Learning to ski in Serbia
- Recommended for:
- Winter Sports, Budget
Want to ski but short of cash? Head to the Serbian resort of Kopaonik, where you’ll be able to find your ski legs without breaking the bank
When it comes to skiing, we all know that uber-cool destinations like Chamonix, Aspen and Val d'Isère are where it's at. Not necessarily Serbia. Many skiers would never even consider Eastern Europe as a winter sports hotspot - but times, they are a-changing.
Kopaonik, one of Serbia’s largest mountain ranges, is an up-and-coming destination blessed with a huge amount of snow, and for those with little or no skiing experience, it’s perfect. The Balkans – gawd bless them – have made what was once a notoriously expensive hobby accessible to all. For years, these countries have been famed for being cheap and cheerful – and their skiing is no exception. With cut-price food and pound-a-pint drinks, Kopaonik is great for learners on a budget. OK, it may not be the best resort known to man, but unless you’re looking for world-class black runs, it's certainly a bargain.
Being on a bit of a budget, I decided to try and find my ski legs in Serbia. Having been blessed with the athletic ability of a dead snail, I was understandably apprehensive about my trip and fully expected to return home in traction. But I needn’t have worried – Kopaonik may be small but it has all the facilities a learner could want. And if I can survive a week’s skiing, I’m sure anyone can.
On my visit to Serbia, I stayed at the Hotel Grand, one of the resort’s larger venues that’s right in the thick of the action. All you needed to do was open the back door and already you were right on the slopes. Impressively, you could pick up all your ski gear and meet your instructor in the hotel’s own ski lodge, and after a hard day in the white stuff, its fitness centre was a great place to relax with a massage.
Kopaonik itself has a designated area for beginners, runs to suit all abilities and a mini ice-skating rink, as well as shops, bars and restaurants in a central ‘plaza’. Needless to say, this area was very popular with the majority of visitors, keen to make the most of the famous – and ridiculously cheap – après-ski.
With regards to my performance on the slopes though, I wasn’t actually too bad. I won’t bore you with how many times I fell over, but after I got used to walking weirdly in my boots and had a few lessons, even I had to admit that I was getting quite good. My instructor for the week was a guy who, scarily, looked like Jaws from James Bond, and although I was a bit worried about going anywhere with him on my own, I soon realised you should never judge a book by its cover. Jaws turned out to be a great teacher and even though I spent the first few days of my holiday basically sitting in the snow, his patience never ran out.
We started off by tentatively approaching the beginners’ section and, in between ignoring all the children that were putting me to shame, I learned a few of the basics. It took a while for me to work out how to stay upright, but by then I could also change direction and knew how to stop. Fast-forward a few days and I was posture-perfect. I’d even attempted a couple of the runs – on my own! By the time I was homeward bound, I was beaming. I never set out to be Britain’s best skier, I just wanted to prove I could do it. And I could.
If you’re jetting in to Serbia, your best bet is to fly to its capital, Belgrade. From here, Kopaonik is roughly a four-hour drive away, but with all the hills and tight bends, things can get a bit hairy in the car so take it easy and make sure your seatbelt is on.
Prices are definitely on the up in Kopaonik, but it is still possible to get week-long package deals for about £350. Your best bet is to check out Thomson or Crystal Ski, who generally include accommodation, return flights and transfers in their prices. For learn-to-ski packages, beginners should expect to pay around £150 for six half-day lessons, a lift pass and ski/boot hire – a snip compared to the more swanky resorts.