I’m in a snowy forest, surrounded by spruce and fir timber, with branches so laden with snow that now and again I can hear a faint pfff because the limb offers means and the powder falls to the bottom. In spite of the heavy snowfall, the piste I’m snowboarding on, which cuts proper by means of this magical forest, is completely groomed.
This is Kopaonik, Serbia’s greatest resort: it caters principally for newbie and intermediate skiers, so there’s a lot for these who don’t wish to navigate deep recent powder whereas they’re honing their method. For these of us who do, nonetheless, it’s straightforward sufficient to pop out and in of the timber on both facet of the pistes to get pleasure from some untracked snow.
At the underside of the slope is a cute picket hut with intricately carved home windows, panels painted mint-green, and a deer cranium with antlers above the door. I take the compulsory Instagram image after which head in. I’m hit with a wall of cigarette smoke and the sight of a suckling pig rotating over a hearth, however the crowd, a mixture of locals and visiting skiers from Belgrade and past, are pleasant and eager to learn how I got here to be right here. No UK tour company at the moment run holidays in Kopaonik, so visiting British skiers are one thing of a curiosity. Soon, I’m consuming rakija (the nationwide schnapps-like spirit) courtesy of my new mates.
Photograph: Sam Haddad
Kopaonik is the title of the ski resort and of Serbia’s greatest mountain vary, which extends into northern Kosovo, although the republic continues to be not formally recognised by Serbia. The resort was broken by Nato bombings in 1999, however is now a well-liked ski vacation spot for Serbs. It’s an enormous summer time hotspot too, and well-known for being the place the place Novak Djokovic hit his first tennis ball.
Kopaonik’s highest level is 2,017-metre Pančić’s Peak, simply alongside from an enormous, white, futuristic dome, which was previously a army radar station. Its looming presence provides to the distinctly un-Alpine expertise of snowboarding or snowboarding right here – as does the thick forest – denser that something you often encounter within the Alps, as most lifts are typically above the treeline. The greatest draw, although, is the value – a winter holiday right here is significantly cheaper than within the Alps. Every week’s raise move with ski rent prices round £170 – nearly half that of Val d’Isère. And whereas there’s much less to problem a extra superior skier or snowboarder, the 24 lifts and 55km of pistes are good-quality and never crowded. It’s a spot the place newcomers and improvers may make actual progress.
The resort itself is small however handy, with primarily ski-in, ski-out accommodations. Some of the buildings have fairly, sloping picket roofs, as if designed to imitate the form of the encircling conifers. I stayed on the lately refurbished Hotel Angella, which is embellished in calm, earthy tones and has an excellent view of wintry forest. For these on a tighter price range, there are well-located residences on Airbnb beginning at £22pp an evening, and the atmospheric Montana Hostel has doubles from €15pp half-board, together with transport to the slopes.
Kopaonik could really feel totally different from the Alps, however lives as much as its Mountain of the Sun nickname. Photograph: Nataliya Nazarova/Alamy
After a day on the mountains, I’d wander out to drink scorching wine, and eat corn on the cob or wurst sausages from picket huts on the road. The resort additionally has a number of conventional eating places, whose menus are dominated by fish and meat stews and meat grill platters. Après-ski right here means late-night bars enjoying techno, as you may count on from a ski resort just a few hours’ drive from Belgrade – and there’s loads of partying. Kopaonik goes by the monicker “Mountain of the Sun”, and the solar did shine day by day – the resort averages 200 sunny days a yr. It was chilly although, usually round -15C, though this was unusually low.
For a quintessentia ski expertise, Kopaonik received’t push everybody’s buttons (and vegans and vegetarians may want a spot with broader menu selections). But for a special sort of snow break, with good newbie and improver choices in an exquisite pure forest setting, it makes an attention-grabbing different to the standard suspects – and one that you simply’d be arduous to beat on worth.
• The journey was supplied by the National Tourism Organisation of Serbia. Every week’s raise move in Kopaonik prices round £124; per week’s ski or snowboard rent prices round £46. Doubles at Hotel Angella price round £103 B&N, Wizz Air flies Luton to Belgrade from round £80 return; Air Serbia flies from Heathrow to Belgrade from £150. A bus from Belgrade to Kopaonik prices round £20 return, or automobile rent in Belgrade is offered by means of Kayak for £14 a day. The drive is round 4 hours every means
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