A PISTE OF THE ACTION
GARY STEWART channels his inner Bond on a ski holiday in Slovakia
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