The best time to visit a rental shop and pick out skis and boots is before 15:00 on the day before you start skiing. This is when there is the least amount of work in the rental shops and you can be fitted without waiting, in a calmer environment. For those of you who have booked your equipment online with Ski & Board Traventuria (www.skibansko.bg), you will be able to choose a fitting time that best suits you. It is good to go to the shop when they are expecting you, as otherwise you may need to wait for other clients to finish first.
If the ski equipment is booked with Ulen (ask your supplier!) you won’t be able to get fitted on the previous day! And this means again that you can hardly make it on time for the morning ski lessons on your first skiing day. With Ski & Board Traventuria though (www.skibansko.bg) you can get fitted (and collect your lift passes) on the day before your ski packs start, which will save you a lot of time and hassle.
Another option is to book a hotel that offers VIP ski passes to its clients, ensuring a straight entry to the Gondola through a fast lane. These are most often the top 5* hotels such as Kempinski Grand Arena, Hotel Premier, Lucky etc., so you are guaranteed to pay considerably more for a hotel itself (necessary in case you wish to get a VIP pass) and the VIP lift pass as an addition. VIP passes can only be purchased by clients of these hotels. Also keep in mind that VIP passes cost more and if you have already booked and paid your normal ski pass elsewhere, you won’t be able to upgrade it.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE GONDOLA
The gondola isn’t the only way to climb the mountain. There is also an asphalt road that leads up the mountain to the top gondola station, which is new and cleaned regularly. This opens up a few alternative ways to get to the slopes. Keep in mind that parking space up top is very limited and is a nightmare to navigate and find a spot. The police even stops cars from going up if things get too bad. You could easily find yourself spending more time finding a parking spot (or waiting for the road to open), than just waiting for the gondola. Right next to the line for the gondola, you can find another, smaller line. This one is for the free shuttle buses, operated by Ulen, that take guests to the top. The queue for the bus line moves faster, but the buses themselves are a little slow to get to the top because of traffic. They will drop you off at Bunderishka Poliana (the upper Gondola station), and are only available for people, who already have a valid lift pass. At the peak of the day, they aren’t much faster than waiting for the gondola, as traffic on the mountain road will slow them down.
Some private buses and taxis offer paid service to the top gondola station. We, here at Ski & Board Traventuria, are also offering such a service in February (check with us for details as this services is not something we offer every day by default). The price is 10BGN per person. The buses start as soon as they get full, just outside our ski shop (we open at 07:00). You can come by our rental shop to find out more and book a seat.
Some hotels offer their own shuttles, which are free, to the bottom lift station. But some also offer paid transport to the top station. Ask at your hotel’s reception if this option is available. Other people use a taxi to get to the top gondola station. You can even make a deal with the driver to drive you up every day and bargain a discount. Finding a taxi after 9:00 can be hard, next to impossible. For those of you with a car, there is a big chance that you won’t be able to make it up if you leave too late.
If you’re attending ski school, it’s good to be at the top gondola station 15-30 minutes before it starts. Previous years, ski school participants of Ulen could use the VIP lane, but it is all down to the staff at the lift station and definitely not something you can rely on. If you don’t want to miss your lessons, make sure to be up as early as possible, although this might mean to wait for a while before the lessons start. If you are at the bottom gondola station at 09:00, you will surely wont make it in time for ski school, which normally starts at 10:00. Most ski schools don’t offer refunds for no-shows.
SKIING IN THE CROWDS
Even though the lift lines on the mountain itself are small, compared to what most people have just been through to get there, the slopes can be crowded at times. This is due to the big amount of beginners that visit Bansko this time of year. The easier the slope, the more people there will be on it. The most crowded are the ski road, the N.10, and N.1 ski slopes. We highly suggest being careful on the slopes and mindful of those around you. Always wear a helmet, you never know when some other skier is going to crash into you. If you don’t have a helmet, you can rent one from our shop. If you see small children on the slope, slow down and go around them. Overtaking kids at speed is dangerous and stresses them out much faster. If you’re planning on taking a lunch break on the slopes, keep in mind that you’re probably not the only one who has thought of it. The restaurants can be very full at times and the service – slow. We suggest a bigger breakfast and some small snack for the pistes. This way you won’t lose an hour of skiing just to eat.
Ski & Board Traventuria is a leading provider of lift passes, equipment rental, airport transfers, and ski school for the Bansko area. To book your next ski vacation in Bansko with us, please check our website – www.skibansko.bg