A PISTE OF THE AC­TION

GARY STE­WART chan­nels his in­ner Bond on a ski hol­i­day in Slo­vakia

Western Mail - - WM3 -

EVER since I first saw James Bond ski­ing back­wards down a moun­tain while shoot­ing bad guys in black out­fits, I’ve al­ways thought moun­tain snow hol­i­days looked cool.

Watch­ing the suave su­per­spy’s ad­ven­tures play out on Sun­day af­ter­noon telly as a lit­tle boy, I too could en­joy the sense of speed, the dan­ger, the for­eign lo­ca­tions and cine­matic vis­tas other­wise de­nied me.

But when I re­cently vis­ited Slo­vakia on a ski­ing trip what re­minded me most of a James Bond-style ad­ven­ture was cross­ing an East­ern Euro­pean border over frozen moun­tains in a speed­ing Mercedes driven by a man who seemed in­tent on killing me.

We flew into Krakow air­port in Poland where we were met by a driver who would trans­fer us to Ho­tel Well­ness Chopok, about 200km away in Slo­vakia. I’m told you can fly to a nearer air­port, but not from Liver­pool where we be­gan our jour­ney.

At the speed we were go­ing I could eas­ily imag­ine us be­ing chased by an icy KGB as­sas­sin but I think that’s just the way they drive over there.

We emerged from our hell ride a few hours later at our home for the next four days, an old but re­cently ren­o­vated ski lodge near the town of Jasná in the Low Ta­tras.

We were col­lected by a guide who took us on a 10 minute drive up the moun­tain to the sur­pris­ingly mod­ern re­sort of Jasná where we col­lected our equip­ment and booked a les­son to help shake the rust off.

We spent the rest of the week ei­ther ski­ing or at Ho­tel Well­ness Chopok. We were warned off go­ing to the near­est town by a lo­cal, (it looked dis­tinctly in­dus­trial and not touristy) and the ski re­sort fur­ther up the moun­tain wasn’t con­ve­nient for meals or nights out with no car.

So it was help­ful that our room was ex­tremely spa­cious with a nice ve­randa, and the ho­tel had a very good restau­rant where we ate our hot or cold buf­fet break­fast and five course evening meals, all in­cluded in the price.

The food was very Slo­vakian. There was a salad buf­fet fol­lowed by soup (usu­ally with ham in the bot­tom), then a main course, dessert, then cheese and fruit. My din­ing partner was veg­e­tar­ian and the chef made changes to the menu so she didn’t go hun­gry.

We stuck to lo­cal wines, which cheered up our server, the in­con­gru­ously named Pablo, who lav­ished us with in­for­ma­tion on them. The wines were pretty good and came in at about £20 for a bot­tle. Be­cause we were half board the wine bill made up the ma­jor­ity of our hol­i­day spends.

That’s pretty James Bon­dian, right?

Go­ing back to our room to watch Net­flix on the iPad was prob­a­bly less so.

The ho­tel is very fam­ily-ori­ented, with ball pools and Lego in the bar area. There was also chil­dren’s en­ter­tain­ment laid on but it seemed to mostly be in Slo­vakian.

One thing that was just for adults was the sauna, which was be­decked with signs say­ing swim­ming cos­tumes were banned. Ap­par­ently Slo­vaks think sweat­ing into your trunks is a health haz­ard so they have to go.

I like to soothe my mus­cles in the sauna af­ter a tir­ing day on the slopes but not at the price of my mod­esty, so I stuck with the achy legs.

I’m seem­ing less like Daniel Craig all the time, aren’t I?

We hit the slopes, via a ho­tel shut­tle bus which runs all day, and they were great. The re­sort web­site says it has got 50km of pistes, with 14 blue, 14 red and six black runs. I’d say we’re at the top end of in­ter­me­di­ate in terms of skill level and we had chal­leng­ing but fun time with­out gen­er­ally feel­ing we were in mor­tal dan­ger.

The slopes are bet­ter than where we usu­ally ski, in Zakopane, Poland. They’re var­ied and chal­leng­ing, but not too fright­en­ing.

The views were great as well, look­ing down across forested val­leys.

Fol­low­ing a re­cent in­vest­ment in Jasná’s in­fra­struc­ture I’d say it wasn’t far off the qual­ity of some French re­sorts I’ve vis­ited.

The ski lifts are mod­ern and com­fort­able, many with heated seats and canopies and there’s a de­cent choice of restau­rants and bars, from mod­ern cock­tail lounges or clubs, to the more homely and tra­di­tional wood-clad tav­erns.

The lo­cal cur­rency is the euro which is an­other point in its favour.

In a blur our hol­i­day was over and it was time to re­peat our air­port trans­fer.

We left in the mid­dle of the night so it was about as fright­en­ing as our ar­rival ex­cept done in the dark.

I’d have pre­ferred to have evac­u­ated cling­ing to the side of a

he­li­copter or in a mini sub­ma­rine but the op­tion was not avail­able.

Ski­ing in Slo­vakia

On the slopes in Jasná The ski re­sort of Jasná in Slo­vakia has 50km of pistes with 14 blue, 14 red and six black runs

Ho­tel Well­ness Chopok

One of the ho­tel pools

Roomy ac­com­mo­da­tion

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