Snowboarding Kosovo: Brezovica ski resort a bad idea?
By Sam Baldwn
Published November 2009
To snowboard the ski resort of Brezovica in Kosovo, or not to snowboard the ski resort of Brezovica in Kosovo, that is the question being banded around SnowSphere HQ right now.
Along with South Africa, Israel and India, Kosovo is one of the last places you might expect to find a ski resort. But Kosovo does indeed have a ski resort. It's called Brezovica, it has 800m of vertical, gets plenty of powder and has been deemed one of the best mountains in the Balkans. There's even a Brezovica Facebook page with over 9000 fans!
Next winter's adventure for the SnowSphere team is a Balkan road trip. We are hoping to take in the snow, cities and mountains of Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo.
The Kosovo Conumdrum
As the plans slowly come together, Kosovo keeps on throwing up problems. Firstly, the vehicle that we'll pick up in Belgrade will not be insured in Kosovo. This is due to the fact that the European Green card insurance system is not valid in Kosovo. We've heard rumours of people buying special insurance at the border - but how valid this would actually be in the event of something happening - who knows?
The second issue with snowboarding Kosovo, is the fact that even if we can get the insurance problem sorted, we'll be entering Kosovo in a vehicle with Serbian number plates. Now, Serbia and Kosovo aren't exactly the best of buddies at the moment. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, a declaration that Serbia does not recognise, and we've heard reports of cars with Serbian plates being attacked - not what we want to hear!
There's also the issue that vehicle theft is apparently quite common in Kosovo and to top it all off - Kosovan Independence Day falls during our trip. If anything is going to kick off, it's going to be then. Lots of people in the streets with patriotic hearts is an inflammatory mix, and if we're in the wrong place at the wrong time with our Serbian registered vehicle, it could spell trouble.
How real are the risks?
Having gone snowboarding in Gulmarg in Kashmir, India two winters ago, an area of the world considered off limits by many (including the British FCO) and had an amazing time with no trouble at all, you do wonder - how real are these risks?
Just like the Kashmir trip, some people can't understand why anyone would want to go snowboarding there, when France will do. The answer? It's not just about the skiing or snowboarding. It's about the travel, the adventure, the experience of meeting the local people and seeing the reality of a new culture and country for ourselves.
Many people have completely inaccurate visions of places like Kosovo and Kashmir founded on outdated media reports, hearsay and general stigma.
I'd like to cut through that. I like to go to Kosovo and find friendly locals and a powder paradise. But not if it means putting ourselves at serious risk. And it's that level of risk that we now have to figure out.