Overall Rating

Balkans Cat Ski Safari

Balkans Cat Ski Safari4.5/52
Balkans Cat Ski Safari4.5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews
  • Recommend
    100%
  • Would Revisit
    100%
Best Powder in Austria
World Nomads Travel Insurance

Balkans Cat Ski Safari - Reviews

Balkans Cat Ski Safari - Reviews

Such Fun….

03/08/2019

POWDERHOUNDS EUROPE

POWDERHOUNDS EUROPE

  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Rider Ability
    Expert
  • Country
    The Globe
  • Admin Rating
    5

Such Fun….

03/08/2019
What fun we had. A multi-national group, an enthusiastic host, mountains, snow, food, drink, snowcats plus some sparkling repartee were the ingredients for a sensational inaugural Balkans Cat Ski Safari. It proved to be a wonderfully care-free way to sample the best of the Balkans skiing, landscapes, history & culture. The safari proved a concept & was a triumph for our host Meto from Shar Outdoors.

We were lucky enough to start the ski safari with a day of ski touring in some absolute awesome powder in Popova Shapka. The guiding was superb, as was the company, the entertainment & the late long lunch.

That night, from the moment the stragglers were picked up in Tetovo, the game was on for a magical mystery tour to locations which none of us had ever heard of. Next stop Pelister. The Sumski Feneri Hotel was gorgeously decked out on festive lights & provided the best lodgings of the trip. The hotel owners set the tone for hospitality on the rest of the trip – fantastic. The skiing was great. Snow wasn’t perfect, but there was powder & some very good tree skiing. Would love to ski the summit chutes one day, but it wasn’t to be on this trip. Lunch was beyond imagination in a lovely mountain hut. We skied until dark, then partied all night at the hotel.

Next stop was Kosovo & the Brezovica ski resort. Whilst it would have been amazing in its heyday, Brezovica’s ski lifts have seen better days & so Dane Freeride cat skiing evolved to fill the void. The snow was wind affected in parts, but the terrain is exceptional when fully realised. Staying in a functionally rustic mountain hut, 10 of us shared basic facilities with minimal fuss. The common room was the excellent David’s Bar & Restaurant where breakfast & dinner lived up to our know high expectations

We left the safari before the final stop back at Bogovinje. From the photos of the terrain, the powder skiing is the high alpine is world class. Next year for sure.
- A steady stream of highlights on the inaugural Balkans Cat Ski Safari included:
- Fresh tracks on a glorious day in the mountains between Popova Shapka & Bogovinje.
- Powder turns in the trees at Pelister & views all the way into Greece & Albania.
- The long, long valley run into the fascinating Štrpce Kosovo (even after leaving some of my flesh on a wild bramble thorn!) & the hilarious drive back up to the resort after a few après ski refreshments.
- Helping the locals celebrate the Eastern Orthodox New Year in style.
- Racing the snowcat all the way down to the base at Pelister & winning.
- Sumptuous dinners everywhere we went - Brezovica, Pelister, Popova Shapka, Skopje…… it didn’t matter where, the food was extraordinary.
- Making light of some very pensive moments during the Kosovo border crossings (& getting a nice stamp in our passports – sometimes it pays to be Aussie!)
- Closely following the SF Freeride guides into the forest in powder & at speed – they know every inch of that hill!
- Getting a sense of the amazing terrain around Bogovinje & Popova Shapka.
- Drinking the local spirit, rakija, with the locals & having the locals come off second best!
- Sampling the favourite Balkans travel snacks whilst on the road – not sure about the peanut butter sticks!
- Just having a good time with a group of like-minded skiers (& one snowboarder – gotta have one) in a strange new land that is not so strange anymore!

So, is everything perfect & just like cat skiing in Canada? Well, no. This is the Balkans after all. And no one should come here thinking they are getting a ‘Chatter Creek’ experience – especially given the price (6-days at Chatter Creek would cost €5000+)! The Balkans is still a touch raw & even edgy at times (i.e. the Kosovo border crossing). There was immense damage done in the region’s recent history, much of it unseen, but the scars are still there for anyone to see. The tourist infrastructure, particularly at ski resorts, has suffered from neglect & so some sights, smells & locations may challenge one’s sanitised ‘western’ view of the world. Also, some of the guiding could at times best be described (on a world scale anyway) as ‘loose’. But it is all about freeride & conditions were generally safe enough for a bit of a ‘free for all’. Nevertheless, the guides were super enthusiastic & clearly enjoying themselves.

Come with your eyes wide open & soak it all in. This trip is not just about skiing or snowboarding powder; it is a whole lot more. Whilst we had a great time, follow up tours in 2020 & beyond will no doubt be better again & if you score clear weather and fresh snow conditions, this is an adventure worthy of the bucket list. Get a group together, get to Skopje & get on the road for a ski safari that you will not forget anytime soon. The hook is set & we’ll be back. Perhaps Mt Korab next time ………

Adventure, culture, skiing - an amazing Balkans experience

Wendy
12/07/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Rider Ability
    Expert
  • Country
    Australia
  • Admin Rating
    5

Adventure, culture, skiing - an amazing Balkans experience

Wendy
12/07/2019
If you knew me you understand that I like to go down the path less traveled.
The Balkans Cat Ski Safari provided the perfect balance that gave me a taste for the Balkans & has left me wanting MORE.
I didn't know what to expect of the Balkans (& certainly knew very little about the cat skiing), all I'd heard was horror stories reported on the news and this has had an impact on the people of these beautiful countries with unique history, culture, warmth and beauty.
The complexity has blown me away and I am grateful that I got to experience the snow covered mountains with a small group of like minded people led by a charismatic and passionate guide.
I realise I haven't written anything about the snow yet as there was so much more to the experience such as genuine people who shared their warmth, intelligence, family, food, culture and sometimes confusing facts about the origin of certain foods.
These same people assisted me to develop a taste for Rakija and the ceremony around it!
The skiing was exciting and different depending on location, geography and weather. I was lucky enough to experience gorgeous powder on my first day.
The Pelister National Park experience was amazing, the guides found the best snow in wind affected areas and their enthusiasm was contagious.
Crossing the border to Kosovo was an experience in itself and the border guards seemed quite interested in the diversity of origins in our group.
In Kosovo the guides found the best snow in variable conditions amongst some fantastic terrain. The most memorable run was an adventure all the way into a valley town.