Often when it comes to downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, hiking or biking, many of us will drive to Slovakia, train it to the Alps or hop on a plane to the Rockies. People quote the reason for this as simply superior resorts, better groomed runs or more extreme opportunities. But in the last few years, the number of people wanting to do winter sports 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.
While it would typically be a little cool to take out the hiking boots or dust off your Raleigh during the winter season, the weather in Ukraine this year has been mild enough to allow it. So while you might be able to find mulled wine in the Alps or tasty microbrews on the North American continent, nowhere other than here will you be able to try some homely Hutsul cuisine while sipping horilka after a long day of frolicking amidst Ukraineís hills, caves, and mountains.
Located in the Yaremcha region, not far from the village of Polyanytsia, Bukovel is right in the heart of the Carpathians. Boasting a 2000m 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 so offers some stunning scenery and some pretty state of the art equipment. Daily lift passes will set you back 200hrv (more during the holiday season), and keep in mind that only half the hills have lifts. But with tonnes of runs of varying degrees of difficulty, snowmobiles for rent, luxury hotels (a decent hotel room or cottage can be had anywhere from 600hrv to 2000hrv/night), night clubs, restaurants, saunas and even a place to play paintball, a European atmosphere reigns true here.
Once a military base, Tysovets is now one of the more popular ski resorts here in Ukraine as itís 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, itís probably not the best slope to head to if youíre 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, and once youíve decided that youíve finished for the day, you can slide into the hotel and cottages that dot the bottom of the resort complex.
As Ukraineís tallest mountain (a vertical rise of 800m and a top elevation of 2060m), 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, and to the east is the Prut River which boasts 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 the kingdom of eternal darkness, caves are often deemed the eighth wonder of the world, and possessing unknown mysteries, their treasures are unlocked only to those who journey through the underground labyrinths. Not far from the village of Zaliccya in the Ternopil province, exists just such a place. Stretching up to 40 kilometres in length, these underground cavities are an incredible depiction of Mother Natureís 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. 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, these slopes are not at all far from Tysovets which means they are going to be crowded all winter long. You can see why too as lift costs are only about 5hrv per ride. 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, like Pohar, Menchul, Warsaw and Zakhar Berkut; the last of which has two runs of about 700-800m. But Politech Mountain is the best option for newcomers, especially since there are cosy little pubs situated at the base where one can sit and enjoy a beer or two while resting sore tired muscles. And as the number of hotels and pubs just keeps growing from year to year, this is quickly becoming a great little spot to getaway for the weekend, getting in a bit of skiing in the process.
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 days trips (from any town or village) or more long distance trips (those up to several hundred kilometres are available), youíll 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 is what has been called the last great water wildernesses of Europe, and is 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 Ė 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, itís got a few places that will offer lodgings for just a few or whole groups. But if youíre looking to take the fuss out of all the organisation, there are those who can put together a package weekend for you.
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. Itís 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 Ďtil 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 youíre just starting out, thereís also a small hill of just 300m which is equipped with instructors ready and willing to help. At the bottom of the mountain, the resortís facilities include a sauna, a number of pubs, cafes and restaurants, a billiard room, table football and hockey, a ski school, rental centres and if you still feel like you havenít 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-seekersí favour: Drahobrat is rarely ever crowded.
Ternopil Sport Tourist Club
Fish & Chizh Ltd
Argo Club Tour Operator
Get weather forecasts for numerous mountain resorts at www.ski.sport.com.ua