16 Oct 2019

Do I need to be fit and how do I prepare?

October 16, 2019
 
Preparation for a ski/board trip is key. This is especially true if you are a beginner, as there will be many falls (on soft snow!), and lots of physical demands, such as carrying skis. So, to get most enjoyment out of your trip, the best advice is to prepare your body for a week on the slopes.

One of the key challenges is the strain put on your thighs as you ski. After a day many will find their legs complaining and shaking, and you can avoid this by being prepared. Core stability is also key, for balance, for a good ski posture, and to get up when you fall.

As with all sport, warming up and stretching at the end of the day are important. Some hotels will have saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs, all of which help to soothe aching muscles to get you prepped for another day.

Many UK gyms have pre-trip get fit courses, which target key areas for skiing/boarding. At a gym an instructor should be able to provide key exercises for you. Many swear by long runs to prepare you for long days on the slopes. Others swear by yoga to prepare, and during the trip to wind down of an evening.

You can find apps online and tips on these websites, skiclub.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk and welove2ski. You can buy equipment which will help you train, such as the Skier’s Edge T5 Big Mountain which mimics the movements of skiing to improve strength, stamina and muscle memory.

Another system to try is the Skia.com Ski Trainer, which is a series of blocks to put under your ski boot (you do try this at home or in your ski accommodation) to enable you to find the optimal position for your weight on your boots. It’s not at all easy, but a lot of fun wobbling around trying to balance.

If nothing else, one tip is to sit against a wall for increasing periods from 30 seconds to 5 minutes and more. Ensure you are sat low, with your bottom in line with your knees, and your back pushed hard into the wall behind you. You may need help to get up in the beginning, but you’ll thank us.


In truth, with all the excess of food and drink often consumed on a ski trip, you will likely not lose any weight, despite skiing all day.

8 Oct 2019

Skiing Made Easy - Part 4: Where should I go?

October 08, 2019

Your choice of ski destinations is vast, from Japan to Scotland, from New Zealand to Lebanon. (According to Wikipedia, a Lebanese engineering student returning from studying in Switzerland brought back the sport of skiing in the early twentieth century.)

Why choose the Balkans?

What Bulgaria offers is unique. It’s a down-to-earth, fun and great value ski/board destination. Many are sceptical, then return year after year, having fallen in love with the place.

It’s the ideal place to learn to ski, everything is easy and straightforward and you are not competing for slope time with many advanced skiers. There is a warm welcome from the teams in resort, and the après is inexpensive and fun. What’s more, there is accommodation for every pocket, from self-catering apartments to 5* luxury properties. Many hotels have indoor pools and gyms, and many are within walking distance of the resort centres.

Bulgaria is straightforward to get to with flights to Sofia, and speedy and simple transfers onward to a choice of three resorts.

Ski/board tuition is in English, with friendly and small groups and instructors. The mountains are not vast, so those who fear getting lost need not fear.

Choose from Bansko, Borovets or Pamporovo.

Bansko is the main resort, and where most skiers and boarders start. It combines breath-taking scenery, excellent ski facilities and warm hospitality. It is a traditional Bulgarian town which adds charm. The base of the lift can be busy in the morning, but it’s worth it.

Borovets can be even cheaper, and is considered the liveliest of the Bulgarian resorts. It combines great skiing/boarding by day with fun après.

Pamporovo has picturesque scenery and less crowded slopes. There’s something for everyone here, with perfect slopes for beginners and intermediates and more challenging steeps.

Slovenia

A beautiful place to ski with stunning landscapes and friendly resorts. It won’t challenge the very advanced, but many fall in love with the warm welcome and the good quality hotels and come back time and time again. Choose to stay in Kranjska Gora, Lake Bled or Lake Bohinj.

Romania

The majestic Southern Carpathian Mountains that cut through Romania have long been popular with international tourists heading for the skillfully prepared slopes.

