If you’re planning where to head for this year’s ski trip and you fancy a change from the usual suspects (France & Austria, we’re looking at you) we’ve got a new idea for you: see what the Bulgarian slopes have to offer and head to Bansko. Assistant Editor and Trader Lifestyle writer Katie spent a week there in early January (purely in the interests of checking out the hotel for our valued readers, of course), so here’s the verdict…
The Kempinski Grand Arena Bansko’s reputation definitely precedes it… from the moment you arrive in Bulgaria, mention the name of the hotel you’re staying at and you’ll be met with “ooohs” and “aaahs” – and for good reason. It has several awards and accolades to its name, including Bulgaria’s Best Ski Hotel and Best Hotel Spa in Bulgaria – but did it live up to its reputation?
To put it simply, yes. From the moment we arrived at the hotel several hours late (thanks to snow on the runway and a rather treacherous four hour bus journey) to be greeted by smiling staff who ushered our bulky cases full of ski gear to our rooms, where a meat and cheese platters and wine lay in wait for us. Just as every good winter holiday (and break from the trading charts) should start.
The hotel has everything you’d expect from a top quality ski resort, and more: plenty of log fires, spectacular mountain views, a spa for easing out those sore muscles post-ski, and a boot room. (That last one may sound like a minor point, but any skiing veteran will know there’s no luxury like having someone collect and put away your skis and boots for you at the end of a day on the slopes instead of battling through the crowds at the rental shop.)
Moving on to the slopes themselves – skiing beginners like myself will be grateful for the numerous smaller slopes to practice on (and the instructors from Ulen who are always on hand to help out even the most nervous learners!) And there are plenty of red and black slopes on offer for the more adept (or just more reckless) skiers.
To reach the slopes, you take a gondola ride from the station right outside the Kempinski hotel, so there really is no better place in Bansko to stay if you want to be first in the queue to hit the slopes. And at the end of the day, you can take the 4 mile ski road back to Bansko and ski directly to the hotel doors.
And because every trader knows it’s all about the après ski, you’ll be pleased to hear you’ll be greeted at the bottom of the slopes by buzzing après ski bars and restaurants – and the party goes on as late as you like. Meanwhile, back at Kempinski Grand Arena you’ll find the lobby bar with impressive cocktails (I can recommend their Bellinis) and welcoming log fires, an outdoor veranda bar perfect for enjoying a Glühwein in the sun, and a piano bar where you can dance the night away.
The hotel isn’t short on culinary options either – you can choose from the Gallery restaurant, with themed buffets that change nightly, top-class service at the Coma Prima Mediterranean restaurant and live cooking shows at the Sushi Bar and Teppanyaki Grill.
But the real highlight is definitely heading to the spa after a long day of skiing and relaxing in the outdoor hot tub in the snow as the sun goes down. Make sure you treat yourself to a massage while you’re at it – trust us, your ski-tired (and probably bruised and battered) muscles will thank you for it.
If you’re looking for a holiday that’s a mix of adventure, learning something new, good food and partying and just the right amount of pampering, look no further.
As you know, much as we love trading we’re definitely advocates for taking a healthy amount of time out from the charts too (which is what our Trader Lifestyle section is all about). So could it be time to drag yourself away from the trading charts and book that break you’ve been promising yourself?