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In the beginning, Bansko was simply a cheap place to ski. But in recent years, Bansko's development has been powered by the property market...
Large numbers of new apartments have been built in Bansko, a small fortune has been spent in marketing them, and hundreds of British and Irish investors have taken a bet on the long-term future of the resort. Simply by dint of all this commercial activity, Bansko has become famous - but it's important to remember that the mountain behind it hasn't grown in size. This is still a smallish ski resort, offering 70km of piste - compared with 300km in the Espace Killy and 600km in the Three Valleys of France.
Resort height: 936m
Think of Bansko more as the European equivalent of one of those frontier Canadian resorts - with lower prices, poorer roads, and not quite so much snow. Oh yes, and lots more people.
Despite investment in new lifts, the infrastructure struggles to cope with peak-season crowds. There are reports of hour-long queues in the morning during the school holidays - a nightmare for parents with young children.
Queues, aside, the Bansko mountain itself is lots of fun for beginners and early intermediates. The ski school is well-adapted to teaching Brits, and private tuition is cheap compared with the A-list resorts of the Alps. Beginner or intermediate, it's well worth investing in some to fast-track your development. The nursery slopes in Bansko are at the top of the gondola, and from there, you can progress to easy blues around the mountain. There are several more challenging pistes, but nothing that will test a more advanced skier or snowboarder. Frankly, you'd be nuts to fly over resorts such as Val d'Isère, St Anton or Chamonix to come here if you're already an expert.
There are plenty of flights to Sofia, but the road up to the resort is slow...
Transfers to Bansko take two and a half to three and a half hours.
Bansko is perfect for skiers who have never tried the sport before. First-time snowboarders are pretty well catered for too...
Although there are some more testing slopes for intermediate skiers and snowboarders, experts would be better off in another resort. And whatever your level, the long queues could prove annoying during busy periods.
Bansko is a cheap, fun resort with a variety of après-ski options. It also boasts a pretty old town...
Cheap beer, strong Rakia, and three-course meals at under £10 a pop help to keep Bansko's visitors happy after the lifts shut. Around the base of the gondola, in the new village, bars such as the Sir Galahads, The Lions Pub, and Amigo's Bar provide an après-ski scene very similar to Andorra's in atmosphere. But many visitors prefer the traditional mehanas in the old town, which serve up live folk music as an accompaniment to their traditional food.
The focus is still very much on skiing in Bansko, and you won't find as much to do here as in the Alpine and Rocky Mountain resorts. However, there is an ice rink, snow-mobiling and parapenting on offer. If you're bringing a non-skier here, you might want to book into the luxurious Kempinski Grand Arena hotel, which has a highly-rated spa.
Cost of living 9/10
In the low season (January especially), you can have very cheap ski holidays in Bansko. Bear in mind that once you get there, the really low prices for food and drink for which Bulgaria is famous can only be found in the old town, away from the new ski village growing up around the base of the gondola.
Attractiveness of the resort 6/10
In detail, the modern apartments and hotels in the base area are nice enough, but you may find that some are still half-finished. By contrast, the forested mountain slopes are pretty, and the old town is charming.