Romania's most popular and most developed ski resort is Poiana Brasov, which continues to grow in popularity each year due to the continued investment in its infrastructure.

Early bookers will find numerous discounts and reductions. Christmas, New Year and half term book up very quickly. It’s easier to find availability in January and March.

1 Oct 2019

Skiing Made Easy - Part 3: What do I need for my first trip?

October 01, 2019

The first thing to do is to get your trip booked well ahead of time to give you plenty of time to get ready. Here are our top ten things to thing about:


1. UK indoor ski slopes


It’s very worthwhile to book lessons at an indoor slope. There are different sorts of slopes, from very old and decrepit to new and pristine.

Highly recommended is a trip to a ‘real snow’ slope, where snow is made and the temperature is kept low.

It makes a fun day out, especially as often you’ll find the slopes positioned close to shops, cinemas and restaurants. It is possible to get a feel for skiing in one day, but many slopes offer a short course to give you confidence before you go. If you are taking children to the slopes, you’ll be pleased to know there are often relaxing areas overlooking the slopes so you can keep an eye on your child’s progress, and have a moment to yourself.

We recommend the following slopes:

Manchester’s Chill Factore
Hemel Hempstead’s The Snow Centre
Milton Keynes’s Snozone


You may also come across mini-slopes like those at Chel-Ski and at We are Vertigo, Belfast. There are also some in the UK under the Skiplex brand. Did you know these are very popular in the Netherlands, where they are two-a-penny in Amsterdam. These facilities are fantastic for beginners. The slopes are small revolving carpets and you start by holding onto a bar at the foot of the slope, looking into a mirror. Your instructor guides you often one-to-one or at most one-to-three skiers. As the slope is turned on, you are helped to understand how to ski on it. The instructor controls the speed and elevation of the slope. To give your legs a rest, after a few minutes, you’ll step off the slope to rest.

2. Online tips


Back in the day it was possible to learn to ski using books and videos and DVDs. Now it’s easy to watch tips and listen to advice on YouTube and podcasts. Look out for Darren Turner’s Insight ski coaching online or Warren Smith’s Ski Academy online.

3. Helpful ski sites

There are a number of great ski websites for news, information and debate. Try:

  • Inthesnow.co.uk
  • Planetski.eu
  • Skierandsnowboarder.com
  • Skiclub.co.uk
  • Telegraph.co.uk
  • Welove2ski
Sites start to come alive in September and tail off in February.

4. World Cup Skiing

Officially the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, this is the top international series of ski racing each winter. The BBC broadcast Ski Sunday with fab presenters Graham Bell and Ed Leigh. They cover the World Cup ski races from around the world. Though it’s elite racing and not for us amateurs, the shows give a good view of the resorts, and an update on the ski world in general with news on snow conditions and latest news. Bansko, Bulgaria hosts Ladies downhill on Jan 25th 2020 and Ladies Super G on Jan 26th 2020. Book now to take any remaining available hotel beds if you want to be part of the ski fun that week.

5. Events

The Telegraph London Ski & Snowboard Show is getting bigger and better every year now. Held at Evolution in Battersea Park, it runs from Thursday to Sunday of October half term. This is the place to come for a taster of a ski resort vibe, with food and drink, live music plus a display slope of crazy displays by boarders and skiers. There is an advice clinic for all your questions and Balkan Holidays have a team available for all questions on ski.

6. Shopping

Make a list of clothes you need and start asking around to borrow them. This should include, socks, thermals (long-sleeved top and bottom), ski trousers and jacket, hat, helmet, scarf or buff, waterproof gloves, goggles and sunglasses and very high factor sun cream. Start looking for kit in September, and by Christmas many of the shops’ stock will be sold out.
Try Snow&Rock, Ellis Brigham, Decathlon and Blacks. Brands to look out for –

Odlo (thermals)
Falke (thermals)
Planks (t-shirts)
Hestra (gloves)

7. Packing tips

Once your ski kit is in your suitcase, you’ll have previous little space for anything else so think simply! A pair of jeans for après is fine, with a few t-shirts. No heels are needed in ski resorts!

