Our annual whinge about the state of Romania’s ski resorts. For last year’s, see here.
Bucharest Life – then known of course as Wimbledon Life – spent Christmas 1990 in Romania; in Sinaia, to be precise. In those days, skiing in proper resorts was still beyond the pocket of a junior civil servant, so we had to make do with what we could afford: Andorra, Bulgaria, Romania.
And in those days, Romania was bloody cheap. Even with the scourge of ‘foreigner price’ to deal with it was impossible to spend all that much. In fact, you had to be careful not to exchange too much money and end up with a load of useless paper which you couldn’t spend, because there was nothing to spend it on; nor in those days could you change lei back into real money. It wasn’t even soft enough to wipe your backside with.
Those were the days.
Back then, there was not even such a thing as a proper piste map in Sinaia, and in many ways it is heartwarming to know that 20 years on there is still no proper piste map. This utterly unhelpful map is all we have ever found:
We have said in the past that the best place in Romania to develop a proper ski resort would be Balea Lac, high in the snow-sure Fagaras Mountains. The Valea Dorului at Sinaia is an option (as there is already something resembling a skiing infrastructure, snow is guaranteed and it is not too difficult to reach from Bucharest and its airports), but the issues which we picked up on in this post make any development there unlikely in the near future.
We did read last week that Petrosani/Parang would see development soon, complete with seven chairlifts and a whopping 30km of piste: that’s enough to keep a decent skier happy for at least a few hours. (That, of course, is if those 30km will actually be real kilometres. In our experience, a kilometre in a Romanian ski resort tends to be a little shorter than elsewhere).
Quite how people will get to Petrosani is another matter: it is hardly in the most accessible part of the country. Another concern would be that the highest part of the Parang ski area is 1699 metres: snow at that height is not guaranteed.
Anyway, these things are probably irrelevant: we have filed the project under ‘we’ll believe it when we see it.’
Until Petrosani/Parang becomes a worthwhile alternative, Romania’s ‘top ski resort’ (everything’s relative) will remain of course good old Poiana Brasov, a place which, pound for pound, offers less value for money than probably any ski resort in the world. Indeed, in our wholly unscientific survey (carried out yesterday afternoon on the back of an envelope) we have found it to be the most expensive place to ski in Europe.
This coming season, a day’s lift pass in Poiana Brasov will cost 125 lei; that’s €30 for 13km of piste, or €2.30 per km. Bansko, in Bulgaria (Poiana’s biggest regional rival), offers 75km of piste for €25 (2009-2010 prices), or €0.34 per km. The Three Valleys in France offer 600km of piste for €47, or €0.08 per km.
Of course, maybe Poiana Brasov makes up for its lack of piste with other things, such as perfectly groomed, rock-free slopes and modern, high-speed lifts free of queues.
Or maybe not.