Paul Wojnicki discovers that this Slovakian resort has lots to offer

You’re off the beaten track

It’s hard to find a ski resort that’s off the beaten track if you book with one of the main UK tour operators. I’ve had some great holidays with the likes of Crystal Ski but I’ve never really felt that I was visiting somewhere I might not bump into a friend or neighbour. Luckily Slovakia hasn’t made it onto the radar of the big UK ski operators- yet- which means you get a more unique travel experience. The businesses and hotels all speak English of course but you’re far more likely to hear Czech, Polish, Slovak and Hungarian being spoken on the slopes of Donovaly, so you really feel that you’re visiting somewhere your mates haven’t been.

The prices are hard to beat, anywhere.

Ski holidays are generally expensive, there’s no avoiding that. Even the cheapest week in Bulgaria during February with one of the big operators comes back at well over five hundred pounds, and that’s before you’ve paid for the lift pass and ski rental. On the other hand apartments sleeping four adults can be found on booking.com- at the foot of the slopes- for around £400 for four people, yes that’s £100 per person for a week! Add on budget flights and Flixbus transfer and you’ve got a ski holiday in peak season for less that £200pp.

It’s the perfect place to learn to ski.

Not only are lessons cheap in Donovaly but the skiing is dominated by blue and red runs so it’s the perfect resort to learn to ski or snowboard. Add to that the fact that the slopes are wide and uncrowded and you’ve got all the ingredients you need to pick up the sport safely. That’s not to say there aren’t more challenging runs for those with more experience- indeed there’s an excellent snow park for competent  snowboarders- but if you’re looking for a  resort with miles and miles of black runs then Donovaly isn’t the resort for you.

There are plenty of non ski related activities.

As with most ski resorts there are plenty of other snow based activities in Donovaly and they are all competitively priced. Husky rides can be enjoyed for as little as €6 euros per person. Paragliding from the top of Nova Hola costs just €60 and snowmobile rental weighs in at €80 for an hour. There’s an ice-skating rink in the resort that’s free of charge and snow shoeing can also be enjoyed for a relatively small fee. 

You can combine a city break with a ski break.

The nearest airport to Donovaly is Poprad around 80 minutes drive away in the heart of the High Tatras mountains. Poprad is well worth a few days of anyone’s time, so is the perfect gateway for a twin centre holiday, if you hire a car. Wizz Air fly daily fromm Luton Airport. 

Visitors looking for a culture fix however might be more interested in the fact that Donovaly sits at the midway point on the daily Flixbus service between Krakow and Budapest. Both cities are around three hours away by Flixbus so Donovaly is a welcome mini break for anyone wanting to connect between the two famous cities by bus. Indeed the perfect itinerary probably consists of something like this: two nights Krakow; Flixbus to Donovaly; two days skiing Donovaly; Flixbus to Budapest; two nights Budapest. And since you can hire all the equipment you’ll need for a mini ski break in the heart of the small resort you don’t even need to bring anything wintery besides your hat and gloves.

There is more to the region that winter sports.

If the itinerary above seems perfect apart from the fact that you want to visit Budapest and Krakow in the summer then all is not lost because there’s far more to this region that just winter sports. The Fatra mountains around Donovaly are famous for their caves, the hiking and the wildlife- including some of the last wolves and brown bears in Europe. You’ll also find an abundance of other outdoor activities such as paragliding and mountain biking. 

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Rooms and apartments can be found on Booking.com. We booked a modern 6 bed apartment in the heart of the resort over Christmas for £50 per night, yes that £10 per person. Rooms (for two) with breakfast in Hotel Galileo- arguably the best hotel in town, and with excellent spa facilities- can be found for under £100 per night even in peak season.  

As with many ski resorts there are a variety of different lift passes on offer, but the pass we found most useful was the 8 hour pass, which gives 8 hours of skiing over any number of days for €55. Three full days, in comparison costs €86 or €68 with a Snow Card (see www.parksnow.sk for details and for webcams).

Patty Ski is at the foot of the main slopes- and with its own fun park for beginners- offer full equipment rental from €18 for one day. Rates decrease for each consecutive day; 7 days for instance costs €80.

Flixbus travel daily between Krakow and Budapest. The midway point (3.5 hours from Krakow and 3 hours from Budapest) is Donovaly, so it’s the ideal place to break the journey at any time of year.

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