Many people will pack their boots in their suitcase, some will take their boot bag as a carry-on hand luggage. Check with your airline that you can take your boots on board. Don’t wear them to go in, you’ll soon regret it!

8. Arriving

On your transfer bus (assuming you’ve booked with a tour operator), your rep will start to give you all in the information you need for your week away. Often, they will have your lift pass, if you have pre-booked one. Once you’ve checked into your hotel, it’s time to go and get your skis, boots and poles. This involves a trip to the local supplier and will be pretty stressful. Go knowing your height and weight and ski ability as you’ll be asked. It’s important because it means your equipment will be adapted for your level. (What this means is if you’re a beginner, your skis will release quickly when you fall, preventing injury. The more advanced you are, the less likely you are to want to be parted from your skis often, so the settings will be tighter).

Once done, you’ll need to take all the bits back to your hotel and store them in the locker room. This is all pretty stressful the first time you do it. But it’ll all seem routine by midweek. Really look after your kit, ensure you pick up your own skis and ensure your boots are in a warm place overnight or it’ll take you a long time to get them on in the morning.

9. Your first day

This will be a day of pfaffing and taking lots of deep breaths. You might be dropping off children in their groups, and/or trying to get to grips with your own instruction. But take a look upwards look at the beautiful mountains and breath in the crisp clean air. And look forward to a wonderful evening of lovely food and a few drinks.

You might ache somewhat in the evening, but it’s all worth it once you have some success on the slopes, feeling an edge sink into the slope, or being clearer on your body position.

10. Book again with loyalty benefits

When it’s all over and you’re skiing like a pro, it’ll all feel a bit flat on your return. With Balkan you’ll get a 5% loyalty discount, so it’s high time to secure your next ski trip. Balkan offer 3 ski countries and lots of resorts and hotels, so there’s something for everyone.

25 Sep 2019

Skiing Made Easy - Part 2: Is Skiing/Boarding Expensive?

September 25, 2019

Is this an expensive hobby? Well, it’s certainly more expensive than knitting or running. But as with all things, you can pay a little or a lot. You might compare a week in Romania skiing with a week in Japan, and you will guess that there’s a clear difference.

Overall, if you choose carefully, you’ll find a great value ski trip. Here’s one we’ve costed up from start to finish for Borovets, Bulgaria.

Item Cost

Ski package

£350 (3* half board, Jan)
Flight Included
Transfer Included
Accommodation Included
Meals Half Board Included
Local Rep Service Included
Lift Pass/Tuition/Equipment £202
Helmet Hire £15
Lunch £60 (come off the mountain for lunch!)
Insurance £35

TOTAL COST

£662 or £94 per day.

Ski Carriage

£30
 

Here are our top tips for keeping your spending as low as possible.

Bear in mind what you might spend in resort, and head for a non-euro destination. In addition, there are benefits of pre-booking half board meals and as many extras as you can to ensure you can manage your budget and avoid unexpected spending. The Balkans are the obvious choice for an inexpensive holiday. Not only are the packages cheaper than the Alps, in resort you’ll pay much less for food and drink.

What’s expensive?


If you choose to eat high up on the mountain every lunchtime, you will pay over the odds. Best to go prepared with a sandwich you can eat when you take a break or descend down for a cheaper lunch.

If you plump for designer kit, like Spyder or Arcteryx, you’ll be snug and dry and you’ll shell out plenty for it. Find mid-range value gear which won’t let you down at Decathlon or TK Maxx.  Even Aldi brought out a ski range last year – worth a look.

What can I skimp on?

You don’t need top of the range kit – neither skis/board or clothing. Choose a resort which is known for good value. Typically, a Balkan resort is a great choice, avoid France and Italy. Definitely borrow clothing.

What is worth spending good money on?

