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Fun in the Carpathians: winter sports and gourmet food
Kateryna Medvedeva, a speleologist (see an interview with her on page 78), loves mountain skiing and has been doing it for quite a long time. Here she offers her story about some of her favorite ski resorts of Ukraine. She is sorry to say that there is only one such resort in Ukraine which qualifies for being ranked on a par with top European ones, but all the Ukrainian ski resorts offer scenic nature and breathtaking vistas, warm hospitality, excellent food and accommodation.
Winter for me is a season when I can enjoy doing my favorite sport — Alpine skiing. And, of course, I enjoy celebrating the New Year. It’s best when I can celebrate the New Year at a ski resort in the Carpathians, Caucasus, Alps, or the Tatry. The Carpathians are the nearest for me to go to, and in winter I go there almost every weekend. We, Ukrainians, are lucky to have such wonderful mountains as the Carpathians. Those who like skiing can find a great many places to go to and indulge their Alpine skiing hobby. Ski resorts in the Carpathians vary in class and in services they offer but all of them have all the basic things you may need. And of course, it’s not only skiing that you can do there — snowboarding, ice skating and hikes are there to enjoy. If you don’t bring your own equipment with you, you can always rent what you need at the resort you go to. Incidentally, as far as snowboards are concerned, there are all kinds available — from the simplest to the most sophisticated ones.
It is probably the best known ski resort in the Carpathians, and one of the oldest. Mount Trostyan is a major attraction for those who like skiing down steep slopes. Three types of lifts are available, including the one designed specially for children. Mount Trostyan is the place where skiing competitions are held; professional skiers go there for training.
In addition to Trostyan, there are quite a few of other hills in the area that offer nice skiing opportunities. Politekh is one of them. It has particularly many lifts that provide easy access. In Slavske, you can find places to ski which will be good for all sorts of skiing — from extreme to the most sedate. Your choice of the track depends entirely on your skiing skills. Beginners are as welcome as skiing masters.
There are many hotels and tourist centers in Slavske which provide accommodation. You can also find accommodation in private houses of the locals — that’s what I like best. The hosts are very hospitable, the accommodation they offer is no worse than in any of the upgrade hotels. If you come to Slavske round the holidays, you can take part in the celebrations and learn more about the local Hutsul traditions, customs and rituals.
There are some points in the mountains to which you can be driven in cars. You can arrange to be picked at the door of the place you stay at, and then be brought back. Even if you drive to Slavske in your own car, it’s not advisable to try to go into the mountains — it takes a professional to drive those treacherous mountain roads.
Most of the lifts are of the old type and the service is not very efficient. There may be waiting lines; besides, these lifts are often out of order. There are grooming machines that smooth out the slopes and ensure that the snow has a uniform consistency, but at some tracks and courses you may encounter conditions which interfere with good, unimpeded skiing.
But the attractive features of Slavske outweigh those few drawbacks by far. The picturesqueness of the place is amazing. Another thing which makes Slavske a highly attractive place is its kolyby — local eateries that serve dishes of the local and general Ukrainian cuisine — deruny (potato pancakes), hrybna yushka (fish soup), chynakhy (stewed beans with potato and meat), nalysnyky z syrom ta chornychnym varennyam (cottage cheese cakes with blackberry jam), and shashlyk (a sort of shish kebab) are particularly good at Olga’s kolyba, my favorite eatery.
Learn more about Slavske at
This ski resort opened only a few years ago but it’s an asset rather than liability. Right from the start the place was designed to be a modern ski resort, whereas most of the other resorts in the Carpathians seem to have developed from local villages.
Bukovel offers a great variety of tracks and courses for skiers with skills varying from beginners to the most sophisticated. Bukovel has become a very popular place to go to and booking must be done well in advance. This winter it can accommodate up to 1,500 tourists, whereas last year it was only 650. However, you can find accommodation in one of the nearby villages — Tatariv, Yaremcha, Yablunytsya and Vorokhta, from which you can drive to Bukovel, or take a bus. I admit that last year there was a problem with parking, but this year the parking lots have been expanded.
The lifts are all in good condition, with modern technology providing the best solutions. The lifts can carry up to four persons per one seat. There are children’s grounds where your children will be looked after while you enjoy your skiing.
