Fun-sized family skiing in Slovenia
- Recommended for:
- Family, Winter Sports, Budget
Slovenia’s premier ski resort, Kranjska Gora is cheap, well connected and family friendly - a perfect place for beginners and families to find their snow legs
Tourists touching down in Ljubljana have almost too many options. Slovenia’s main airport is a taxi-ride away from the mountains of Italy and Austria. And the country also borders Hungary and Croatia. Yet, increasingly, tourists are choosing Slovenia over her more famous neighbours.
This year my boyfriend and I booked a week’s skiing in the Balkan nation’s biggest ski resort, Kranjska Gora. Landing impossibly early one February morning I was ready for that initial, long dizzying drive into the mountains. But after just 45 minutes of flat motorway, we pulled up in front of our hotel. “Slovenia is about the size of Wales,” my boyfriend laughed, seeing the cross expression on my face.
He wasn’t laughing quite so hard the next morning, as we stood at top of our first slope and looked down the mountain uncertainly. Instead of the splendid Alpen cereal packet views of Austria or Italy, we’d barely left the ground. “I can almost see the bottom,” my boyfriend said, his voice wobbling as he realised that drinking schnapps on the way down would require a hip flask.
But my period of mourning for 3,000-metre-high runs and mid-piste hot-dog restaurants was short. The novice skier in me began to see the potential of this 1,100-metre-high Slovenian nursery slope. Whilst the terrain wasn’t swoon-worthy, at least I had a chance of getting down in one piece. Because, as a fairly novice skier, I’d had my fair share of resorts that insist learners should throw themselves down a near-vertical incline on day two. Here was a mountain built for beginners.
At nine o'clock every morning Kranjska Gora’s slopes fill with families, hugging and smiling as they leave one another for a few hours of intense tutelage. Taking full advantage of this learner lifestyle, I joined a group of novice parents and listened to software engineers, teachers and plumbers explain exactly why they come to Slovenia.
Price is the main reason. A family of four can book a week’s skiing for £1000. Size is another factor. Not of the mountain, but the rooms, which are twice the size you’d expect in a more popular French resort. And they also like the atmosphere. It’s easy to coax yourself down the slopes when the speedy show-offs are skiing in Switzerland.
In this charming 14th-century town the needs of families come first. A chain of hotels built expressly for groups on a budget fight for space with the more traditional independent alpine hotels. Offering themed restaurants and bars, live entertainment and activities for the kids, the chain hotels see anything from 100 to 350 English visitors every week.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel Prisank, which is clean, comfortable and serves great food - even if it does lack character. Other more innovative hotel options include the Alpina hotel further up the slopes, which has a modern, Scandinavian feel. Or the independently run Hotel Kotnik in the heart of town, with a deservedly good reputation for its food, wine and cosy atmosphere.
Efforts are made to allow parents a little breathing space, and most bars and restaurants in town offer activities for kids. The funky Pin Bar at Alpina Hotelhas computer games and table football, while the cafe next to the Grand Hotel Prisank has a basement where kids can let off steam while their parents enjoy the ‘hot wine’ happy hour.
As a general rule, Kranjska Gora is quiet during the week. Slovenians visit at weekends and during holidays, while foreign tourists stick to their hotels. As a result, many restaurants only open at weekends, and there are few local bars dedicated to mid-week après-ski.
After much searching, my boyfriend and I located two places that satisfied our adult cravings. Mama Sita (Borovška cesta 77) was the only bar we could find not playing Eighties hits at top volume. A curious yet effective mix of Mexican and Slovenian styles, this bar offers tapas and a chilled-out atmosphere.
At the other end of the centre of town, four minutes away, is the Vopa Pub (Borovška cesta 92), with optional disco-in-the-basement-until-five-am attachment. This rustic, timber-framed pub with maps on the wall, allows you to enjoy the inevitable stream of Eighties hits with something like a smile.
Balkan Holidays has seven nights half board at the four-star Grand Hotel Prisank from around £550 per person, including flights from Gatwick via Ljubljana and transfers.