Decent socks and gloves will last you forever.
For socks, try these brands – Falke & Wigwam.
For gloves, try Hestra for a pair which will last a lifetime.
Once you’re sure you’re into the sport, buying your own boots, custom-fit to your own specification is key. You’ll need half a day with a professional boot-fitter to find the right pair for you. We recommend Snow&Rock, Ellis Brigham, or Profeet for those in south west London. This is best done when you have plenty of time and patience. Custom insoles can be made for you to tailor your boot specifically to your feet.

Further information, see our website or call our ski experts on 0207 543 5555.

16 Sep 2019

Skiing Made Easy - Part 1: Where Do I Start?

September 16, 2019



Skiing is a sport which most people would like to try. But many don’t. Some get as far as a dry slope in the UK, but nowhere near the mountains. After all, there are so many reasons that might be off-putting. In our handy guide, we advise you on all the basics, so you know exactly where to start.

1.    Do I need to be fit?
Skiing is a sport and a general level of fitness helps. The old adage is ‘get fit to ski, don’t ski to get fit’. The truth is you will enjoy your skiing much better if you have energy and muscle strength. The good news is you can build on this with ski fit exercises. The fitter you are the less likely you’ll suffer from injury or fatigue.

2.    Do I need expensive kit?
It really is unnecessary. The best thing to do is start asking around to borrow kit as soon as possible. The key items are ski trousers and a ski jacket, waterproof gloves, decent socks, and goggles. You can hire skis, poles, boots and helmets in resort. Decathlon superstores are highly recommended for ski clothing which is of decent quality but is inexpensive. Shop in the Autumn, as stock will run out after Christmas. TK Maxx is also worth checking for clothes, especially ski trousers. If you can get to London, the Telegraph Ski & Snowboard Show is well worth a visit to pick the brains of exhibitors who fly in from all over the world.

3.    When should I go skiing/boarding?
Winter sports lovers choose dates carefully. The middle of December brings low prices, but the risk of poorer snow. Christmas and New Year are great fun but amongst the most expensive times of the season to ski. January brings lower prices and cold weather, often with fantastic snow. February is the most popular time to travel with good snow and some sun, resorts in full swing, and of course half-term. Avoid half-term if you can, as the slopes are inevitably busy. March and April bring under-rated Spring skiing – sunshine and snow and long afternoons appreciating local food and drink.

4.    What if I hate it?
Choose your resort carefully. Pick a resort where there is a heart, and things to do other than skiing. Many will offer indoor pools; spas to relax in and shopping. Half or full day excursions or activities such as snowmobiling are often available.

5.    Is Insurance expensive?
You must have Winter Sports on your policy, but typically it isn’t too much extra. Don’t skimp though. When you need it, you really need it.

6.    Where should I go?

As a beginner, choose ski resorts which are quiet and welcoming. You want to be surrounded by like-minded skiers, rather than being in competition with advanced skiers. Take the pressure off by going somewhere inexpensive, fun, and quick and easy to get to and home from.

The Balkans are highly recommended for beginner skiers. There are a number of reasons why:
  • They offer unbeatable value.
  • The Post Office has named Bansko as the best value ski resort in the world for the second year running.
  • It’s not only about the skiing/boarding.
  • There are so many other things to do such as a skidoo safari or snow tubing, or visits to historic sites and nearby towns of interest.
  • The vibe is relaxed not competitive.
  • You will be amongst like-minded beginners or intermediates.
  • The tuition is in English.
  • You’ll love the Bulgarian tuition. Instructors in the resorts speak good English.
  • Everyone is welcome from babies to oldies.
  • There are age-related discounts for the young and old, and everyone is welcome, no-one is excluded.
  • It’s non-Euro.
  • Your après-ski beer and food are amazing value.

To start, see our online brochure or check out our ski holidays in Bulgaria. Look out for Part 2 of our blog series Skiing Made Easy coming next week.