Driving at dusk towards the mountains I could just make out the low rolling hills unfolding in front of me. Being able to cast my eyes over the fast-fading fields and villages was a treat for this city girl who spends so much time facing concrete, and as the 40-minute airport shuttle glided swiftly along the quiet road I eased happily into my four-day break and the ever gathering darkness.
This was my first visit to Slovakia and I was excited by, well, just about everything – a new ski area, what we might eat, and where we were to stay, at the Dragon’s Lair chalet in Demanovska Dolina.
The chalet is owned and run by Jasna Adventures’ Justin and Adriana Garrett, who made every effort to make my friends and I welcome, from good hearty food to ski advice and transfers.
There’s more on the Lair in my chalet guide.
Our evening arrival kept the mountain views a secret until the morning, so our arrival at Mt. Chopok ski station made an even greater impression.
Slovakia’s centrally located mountains might not have the height of the Alps but they’re pretty, powdery and definitely pouted at me to take their pictures.
The ski area seems small – there’s just 50kms of slopes – but it’s Slovakia’s largest ski area and Tatry Mountain Resorts has a good mix of pistes.
There’s 11 blue runs, 17 red, seven black, 12 free ride zones, an adventure playground off-piste and a snow park.
You can ski for five months of the year, with snow guaranteed on the north and south side of Mt.Chopik.
My advanced ski friends relished the off-piste while I spent hours a little lower, zipping from side-to-side on the resort’s wide blues and reds, taking in the views towards the High Tatras, dipping below the cloud to ski the tree-lined pistes and enjoying a mulled red wine, or two, in the Fun Bar.
Meeting up for food in the mountain-top Rotunda Restaurant was a panoramic treat, and we tucked in happily to the budget-friendly fayre.
Another lunchtime meeting at the à la carte Von Roll Restaurant showed us how Slovakia’s gourmet menus set the Alps’ top chefs a challenge with fine food to dine for.
We also ate like dignitaries at the Tri Studničky Boutique Hotel, with a gourmet treat of lamb, calf and beef, washed down with fine local wines.
This area is also known for its spa options, with thermal springs a plenty. We opted for Tatralandia, which combines a wellness centre with everything from surf waves to slides, water tubes, an inflatable ‘city’, swimming pools and animation programmes.
It claims to be the largest aqua park in Central Europe, and it’s enjoyably overwhelming!
We shared our chalet with Pam and Glyn Rodgers, from York. This was also their first visit to Slovakia. Like us they wanted to ‘try somewhere different and see what the Lower Tatras were like’.
Would they return? Both would like to: “We had low expectations, but it was an economic package and we thought – why not,” said Glyn. “However it was much better than we hoped.
“The ski area was bigger than we thought, the chalet excellent, and the bespoke service offered – lifts to and from the ski area, transfers to see the local town, food and service was great.
“We had a good break,” Pam concluded.
Slovakia is a pretty, friendly place to visit. I found it great value for ski hire, food and drinks, and a real change to hear the native language, Polish and Russian as the main languages spoken. Would I go back? I’d love to.
Briony stayed at the Dragon’s Lair…
Go to: www.JasnaAdventures.co.uk for more details.
All day entry, children (3-6) E15, children (6-12) E18, junior, student, senior E22, adult E25, family pass E59.
Wizz Air flies from London Luton to Poprad-Tatry with fares from £22.99pp one way. See www.wizzair.com for further information.