SkiBike Tour 2013-14 - Borovets Bulgarian Chic

Posted: Saturday, 8 March 2014 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , , ,

There was a bounty of snow overnight snow which showed no sign of abating this morning. Our rooms at The Green King were a moments walk from the Ystrebetz Gondola station, which serves as the backbone of the Borovets network of pistes and the only way to reach the top of the mountain.

Ystrebetz Gondola station

Alex had been expecting it to be larger, it turned out to be a vintage fibreglass and perspex clad bubble designed for six small skiers with their skis placed on the external rack and not modern skibikes and their riders. Stood in the lift queue the possibility of getting an  Avalanche Downhill Skibike to fit, looked like a 50/50 bet. Surrounded by a large crowd we decided that "Discretion was the better part of valour" and decided to find a different area to warm up.
Avoiding the nightmare Martinovi Baraki chairlift that had proved such a challenge last night we found the much safer Sityakovo detachable chairlift. It serves an area to the left of the resort map with some pleasant woodland glades and intermediate runs.

Borovets is in the middle of a huge forest with giant fir trees that wouldn't look out of place on the West coast of America, Canada or possibly even Alaska. The runs were pretty much spot on for a start to the day, but the sheer amount of falling snow made it difficult to see where you are going. As someone who wears glasses, I gave up on goggles years ago and find the combination of full face helmet alone adequate for all conditions. Manos was struggling with his goggles and riding without them was too painful, after a couple of runs he decided to call it quits, leaving just Alex and I to continue exploring this area.

I gave up on goggles years ago

Others must have decided to do the same as there was virtually no queue for the Yastrebetz Gondola when we made our second attempt to see if you can fit an Avalanche Downhill Skibike into a vintage six seater gondola. With some good natured much needed assistance from the lift operators, the answer was yes, but only just.

Seated facing backwards, watching the valley below shrink and disappear into the clouds, my reverie was disturbed by a sudden rattle, I was in the top station and made a speedy exit. Heading outside the building and to my horror, I realised that I had disembarked at a mid-station leaving Alex to ascend to the summit alone. I waited in vain for a few minutes to see if he would appear, then continued cautiously down the narrow mountain rack in solitude.
Shortly after, I heard a familiar voice behind me "Hey Malakas", he had made exactly the same error and we continued together back to the gondola for a second bite of the cherry.
Heading back to the gondola for a second bite of the cherry

The top station is quite high at around 2000m and close to the highest point in the entire Balkan peninsular. With the cable car nearby I expect it is a popular spot in the summer for; picnics, mountain bike jaunts and hiking, which would explain the disproportionately high choice of mountain eateries for such an elevated and isolated spot.

A high choice of mountain eateries for such an elevated spot

Today it is somewhat bleak in the near white-out conditions, something I am familiar with, but perhaps a little inclement for Alex. Consulting the map and checking with other snow users we soon located Borovets hidden treasure, the Musala Pathway. It is for the most part a mountain road, but sections of which have much more of a boarder cross feeling with banked turns and quarter pipes. What should be noted is that the run is 12 Km in length, yes that's a boarder cross run nearly 10 miles long and I'm not joking. For this reason, the family groups, with tiny tots on skis are interspersed with dudes on boards giving it large.

The Musala Pathway a boarder cross style run nearly 10 miles long

We managed to get in a couple of trips down this delightful run before the end of day and I suspect we will come back tomorrow with Manos so he can try it out too.

We had arranged to relocate to the Alpin Village chalets for tonight's stay. It was a few Euros more than staying at The Green King, but worth every cent to have such a cosy environment located on the side of the piste, with the promise of breakfast at the adjacent hotel in the morning.

Alpin Village chalets - good location

In the evening we took a stroll around Borovets to pick up a few provisions, but like Bansko the endless hawking of the restaurants and other establishments becomes as tiresome as mosquitoes on a humid summer night.

Come inside my friend, best meal in all Bulgaria, waitresses very clean.... You like shooting? My sister make you shoot real quick.... Hashish, Marijuana, Cocaine, Pills?

I try to imagine how Megeve, Les Diablerets, Sorenberg or Aviemore would feel if they had such a bazaar atmosphere. I'm sure in all these places such delights could be obtained, but discretely, maybe it is just my repressive Catholic upbringing seeping through. To me it feels seedy and louche, Borovets has the potential to be so much more than this; with its mighty peaks and majestic  pine forest, packed with trees laden with fresh snow, the air always tinged with the acid bite of wood smoke; it drags down the tone of what could so easily become a resort area to rival any in the Alps.


  1. tjbb says:

    Great report Mark. You are giving insight into the resorts in great detail and this is really useful for all ski bikers. Much appreciated. 12km is closer to 7 miles, although this is in itself a huge distance. What was the food like and will you be returning any time soon?

  1. I'm glad you liked the report, I do my best to capture the flavour of a place and "tell it like it is".
    The food was hit and miss affair, the constant hawking drove us off. Many of our meals were "fat food" sourced from the supermarkets. I tried out a lot of things in plastic packages with Cyrillic writing on them, all were combinations of fat, salt and sugar, some tasty others not.
    The best meals were to be found at BJ's bar in Borovets and was the sort of fare you might find in say TGI Fridays. It was all made from fresh ingredients and was in stark contrast to the somewhat tasteless items offered elsewhere. My favourite Bulgarian dish was Shopska salad.