Sons of the Black Mountains / February 2019

The weather forecast for Montenegro was too good to be credible. It was scary. Three metres of snow were predicted for the next two days alone, with yet more precipitation to come during the week. It was the end of January, and we were driving on a brand new highway from Skopje International Airport in Macedonia, through Kosovo. It was a provisional one for that matter, as the provisional country of Kosovo, still pleading for full recognition, is being dug up for an even grander road construction on concrete stilts the size of skyscrapers. It felt like a spring day...Read more

Beyond Bansko / December 2018

The Pirin Mountains of Bulgaria are, like the Rila Mountains from which they are separated by the Predel saddle, a mighty alpine landscape. These ridges boast the highest peaks in the Balkans, with Musala (2,925m) and Vihren (2,914m) rearing high. The northern part of the Pirin Range is a national park, and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ancient woodlands, pristine glacial lakes and an abundant wildlife have survived wars, communist times and gangster capitalism after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Yet this all may be in grave danger now. As the WWF revealed in December 2017, 400km2 of old-growth forest – two thirds of the national park – has been opened to commercial logging by the government, which claims to...Read more

Georgia on my mind

GeorgiaSki+board / October 2018

When a chairlift in the Caucasus went into reverse last season, skiing in Georgia hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. But the former Soviet republic has much to offer, as our correspondent discovered. Shortly after take-off from Istanbul, our plane started a wide turn, heading east over the sparkling Black Sea. It was a bright spring day and I could see many of the mountain ranges I had skied: the Pontic Alps; the Kackar range extending along the Anatolian coast, and the Lesser Caucasus, which extend into Turkey’s two quarrelsome neighbours, Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, it was even further east we were headed, to the peaks of the Caucasus proper, which embrace the...Read more

A Land of war and pistes - Part 3

KosovoSki+board / February 2018

Kosovo is one of those places they warn you about when taking outtravel insurance. Not explicitly,but to tell you that you’re not covered if you travel against Foreign Office advice.The FCO still advises against visiting parts of Kosovo for all but essential travel. My travel was essential: I wanted to ski Europe’s youngest nation, even if it is still patrolled by Nato soldiers. Indeed we met a ‘KFor’ peacekeeper from Bavaria as we climbed from the Macedonian resort of Popova Sapka up the Sar mountains that form the border with Kosovo. We enter Kosovo by official channels, however, driving to the border crossing, where the blue and beige flag of the infant republic flutters in the breeze and the border guards are welcoming. We are heading to Brezovica, which nearly became a household name in the UK back in 1984. The resort, with its long, steep descents and north-facing slopes, is very snowsure. So when Yugoslavia opted to host the 1984 Winter Olympics...Read more

Mass-edonia Appeal - Part 2

MacedoniaSki+board / December 2017

Most skiers worry about turning up at a resort and finding no snow. Our problem in Albania had been rather different — turning up at a resort and finding no resort. The country’s much touted ski areas have yet to be built. So it was more in hope than expectation that we drove along the road to Macedonia, a country barely 25 years old that has yet to find a name for itself. Driving there was a spooky experience. Even large Albanian towns such as Peshkopi and Debar on the border had no street lighting. The roads were eerily empty but for some sleepy stray dogs who were in no hurry to let us pass. It felt like we were driving blind. As midnight neared, we checked into the remote Hotel...Read more

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