Slovenia, a country in Central Europe, may not be the first place you think of for a skiing vacation, but that’s only because you don’t know about it – yet.
Let me start by saying that I had Slovenia in sights way before the new First Lady of the United States put the country on the map. That’s because visiting every country in Europe has been a longtime goal of mine and there’s just a handful left before I can put up my “Mission Accomplished” banner.
With winter coming to an end and lots of pent-up skiing left in me, I decided to hit the eastern slopes of Slovenia and ski where most Americans never think of going. Skiing less traveled areas has become my passion. I’m way over the Zermatts, Mont Blancs and Aspens of the world. The charm and relaxed approach of less known ski areas often bring great joy without the hype. (Or maybe I’m just getting old; I walked into a night club recently and exclaimed “it’s too loud in here!”)
Slovenia has lots of ski hills to choose from. One has to remember that the country is next to Austria, a well-known ski mecca. From large resorts to small ones, all levels of skier can find happiness here and the infrastructure is as good as at any first-class world resort — with one less feature: price sticker shock. With the Euro being almost equal to the U.S. dollar, Slovenia is a bargain. My ski lift ticket was $25, ski equipment rental was $27 and lodging was $60 per night — less than what I paid last year for just a lift ticket in Aspen.
Of course you have to get to Slovenia and deal with jet lag for a few days, but it’s well worth it. Snow conditions vary by year, just like any activity requiring Mother Nature’s cooperation, so I suggest doing some homework prior to traveling, but the odds are good you’ll have a great time.
If you’re a foodie then Slovenia is a home run. European skiers won’t tolerate poor food quality. That’s a major difference between U.S. and European ski resorts. Here we seem to settle for corn dogs and chili, while Europeans still expect a proper meal.
Although wine is not the first thought that jumps into mind when Slovenia is mentioned, the region is actually a wine lover’s heaven. The rich tradition of winemaking is symbolized by the oldest grapevine in the world growing and bearing grapes for more than 400 years on the banks of the Drava river.
Naturally, a culture rooted in great wine yields great cuisine. Pork, sausage, sauerkraut, turnips, beans, eggs and of course potatoes are all traditional foods, and the popular Pohorje pisker is a stew that incorporates many of these ingredients. (Full disclosure, I’m a vegetarian therefore meats were not part of my experience and the regional cuisine is heavy in the meat department, but vegetarian restaurants and options are available.)
Hotel Arena within the Maribor Prohoje ski area had me at the base of the mountain within spitting distance from a chair lift. My third-floor room had a wonderful view of the hill with skiers swooshing to a stop and then catching the lift back up the mountain. The hotel has a spa, hot tub Jacuzzi and access to a pool located in the neighboring hotel.
You won’t need a car. Getting there and getting around is simple. I flew Lufthansa from Los Angeles to Graz; Austria via Frankfurt; then a one-hour train to Maribor. From the main train station in Maribor, a city bus will deliver you to Pohoje in 15 minutes.
Maribor itself is a wonderful little city on the Drava River with cobblestone streets and cafes, restaurants and bars on every corner. It’s quite a civilized setting with old world charm and ambiance. The ski area is open year round and when the snow melts, new life comes and the hill is repurposed for mountain biking, day hikes and mechanic sledding. My springtime skiing was showing this transformation as dirt patches appeared here and there, and ski shops were being transformed into bike shops.
Not one person brought up Melania, our First Lady. I’m not sure what their feelings are, but it didn’t seem important or a point of pride. The only time her name came up was when I returned to Graz. I spent a few days exploring the tango scene. While dancing with a woman from Slovenia, I asked if she was close friend of Melania. Her only response was a smile.
Copyright © Carl Paradise/2017 Singular Communications, LLC.
Carl Paradise is a professional pilot for a major airline, a member of SingularCity and an occasional contributor to Singular magazine. He does not work as a journalist or reporter, but enjoys traveling, dancing the tango, practicing yoga, fine vegetarian cuisine and sharing his experiences with our readers.