Ukraine’s Carpathian mountains – with their mesmerising foggy peaks, stunning summit views and traditional cuisine – remain a widely unexplored area for international travellers. During winter, skiers from all over the country flock to the numerous resorts to hit the pistes and enjoy the après-ski atmosphere.
There are plenty of options to choose from and the prices are extremely affordable, although the quality varies. From top-notch mega resorts to cosy villages with only a few tracks, here are the best options for skiing in the Carpathians this winter.
Experience Bukovel – the skiing capital of Ukraine
Ask a Ukrainian about the best-known ski resort in the country, and chances are the answer will immediately be Bukovel. This enormous ski complex is a winter sports powerhouse, boasting 63 pistes for all types of skiers. It offers the highest level of facilities and plenty of things to do including skating, snow-tubing and dog-sled trips, as well as a myriad restaurants and hotels, a few high-end clubs and even a bowling alley. Unwind après-ski at the VODA Club, which boasts a heated pool and bar, three saunas, and a salt cave.
There’s a full hire service so you don’t need to worry about getting your gear to Ukraine. It’s a huge place crowded with both ski pros and beginners, celebrities and foreigners coming for a great winter experience and ultimate fun. Add the fantastic panoramas of the surrounding mountains and you get arguably the top ski resort in Ukraine right now.
Be charmed by Yaremche
A picturesque little town sandwiched between spectacular mountains, Yaremche is one of the oldest and most beautiful winter destinations in Ukraine. Developed infrastructure, many fascinating natural sights and proximity to other resort towns of the region make it a perfect gateway to the wonderful world of the Carpathian mountains.
While its skiing offer of two slopes is relatively modest, it makes a good home base for skiing runs in nearby Vorokhta and Yablunytsya, which offer an affordable alternative to pricy Bukovel. While in Yaremche, sample the delights of the local Hutsul cuisine such as banosh with brynza (a kind of polenta with salty cheese) and traditional mushroom soup at Krasna Sadyba restaurant.
Have an adventure in Drahobrat
If you’re looking for a truly wild and authentic ski experience, Drahobrat would be the best pick. Drahobrat is the highest ski resort in Ukraine at 1300 meters, with a total of nine tracks of great quality. The adventure starts from the very beginning: in order to reach this resort, you have to use either trucks or specially equipped off-road vehicles due to difficult road conditions. At a bare minimum, snow chains for your tyres are recommended.
Make sure you check the weather conditions beforehand and plan your trip carefully. The good news is that the high elevation means snow can last until well into spring. All transport to the resort starts at the small village of Yasinya, about 18km from Drahobrat. But the effort is fully justified once you arrive and find yourself surrounded by the pristine natural beauty of the Carpathians.
Get cosy in Slavske
Easily accessible thanks to direct train connections to Lviv and beyond, and boasting a variety of ski tracks and relatively good infrastructure, Slavske is the golden middle of skiing in the Carpathians. Not so big and pompous as Bukovel, and much easier to reach than Drahobrat, this village surrounded by stunning mountain scenery is a perfect choice for a relaxing break.
Ski enthusiasts will be delighted to find plenty of tracks of all difficulty levels, suitable for beginners and pros alike. There are four major mountains with skiing possibilities – Trostyan, Vysokyi Verkh, Politekhnik and Pohar. Zakhar Berkut ski resort on Vysokyi Verkh provides a combination of good service and quality.
Say hello to your inner child at Plai
The above resorts are all fairly close together, clustered within an hour or two of the Carpathians' UNESCO World Heritage-protected beech forests in villages and towns that were initially best known for their spas and healthy air. 250 kilometers to the northwest, but still well within the Carpathians, is a more recent addition to the Ukraine's ski offerings –a resort called Play full of family-friendly amenities. When you aren't hitting the slopes or dining on organic Ukrainian fare in Play's eco-restaurant U Hospodaria, you can learn more about the ancient Boykivskoy and Hotsylskoy cultures at the on-site museum.
Ski season in the Ukraine
The skiing season runs from December to March. Keep in mind that the Ukrainian Carpathians are an emerging tourist destination, so public transport is still quite shabby, ski lifts may be overcrowded during the high season and the service leaves a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, with proper research and a sense of humour, you can immerse yourself in this spectacular mountain landscape and thoroughly enjoy the experience. For more information on Ukraine’s lesser-known slopes, check out Skiresort.info.