A short guide to hitting the slopes in Ukraine.
Ukraine is fortunate in that her territory offers great variety of every sort for the nature lover, including mountains. The most prominent among these is the Carpathian Mountain range. They are beautiful at any time of the year — one can spend a wonderful summer there — but in the winter they are like a fairy-tale. So, as soon as the snow begins to fall, usually at the end of autumn, the pilgrimage of tourists to the Carpathians ensues. The majority of them come to ski and snowboard, although there are many who simply do not have enough snow, mountains, Christmas trees, Ukrainian flavor and holiday spirit at home. They find all of this in Carpathian nature and in the hospitable residents of this charming corner of Western Ukraine.
In order to determine exactly which region of the Carpathians you should visit, one would recommend conducting a mini-survey among friends and acquaintances. Their experiences and feedback will likely be useful. After that, check the rates and types of accommodations in a particular town or resort on booking.com.
For fans of downhill skiing, Bukovel, Slavske and Dragobrat are highly recommend. Bukovel is a resort with a true European feel. It’s the most well known and largest ski resort in Ukraine, despite opening as recently as 2000. In 2012, Bukovel was named the fastest growing ski resort in the world! Bukovel has excellent infrastructure, and offers the greatest variety of activities in the mountains. Should you go to Bukovel, rest assured that your holiday will be comfortable, although somewhat expensive by the standards of the Ukrainian Carpathians.
Slavske is a moderate choice price wize. It is a very popular resort, especially amongst Lviv residents, as it is located only 135 km from the city. Ski tourism began developing in Slavske in the first half of the 19th century, so the resort is strong on tradition. It is perhaps the most affordable resort for Ukrainians, especially given its quality relative to its price, so there are always many guests. Like Bukovel, Slavske offers dozens of ski trails, from the simple to the challenging.
Dragobrat is probably the best option for advanced skiers and snowboarders. It has the highest altitude among resorts of its class in the Carpathians, and it is the least crowded. Rarely does anyone attempt to reach the lodge in their car, as the ascent in the mountains is very steep. The lodge is located at a height of 1,400 meters, so problems with lack of natural snow are very rare. If you have been a confident skier for some time, don’t wish to circumnavigate novices on your path, and want to experience a real adrenaline rush, Dragobrat is an excellent choice.
Of course, these are not the only ski resorts in the Carpathians. There is still Krasiya, Pilipets, Beskid and Plai, about which I have heard many positive reviews. There is Migovo – a rapidly developing ski resort 60 km from Chernivtsi.
Perhaps surprisingly, there are other places besides the Carpathians where one can ski in Ukraine. Around Kharkiv are the well-outfitted resorts “Extreme Style” and “Alpine Valley,” while ski enthusiasts from Kiev travel to “Protasov Yar” or the “Vyshgora” ski complex on the weekends. Several years ago, a ski lodge was opened not far from Odessa, in the village of Berezovka. There are no high mountains, only hills however. The lodge caters to novice skiers and those who love to ski, but don’t have the time to travel to the Carpathians. The paths are usually covered in artificial snow, and while the infrastructure is still underdeveloped, Berezovka is becoming increasingly popular with the residents of Southern Ukraine.
But skiing resorts are not only for sport. If you are not a skiing fanatic, and do not plan to ski all day, but simply wish to enjoy the snow, forests and mountains, you can focus on the tourist centers of the Carpathians. Souvenirs, mulled wine, restaurants and cafes serving national cuisine, Ukrainian national music ensembles — all of this can be found in abundance in Yaremche, Vorokhta and Rakhiv. Ski trails won’t run directly under the windows of your hotel, but here you definitely will not be bored in the evening when you wish to take a break from skiing.
Before traveling, be sure to confirm that there is snow and check the webcams. The changing climate has affected the Carpathians, so there have been problems with snow levels in past years. This is rarely a problem for skiers, as many of the trails in the Carpathians are covered in artificial snow, but it may diminish the experience for those who wish to spend time wandering the snow-capped mountains.
The Carpathians: Advantages and Disadvantages
In order to visit the ski resorts of Poland, Bulgaria, Romania or Slovakia, Ukrainians require a visa, and must travel further. For skiing in Georgia, they have to travel by plane. So for Ukrainians, the Carpathians offer the most affordable choice for a winter holiday in the mountains. But as a result of monopolies on resort property, holiday prices in the Carpathians are edging closer to the average European ones — a phenomenon that is very strange, given the standard of living in Ukraine. For example, a holiday in the Bukovel resort could turn out even more expensive than a trip to the Polish resort of Zakopane. Because of this, in the past several years, more and more Ukrainians have begun vacationing in Europe, for the same prices, or even cheaper, where they find better service and an opportunity to see another country.
In spite of this trend, there are still economical options for leisure and entertainment in the Carpathians. Almost every resident of the Carpathians rents apartments to tourists in the summer and winter. The more luxurious they are, and the closer they are situated to ski resorts and tourist destinations, the more expensive they tend to be. These start at 200 hryvnias per person per day in the tourist season.
It is also worth noting that the people of the Carpathians are perhaps the politest and most attentive in all of Ukraine, a fact noticeable in the region’s service industry. Also, they have preserved ethnic Ukrainian traditions in the greatest measure, which always pleases tourists.
Wherever you travel in Ukraine during the winter holidays, we wish you lots of snow and joy!