March 12, 2014

Skiing Jasna 2014

This year I went to Jasna in Slovakia for my first ski trip to Eastern Europe.  Here's a review in case anyone thinking of going of going there.

Jasna, semi-precious jewel of the Carpathians

Jasna is small by the standards of the big name resorts in the Alps with only 45km of marked pistes, however, there's enough there to keep most people happy for a week or longer, depending on what type of skier they are.

The first thing to be aware of is that there are two sides to the mountain and you can only ski between them, there's no bus.  That means if you get stuck on the wrong side you've got no chance of getting back without a very lengthy taxi journey.   Even 'the main resort' is just a cluster of hotels, one of which has some basic amenities like a cash point.  I was on the Srdiecko side where there's just one hotel with one bar.

Food drink and accommodation are all pretty good value. Drinks everywhere on the mountain are less than half the price of anywhere I've been in the Alps.  English isn't spoken that widely but everyone is very welcoming.

Snow was okay while I was there but I can see it might be a problem.  Jasna is not that high or cold.  If you've got the option it's probably worth waiting to see how the season goes in terms of snowfall and then book at the last minute.

Beginners

On the Jasna side it's probably not a bad option for learning.  There's a few nursery runs there and a very long and gentle blue.  I expect the lessons are really cheap. If you're a beginner, staying on the Srdiecko side simply won't work.  Forget it.  It would be like trying to learn to drive by taking the steering wheel of an articulated lorry in rush hour traffic on the M4.

Intermediates

This is one of the best places I've seen for intermediates.  None of the pistes are really scary if you can reasonably turn and stop but quite a lot of them are steep-ish and quite interesting.  There's also a high concentration of good quality cheap bars and restaurants dotted around the hill, often with excellent views and friendly fast service.

The lifts are surprisingly modern, fast and relatively high capacity for the number of skiers and you won't get cut up by the locals because there aren't many advanced skiers about.  Piste grooming is done almost obsessively by the snowcat drivers.  They seem to be out there 24/7 flattening out every snowflake they can get to.

One thing you're not going to find is a clichéd and tastelessly ostentatious or mentally unhinged après-ski scene. If your favourite resort is Courcheval, your favourite bar is Moosevirt, don't bother coming.

Advanced

I think the majority of advanced skiers would be quite happy here, with a few exceptions.  If you're a really good freestyle skier then you're going to find the park inadequate.  There's no huge kickers or super pipe.  If you do a bit of park then there's quite a few boxes, rails and smaller jumps to play about on, the lift connection to the park is really good, and there's even a bar at the top.

Freeride is good to, unless you really have a death wish. It's one of the best places I've seen for going off-piste in terms of lift access and safety.  Obviously you could always have an accident, but unlike most places, if you're an advanced skier you can pretty much ski anywhere on the mountain and get to it by lift. There's lots of trees around, I didn't see any no-fall zones or places obviously prone to avalanche but there were lots of places to jump and explore.  If you're really extreme then it might seem to tame for you. There is some really steep stuff off the back of the top lift but I couldn't see a way back up, although I did see a couple of people drop in.

Another thing to bear in mind is that there's not really an advanced skiing scene here from what I can tell, so unless you're on your own and don't fancy pioneering routes solo then you're stuck with the gapers.

That's it. Hopefully someone will one day find this useful. If you're looking for an alternative to the Alps and you don't fancy the costa del Bulgaria, then Jasna is definitely worth consideration.  Just make sure that it has the right facilities for your kind of ski holiday and try to go when there's lots of snow.  Otherwise you could end up on a walking holiday in the Carpathians.

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