Instead of getting active here in Ukraine, many of us drive to Slovakia, train it to the Alps or hop on a plane to the Rockies to get our skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking and ice fishing fix. Why? Many quote superior resorts, better-groomed runs and/or more extreme opportunities as the reason. In the last few years, however, the number of people getting involved in winter sports here in Ukraine has been on the increase, and local resorts have been growing to meet the demand, adding more modern equipment as well as access to a full range of winter sports activities.
Located in the Yaremcha region, not far from the village of Polyanytsia, Bukovel is right in the heart of the Carpathians. Boasting a 2,000-metre long run, this has to be the largest and most state-of-the-art ski-resort in Ukraine. At a height of 900m, this resort was a pawn in the bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, and as such offers some stunning scenery and some pretty state-of-the-art equipment. Daily lift passes will set you back about 350hrv with only half of the hills actually supplying lifts. But with tonnes of runs with varying degrees of difficulty, snowmobiles for rent, luxury hotels (a decent hotel room or cottage can be had from 600hrv up to 2,000hrv/night), night clubs, restaurants, saunas and even a place to play paintball, a true European atmosphere is the order of the day.
Once a military base, Tysovets is becoming one of the more popular ski resorts here in Ukraine as it’s about 1,000m above sea level and only 142km from Lviv. With only three main runs (800, 650 and 600m each), however, served by just one lift, it’s probably not the best slope to head to if you’re looking to fly down the mountain and race back up. Their cross-country tracks, on the other hand, are another matter entirely as few ski resorts have paid as much attention to the desires of those wishing to remain on a less vertical decline as Tysovets. Once a training ground for Soviet ski teams, you can find a great network of paths. Then slide on into the hotel and cottages that dot the bottom of the resort complex to warm up.
As Ukraine’s tallest mountain (a vertical rise of 800m and a top elevation of 2,060m), Hoverla should be a definite on your list of outdoor locations to visit. The slopes are covered in forests of beech and spruce trees, above which is a belt of frosty sub-alpine meadows, with the Prut River to the east boasting a beautiful waterfall regardless of the season. Choosing to hike Hoverla is a fairly intense activity, so we advise a guided tour up to the top. There are a number of tour operators that work all year round, including the winter months, and for a very nominal fee will offer you accommodation, meals, transfers and your own personal guide.
As a kingdom of eternal darkness, its caves are often deemed the eighth wonder of the world, and possessing unknown mysteries, their treasures are unlocked only to those brave enough to journey their underground labyrinths. Not far from the village of Zaliccya in the province of Ternopil, exists just such a place. Stretching up to 40 kilometres in length, these underground cavities are an incredible depiction of Mother Nature’s talent. Inspired patterns found on walls, clusters of crystals, hanging garlands of stalactites and stalagmite gardens make this an incredible adventure for kids and adults alike. There are a fair number of places to stay over the weekend should you be looking to turn this into a real Ukrainian adventure, or book a tour where accommodation, transfers and meals are all provided.
Only 120km from Lviv, the Slavske slopes are not at all far from Tysovets, which means they will likely see a good number of ski bunnies throughout the year. You could see why, considering daily lift prices here are far lower than other resorts (80 – 120hrv/day). Trostyan Mountain is the most popular peak at Slavske and has five trails all ranging from 1,000 to 1,500m. Behind Trostyan, there are a few other hills you may want to try, such as Pohar, Menchul, Warsaw and Zakhar Berkut; the last of which has two runs of about 700-800m. But Politech Mountain is the best option – there are a number of cosy little pubs situated at the base where one can sit and enjoy a beer or two while resting sore tired muscles after a long day of carving down the hills.
Southern Carpathian Mountain Chain
The Carpathians have not yet been fully integrated for cyclists, winter or otherwise, but this is what makes the roads so great for those looking for a little adventure on two wheels. Whether you intend to make short day trips (from any town or village) or longer distance trips (those up to several hundred kilometres are available), you’ll be able to cross to any region within this large mountain chain fairly easily. One such well-travelled route starts out at the Kolomiya train station, onto Stopchakiv, Kosiv, Yavoriv, Kryvorivnya, Ust-Putyla, Selyatyn, Ruska, Shurdyn Pass, Shepit, Berehomet, Storozhynets, and finishes in Chernivtsi. But beware! Logging roads suitable for mountain cyclists are not easily identified on maps and getting lost is a real risk! Regardless of where you might end up, however, accommodation is easy to find, and hotels, B&Bs, sanatoriums, even private homes, offer lodging at various prices.
Staying on the western side of the country but moving a little further north to what has been called the last great water wildernesses of Europe, is where you will find one of the best places in all of Ukraine to try your hand at ice fishing. As part of a major national park, Nobel Lake spans more than eight square kilometres, and home to many birds such as storks and herons, this remote area remains reasonably undisturbed – especially during the winter. Species of fish such as Silver Bream, Asp, Crusian Carp, Rudd, Common Bream, Tench, Common Perch, Cat Fish, Roach, Common Carp, European Pike Perch, European Wels, Northern Pike and Ide can all be found here. Even though the village of Nobel is a farming community, it’s got a few places that will offer lodgings for just a few people or whole groups.
This resort has got the highest-altitude in all of the Carpathians with peaks at Stih and Wizhnytsia reaching heights of 1,704m and 1,883m respectively. It’s the altitude that keeps this place open longer than the others as you can ski and snowboard here beginning with the first snowfall right through ‘til the end of April, and sometimes even into May. Eight runs, ranging from 1,200m to 3,000m, and consisting of various degrees of difficulty, tend to draw out those with a mind for serious down-hilling, but even if you’re just starting out, there’s also a small hill of just 300m which is equipped with instructors ready and willing to help. At the bottom of the mountain, the resort’s facilities include a sauna, a number of pubs, cafés and restaurants, a billiard room, table football and hockey, a ski school, rental centres and if you still feel like you haven’t had enough outdoor activity, a tubing hill can be found as well. A hotel or cottage will set you back around 150hrv per day, and boding well in the snow-seekers’ favour: Drahobrat is rarely ever crowded.
Not sure where to start?
Try one of these sites to get the lowdown on the highest points in the country:
Ternopil Sport Tourist Club www.tourclub.com.ua
Try Ukraine www.tryukraine.com
Lviv Ecotour www.lvivecotour.com
Ski Ukraine www.skiukraine.info
Fish & Chizh Ltd www.fishingukraine.com
Argo Club Tour Operator www.argo-club.com