I first strapped on skis 15 years ago, and my love for the sport shows no sign of waning. It’s a fun way to stay in shape, and I have good reason to keep physically fit: I have just two size Small ski suits in my wardrobe, and have no desire to go out and buy another. When I first felt inclined to take up skiing, I never dreamt of doing it in Ukraine. The Caucasus and the Alps are known as chic places for the sport, without doubt. But trips to these places are fraught with difficulties such as visas and distance. It’s one of the reasons the ski resort in Bukovel is such a great option for myself and my sister Ira who is making her skiing debut, as well as any one else in Ukraine who loves to ski.
The name of the resort, Bukovel, is derived from of the 1,129-metre mountain of the same name. Situated in Polyanytsya village, 30 kilometres from Yaremcha and 100 kilometres from Ivano-Frankivsk, the resort is easy to get to by train. There are various routes, but I think the best one includes travel to Ivano-Frankivsk and getting a taxi or bus from there. Accommodation options in Bukovel are abundant. There are cheaper options in Yaremcha but it means travelling to the resort daily and a less than comfortable journey on a terrible road. Another option is to stay in Polyanytsya, which is not far from the resort; however this option is also going to cost you more.
Despite the cheaper options, I have harboured a dream of staying in a good hotel situated near the ski runs. Considering I am taking my sister and she will celebrate her birthday in Bukovel, I decide the best present for her will be maximum comfort. I have taken a look at the website of Radisson Blu Resort, Bukovel just to assure myself once again there is no better option available. It isn’t hard to choose a suite as all of them are described in detail on the hotel’s website. Right away, I am grabbed by the Deluxe suite as the perfect gift for my sister.
On The Road
Research and preparation complete, and room book, the only question remaining is how we’re going to get there. I decide to drive, going from Kyiv, through Zhytomyr, Rivne and Ternopil. For the entire 700-kilometre journey, we see no snow, which seems to be a relief to my sister, who has trouble keeping her balance even on level ground. She seems happy she won’t have to learn to ski and consequently will leave Bukovel without any bruises, abrasions, or worse...
Ten hours later, reality dawns on her as we arrive and witness the slopes of Bukovel covered with snow. We arrive late at night, and weary from our long drive we hanker only to take a bath. And what a bath! It is separated from the bedroom with a glass screen. The suite itself meets all our expectations and more, with two big beds, a spacious wardrobe to store all of our ski equipment, as well as a kettle for coffee and tea. But the best feature of all is the window with views of the ski runs and the mountain unfolding right before you. There is also a big TV in the room, but who wants to watch TV when you have all this beauty right outside? But first that bath...
Waking Up In Paradise
The first beams of the morning sun beam into the room through that window wake us from our slumber, and we are eager for the day ahead. We dress quickly and go down to the hotel’s ski room. I am happy to see a good selection of A and B category skis, and impressed with the friendly attitude of the staff. They help us choose the proper equipment, which looks new and unused, as well as call in an instructor for my sister. The instructor Andriy promises by day’s end Ira will be skiing fast and confidently. He’s a charming young guy, and I feel a little pang of jealousy along with regret that I already know how to ski. I leave these two to their lessons and head for the mountain.
Our hotel is situated right at the foot of the slope, which is gentle – ideal for beginners and relaxed skiing. The office is right at the start so I buy two ski passes right away; prices depend on the time you’re planning to spend on the mountain. There are 600 kilometres of runs in total of various levels of difficulty. The longest is 2 kilometres. A good system of lifts allows you to change runs easily, and there are signs everywhere so you won’t be confused which way to go. In addition, there are a handful of restaurants and fast-food outlets about to take a break and have a snack. I ski slowly at first having been off skis for a year but enjoy every second.
Two hours later I return to where I left my sister to find her happy and already tentatively skiing, so I decide she has had enough lessons from Prince Charming and whisk her away. Ira turns out to be a model student, and I see her progressing hour by hour. As we find out later, the instructors here teach according to the so-called Austrian system, where every instructor continues to teach students new skills rather than explaining the same things over and over again. Every instructor is monitored constantly by video surveillance, so even if Prince Charming had wanted to show Ira more than skiing, he couldn’t!
At 16.30, some of the lifts begin to close and the electric switches on creating a special atmosphere. Also, the slopes are not as crowded as in the morning and you can enjoy skiing in relative peace. At 19.00, our first day in the mountains comes to an end and we return to the hotel keyed-up on the experience. It’s great you can ski right to the hotel entrance, leave all the equipment in the ski room, put on a bathrobe and slippers, and go to your suite where a(nother) hot bath is already waiting for you.
What can be better than a bath? A sauna of course, and Radisson Blu Resort, Bukovel has four types, as well as a swimming pool and relaxation rooms, which prove the best option to conclude our day and prepare us for sleep. We wake even earlier to ski before breakfast, the lifts start working from 8.30, and as not many visitors enjoy early starts we are almost the only people on the fresh and cleaned up slopes.
After an hour, we go for breakfast featuring fresh pastry, natural yogurt, fruits, cheese, meat, and traditional breakfast flakes with milk. But the landscape through the window beckons so we don’t stay and nibble for long. As soon as Ira masters her skills, she joins me on the black tracks and time starts to fly.
On the last day of our stay the hotel congratulates my sister with a bottle of champagne and lovely Happy Birthday cookie. We quickly take care of the bottle in the restaurant’s lobby near the cosy flames of the fireplace. While it seems the fairytale will never end we are leaving the next morning.
Ira is glad she learned to ski and can’t understand why she hadn’t tried it earlier. Personally, I think instructor Andriy played as much a role in fostering a love for skiing as the amazing landscapes of the Carpathian Mountains. Having such a beautiful resort in Ukraine is great for our country, and just another fact we all can be proud of.
Radisson Blu Resort, Bukovel
(Polyanytsya Village, Ivano-Frankivsk Region)
Budget for two people for three days:
Petrol for 1.6l engine vehicle – 1,500hrv
Accommodation in Radisson Blu Resort, Bukovel, Deluxe Room – 7,200hrv
Ski and equipment rental – 680hrv
Two-hour lesson with instructor – 600hrv
Ski-passes – 1,528hrv
Food – 1,000hrv
Grand Total: 12,508hrv
by Alina Smolina