Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Good late season cold and dry powder from the Balkan!

We woked up on a beautiful and warm day in a greek resort named Vasilitsa. As we were getting ready for skiing, we realized we didn't have any euros to buy the tickets. The ski resort, being small and local, didn't take our credit card.
After some talking and negotiations with the nice and friendly ticket seller, she let me have the two passes for free because Greeks are just really nice people!!! We were excited about saving the 8 euros the day ticket cost.

We took the chairlift and made it to the top. After one run down the upper chairlift, this later one broke down and would be down for the whole day…. Another badluck with the chairlift (after Popova Sapka)! Nevertheless, we found some really good snow on the nearby sidecountry!

Surprinsingly, a 10m vertical hike that took us 5 minutes has discouraged the greek skiers to come get the goods near the lower chair! This would be our playground for the day as the groomed runs weren't much exciting.

After debating about some ski spots to hit on the drive up to Budapest, we finally agreed about going to Kozuf in Macedonia. We used the toll-highway and made it back to Macedonia pretty fast. We slept in Gevgelija, a small town just past the border.

From Gevgelija, we followed the signs to make it towards Kozuf. It is pretty well indicated and rather surprisingly easy to follow the good road on the hour or so it took us from Gevgelija to the last town before Kozuf called Smrdliva Voda. We then realize a new sign as been put on the indications: ROAD CLOSED.

We checked out with some rather alcohol smelly locals the different options to figured out there was no way we would be able to make it up to Kozuf for the day. It was too bad since apparently, this local mountain features some really nice terrain both inbounds and out of bounds. While trying to get up the road, we met Zlatko Paliluleski, a really motivated Macedonian skier. He was so stoked about meeting some Canadians who were in his country for skiing that he invited us for a coffee to talk about the different skiing options in the Balkans.

We went to a small coffee in Gevgelija that seemed more out from a hype neighbour of Montreal than from a little town of Macedonia. Around a good cold-sugary-creamy style coffee, we spend some hours talking about skiing and also the political struggle of Macedonia to get recognized as a country of the United Nation.

He convinced us to go to Bansko, Bulgaria… even if we had statued the day before that we wouldn't go there because it was too far.

This resort is probably the biggest in the Balkans and features all the modern facilities you would expect from your favourite resort. It has been the host of a Men's Ski World Cup at the end of February and the slope they are using for this event is one of the most impressive I have seen in any resorts.

As you load in the gondola, there is not a flake of snow on the ground but this high speed lift takes you to the base of this impressive resort. Bansko Resort has mainly wide groomed runs that were pretty hard since it had been warm in the past days and it was just a bit too cold to melt the slopes on our visit. The top of the resort features backcountry access to a nice steep face.


Unfortunately, most of the best top lines have already been skied. We gave a try to the lower part since it was north facing, The snow was not deep but pretty dry and soft. There was even a ski out back to the chairlift.

After having few laps, we randomly bumped into the Swiss family that sent us down towards Vasilitsa. After some talking for some times, Germain (the Dad) decided to come check out the slope with his 7 year old kid, Alex.

He hiked the 100m vertical without taking any break and without complaining. After some help of his dad to clean his boot, he clicked his skis on and traverse to the open bowl without hesitating. He skied down without too much problem and even made the ski out throughout the tight trees faster than us! He was certainly one of the most hardcore 7 years old I have skied with!

On the hike up towards the little north face at the top, there is a nice long open face. We figured it would be a great way to finish our day. After crossing onto the slope, I realized that a shaded side of a couloir had nice soft snow but it was steep!

This is certainly the steepest slope I have been on with Amelie! We both made it down without much problem ! I was quite proud of Amelie to be able to ski down without complaining (for once!!!). Her legs were shaking as we got to the bottom from all the steep turns!

We have previously agreed with the Swiss couple to meet them later on and after a good soak into a hot-tub, we joined them from a few drinks. A really nice finish to a nice meeting deep down in the Balkans. We have planned to go to Malyovitsa today. This small resort is just next to Borovets and is supposedly featuring some really good backcountry.


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