If it’s your first time ski Canada, expect quieter slopes and better value accommodation than you’re used to in Europe. For most of us, when we think of a winter ski vacation, we think of a ski chalet in the French or Swiss Alps. Unfortunately, for the traveler on a budget, the words “alps” and “cheap” don’t necessarily go hand in hand. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up the fresh mountain air altogether. It just might mean choosing a different mountain top, like the High Tatra mountains in Slovakia.
When I first saw the sign on the hostel cork-board in Poland, I didn’t think it was possible myself. A day pass, plus accommodations and equipment rental for less than 35 Euros? Had I died and gone to heaven? I can’t even get a single day pass here in the states for less than 50 dollars a day, (which is about the equivalent, not including accommodation, rentals, or anything else.) So as any avid snowboarder would do in search of cheap powder, I hopped on a bus to the border of Poland and Slovakia and headed to the small village of Zdiar, high in the Tatra mountain range.
Once I crossed the border from Poland, I began to take in the stunning mountain views on my short bus ride to the small village. With several ski resorts that service the area and a host of summer activities once the snow has melted such as rafting, horse back riding and paragliding, I started to feel right at home to the Rocky mountains back in Utah. I checked into my hostel, a traditional Slovic timber house right in the center of the village (which had dorm rooms as well as private rooms starting at 12 euros per night) and cozied up with a hot cup of tea as they began to arrange my equipment rental for my stay (for 5 euros a day, offering a cheaper rate for longer term rentals.) They also geared me up with some snow pants and gloves for a nominal price to make sure I was prepared for the elements.)
The village had a few options for dining from a great pizza joint, to more traditional Slovic cuisine starting at about 5 euros, and when it came to drinking, shots started at about 1 euro for a shot. (There were also a few grocery stores in town if you wanted to buy and make your own food back in the lodge.)
The next day (with mother nature’s cooperation) we headed up to the freshly powdered slopes right outside the village and I purchased my day pass (which ranges from 12-17 Euros a day depending on the resort.) There is a more challenging and bigger resort within about a 15 minute drive from the village, which has a great bar/disco for a late night out. The conditions when I went in December were amazing, with a dumping of early winter snow, but some resorts have snow making capabilities allowing you to ski late into the season even if mother nature (or global warming) doesn’t cooperate.
So recapping on price, 10-15 euros a night for accommodations (which there are many pensions in the village that can accommodate the single traveler as well as a family or group traveling together.) 5 euros a day for equipment rental, 15 euros for a day pass, and 5 euros for a decent meal. Not bad for a snow-boarder on a budget. I ended up staying in the quaint village for over a week, taking a break from the snow to head down to the warm thermal baths of Aqua City in the nearby city of Poprad, a water park complete with adult water slides and a cozy swim up bar all built on a gigantic thermal pool (and a great place for a cheap massage as well.)
For those on not as tight of a budget, packages can be purchased for hotels and spas located right in the resorts, and the nearby border town of Zakopane in Poland has additional ski resorts as well.
The High Tatras can be reached easily by train and a short bus ride, either from Krakow Poland via the resort town of Zakopane (3 hours) or coming from the south, Bratislava or Budapest (6 hours), taking a bus from Poprad to the boarder town of Lysa Polana. Be sure to check bus times and train schedules as times vary throughout the season.
Elizabeth (also know as Liz) has been living out of her suitcase for the past 2 years, making her way around the world in hopes of discovering more about herself and life. You can follow her adventures on her website and blog http://www.lizwrightnow.com, where she offers travel tips for the budget minded traveler and shares inspiring and sometimes off the wall stories from her adventures.
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