Food is more standardized and lacks in local flavor and is rather expensive. Bukovel has equipment to make snow artificially when there is not enough natural snow to support the sport of skiing, and grooming machines to smooth out the slopes are also available.
The lift fares are higher than in Slavske but you can buy one-day, two-day, three-day, week and season passes, and it will be a good bargain.
Bukovel is a resort of a top European class and it is getting improved all the time. Bukovel is also a spa and a balneology center, so you can improve your health combining therapy with skiing, breathing the salubrious mountain air, and, of course, enjoying the stunningly beautiful vistas. People with problems of the musculoskeletal system, urogenital apparatus, or gastrointestinal tract are welcome to come to the Bukovel medical center for efficient treatment. Massage is also available.
Learn more about Bukovel at www.bukovel.com
This ski resort is situated at an elevation of about 1,400 meters on the slope of Mount Stih which is 1,701 meters high. It is the only place in the Carpathians where the snow covers the ground from November till March, and where lifts are available. In fact, the snow there can stay well into April or even May when it is long gone in other places.
Tourists usually come to Drahobrat for terms longer than just a couple of days because of lack of easy or convenient access to it. You can stay only in a hotel or in one of the two cottages and you have to book hotel reservations well in advance. There are no villages in the immediate vicinity and thus no accommodation at private houses is available. Also, you’ll have to eat at the local eateries, or bring food with you, because there are no food stores in Drahobrat. The nearest stores can be found in the town of Yasynya, 18 kilometers away.
The slopes are good for high-speed downhill skiing, and the courses are rather difficult to negotiate, but there are some skiing places for the beginners as well. Drahobrat is an excellent resort for tourists who like snowboarding, particularly for those who enjoy riding over the virgin snow.
The weather conditions in Drahobrat may be somewhat trying, with colds way below zero, blizzards, fogs and icy crust on the snow being regular occurrences.
I know one sport which is very nice to be doing on a windy, cold and snowy day — it is kolybaing, that is spending time and enjoying food in local kolybas. The food is very good there, and quite a few people go to the Carpathians for gourmet rather than skiing reasons.
This resort sits on the Yablunytsky Pass, one of the most important Carpathian passes, at an elevation of 921 meters.
Yablunytsya has excellent conditions for development. At present it offers ten lifts and a variety of courses and tracks of various degrees of skiing difficulty. The resort is particularly popular with those “who are over forty”, many of whom come with their children or grandchildren. Snowboarding is not a number-one sport in Yablunytsya, but from there you can go hiking into the mountains and enjoy the scenic views. Also, you can join a bus tour of Hutsulshchyna and learn a lot about the local culture and way of life, very much different from anywhere else in Ukraine.
There are enough stores in Yablunytsya, drug stores included, to satisfy various tourist needs, and the accommodation options include hotels and private houses. In contrast to Drahobrat, you can easily get to Yablunytsya from Ivano-Frankivsk.
It is one of my favorite places to go to in the Carpathians. These two villages, Pylypets and Podobovets, are situated close to each other at a distance of slightly more than a mile. Tourists can get there easily by public transportation from Volovets.
Pylypets sits at the foot of Mount Hymba (1,497 meters high) and the ski resort there is provided with the longest high-speed lift service in the Carpathians. You can get from Pylypets to Podobovets on foot, by car or riding a horse. The proximity of these two villages offers a variety of accommodations, and skiing opportunities. It’s a haven for beginners who find many nice places for improving their skiing skills.
When you feel you’ve had enough of skiing and want a break, you can take a walk to a nearby waterfall, Shypit (Whisper), which in winter looks much more impressive than in summer. One of the local entertainments is going to a local steam bath after which you feel rejuvenated and ready for more skiing.
Photos by the author
Waterfall Shypit, not far from Pylypets-Podobets.
Children at an early age of three or four years old
can be easily taught to ski.
Skiing never fails to give you an excellent appetite.
Ski courses in Bukovel are provided with up-to-date
It’s a good idea to wear helmets and other protective
gear when you go snowboarding on the virgin snow
among fir trees, or do some risky downhill skiing.
Most of the Carpathians ski resorts are well equipped
Entertainment for those who are fed up with skiing