Road Tripping Slovenia: Snowboarding, Skiing, Igloos and Lakes
Words and pictures by Sam Baldwin
Published March 2009
I've fallen in love with Slovenia. It's now the 5th time I've visited and you can be sure I'll be back again soon. You see, it just seems to have everything I could want in a country; a compact capital city which is extremely easy on the eye; hundreds of spiky peaks which get plenty of snow and house around 30 ski areas; a slither of Adriatic coastline, amazing lakes, friendly locals (most of whom seem to speak English), great wine, tasty beer... I could go on, but I'll let the pictures do the talking.
Ljublana - Slovenia's capital is the perfect capital; small enough to navigate on foot, lively enough to ensure a good night out, yet devoid of British stag groups and blessed with an air of sophistication.
Far from being an act of vandalism, in Ljubljana, graffiti seems to be actively encouraged. Walls are painted over every few months, ensuring the city's wall art is kept fresh.
Slovenia has many small ski areas dotted around the country - around 30, though most of them are small local areas, geared towards local people. This handpainted piste map is of the tiny ski area in the small village of Crna na Koroskem. Although it has just one drag lift, amazingly, it has produced several of Slovenia's national downhill skiing champions.
Indeed, skiing is a national trait, as I discovered when talking to Boris (pictured right), a local we met in the small village of Mezica. I asked if he could ski, he responded: "Of course! I am Slovenian!".
Primosh (pictured left) was a member of the national Yugoslavian ski racing team and the Slovenian team, and has competed around the world including Japan and the USA. He now runs bar XO in the small town of Mezica.
Igloo Village (Eskimska vas) in the ski resort of Krvavec is Slovenia's answer to the Sweden's Ice hotel. A cool construction made purely of snow, visitors arrive at 5pm, snow shoe up to the village, then enjoy the signature drink - Apfel Strudel (mulled cider with Malibu) in the Ice Bar (complete with cow-hide bar stools).
Dinner is served in the bar area (a tasty fondue) and guests then get the chance to head out onto the (now deserted) mountain to go sledging or tubing, before returning back to the bar to refuel on warm bevies. The temperature hovers at around +5C, and the sheep skin rugs and thermal sleeping bags ensure a cosy night's kip.
At just 15 minutes drive from Ljubljana Aerodrome, the ski resort of Krvavec (pronounced Kra-VAH-vetz) must be the closest ski resort in the world to an international airport. Perched high on the mountain, and offers a good mix of runs. New investment in the lifts has been forthcoming as brand new high speed chairs show.
The snow cover was excellent during our visit, if somewhat firm, but the sun was shining, and it certainly looked like there was plenty of good off-piste nearby if the powder was on the menu.
No visit to Slovenia is complete without stopping by the fairy tale Lake Bled. An extremely picturesque body of water, with a medieval castle sat on a cliff overlooking the clear H2O as well as a lone island upon which a church is situated.
It was on the shore of Lake Bled, that our paths crossed with the somewhat mad local artist Dragoljub Rakinic, who sells his watercolours of the lake to passersby. But woe betide anyone who asks for a painting of anything other than the island church!
You see, the talented, yet slightly crazed Rakinic, paints the exact same scene, day in, day out. There's a glint of madness in his eyes as he launches into a fierce monologue when I ask if he has any pictures of the mountains.
"It's perfect" he declares. "The weather changes, the mood changes, but the island and castle are always the perfect symbol of Bled". He also explains that our 4 Euros have bought us not just a painting, but also a story about meeting a crazy Slovenian artist. And he's right; here I am telling it now.
Next stop on the Slovenia road trip tour is Lake Bohinj, in the Triglav National Park. Less touristy than its sister Bled Lake, Bohinj's icy skin is receding as spring arrives, but it's definably still winter up in the mountains that surround it, which is where Vogel ski area is located.
Vogel's piste map is slightly misleading; it shows just a handful of runs, which we cover in little over half a day, but it's easy to see that Vogel has huge off-piste potential. Indeed, the runs cut though great swathes or tantalising tree-less terrain, and with some local knowledge, I'm sure Vogel could offer days of excellent off-piste powder runs. For us though, it's just cruising the sunny slopes, enjoying the slowly softening terrain and fantastic views of Triglav national park - a sea of spiky peaks.
Soldiers survey the terrain from Vogel's highest point; either they're on the look out for enemy invaders, or they are scoping out the best backcountry lines.
We stayed in the Pension Stare, a small, rustic inn, just 150m from Bohinj lakeside, which comes highly recommended.
It's from here we strap on the cross country skis and go exploring over the snow covered meadows, into deserted woods, and come out right on the waters of the clear lake shore. It really is a very beautiful place, and the lack of people to share the scenery with makes it all the more special.
Skiing and snowboarding Slovenia - the final word
Despite being a small country, with just 2 million people, I've only touched on a tiny part of what there is to see and do here. Slovenia is extremely diverse in its landscape and geography, but its compact size (approximately the same as Wales) means that you can go from snowy ski resort, to Adriatic coastline in just a couple of hours.
It's a country made for road tripping and is ideal for a winter tour. The roads are generally quiet and nothing ever seems more than a couple of hours away. So, choose a snow trip in the SLO lane and give Slovenia a go.
Travel and Accommodation in Slovenia
Slovenia is easy to navigate and almost everyone in the service industry speaks excellent English.
A car is essential for road tripping Slovenia (obviously!) - all the usual rental companies are present at Ljubljana airport and in the larger cities (Ljubljana and Maribor).
To find cheap flights to Slovenia, use the flight search engine: Skyscanner - cheap flights to Slovenia
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