Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Travel: Diana Ross and a supreme skiing experience in Bulgaria

© Shutterstock / Nataliya NazarovaSnow-covered chalets and spectacular surroundings in Bansko
Snow-covered chalets and spectacular surroundings in Bansko

You could hear a pin drop in the silence as we climb higher on the retro ski lifts in Dobrinishte, the serenity punctuated only by the call of birds and falling snow from the branches of trees below.

We’re just half an hour away from the bustling slopes and streets of Bansko, but we could be in a completely other world and time. We see only a handful of other people on these tranquil pistes – some of the snow so fresh the only evidence of life are the animal footprints from the night before.

We’ve been taken to Dobrinishte by our chalet rep, Luben, who is looking after us during our stay at Diana Ross, the quirky name of our Snomads Ski Chalet in Bansko.

At first we are a little apprehensive to leave the groomed and modern routes peppered with cafes and bars we have become accustomed to for a far less developed ski area Luben describes as “fully natural, with old-style ski lifts and like you have gone back in time 50 years.”

But we trust him, and our trust is rewarded.

Located in the Blagoevgrad Province, Dobrinishte is one long 5km ski slope divided into two sections by a halfway lift station, manned by workers who physically hold the lift for you to quickly jump on to the chairs – there are no fancy mechanics here. We meander down blue and red slopes, enjoying the tranquillity and views of the Pirin National Park, finishing off with a cold beer in the sunshine and blinding white vista of the snow around us.

While Dobrinishte is 100% worth a visit during your trip to these Bulgarian slopes, you of course cannot miss the more populated area of Bansko itself. There is one gondola which operates from the base of the mountain in the main square of the town, and while we were told the queues can reach upwards of an hour, we never waited more than 30 minutes. This is something to bear in mind on your trip, however – we were advised to get there early (pre-9am) to avoid long queues.

Skiing off-piste
Skiing off-piste

Unlike the Alps, Bansko is a small resort and as such is a perfect spot to get to grips with pistes and practice. It’s a good place for beginners and more advanced skiers and snowboarders alike, and again, unlike the Alps, you will not be completely out of pocket by the end of your trip. It is slowly getting more expensive as its popularity grows we are told, but it is still a much more affordable option than heading to Switzerland or France.

During the height of the winter season, you are able to ski right down to the base of the mountain on the ski road – the case too in Dobrinishte. However, as our visit fell in March, the ski road was closed as there was not enough snow remaining. It would of course be amiss to not touch on the impact of climate change, which Bansko – just like the Alps – is not immune from. Luben tells us last year’s winter was good, but this season the snow has not been what would usually be expected for this time of year. At the bottom of the mountain in the town of Bansko itself, for example, not even an icicle hangs from a pretty chalet, let alone any snow lying on the ground.

But thankfully, the snow cover high up is good, and we spend two days traversing the Pirin mountain, stopping in at 180° Cafe more than once for an Aperol Spritz and a pizza to refuel. A brilliant DJ keeps the fun vibes flowing and even if you decided you’d had enough skiing for the day, you could while away an afternoon here in jolly bliss in the sunshine, recharging your aching muscles.

Speaking of aching muscles, Izgreva, a hot mineral pool spa in Banya village – a 10-minute drive from Bansko – is the perfect place to relax and soak tired bodies. Three thermal pools of differing temperatures provide steaming bliss, reminiscent of the blue lagoon in Iceland. We enjoy this serenity before heading back to Diana Ross for afternoon cake.

The chalet itself is comfortable and cosy, with sauna and a hot tub and, with 10 en suite bedrooms, hosts up to 25 people. Conveniently, there is a ski-hire workshop in the compound as well as the other Snomads chalet – The Supremes, and it’s just a short 15-minute walk into Bansko’s old town, where Luben takes us one evening with the other guests. He’s also a tour guide, and delights us with tales of the local area and wider Bulgarian history on the walk. We finish our tour at Obetsanova Mehana Tavern – a traditional Bulgarian building located in the old town, enjoying a rambunctious evening with local folk musicians, amazing food and our fellow Diana Ross residents, all organised by Luben and the chalet team.

It’s a perfect end to our stay in Bulgaria and, as Diana Ross herself says, there really Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, to keep us from coming back.


Direct flights London to Sofia from £50 return. Diana Ross, Snomads Ski Chalet Bulgaria from £279 per adult, £239 per child.

P.S. Bansko is situated on the territory of Pirin National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, which offers much in the way of summer activities as well as winter. The area has the longest water slide in Europe, stretching over 400 metres. There is also the annual jazz festival, as well as numerous routes for mountain biking and hiking.