I always like to visit a new country and this year I was lucky to go snowboarding in Slovakia in the excellent and pretty cheap ski area of Jasna. Read this review of Jasna Adventures Dragon’s Lair ski holiday in Slovakia to find out how I got on.
Jasna ski area is located in the Low Tatras Mountains in central Slovakia about 15 minutes from the small city of Liptovsky Mikulas. It can easily be reached with Wizz Air from Luton into Poprad-Tatry which is just a 30 minute transfer away. You can also get the train to Liptovsky Mikulas from all over Europe.
The Jasna Nizke Tatry (to give Jasna its full name) ski area consists of 50 km of slopes accessed by 27 lifts with an uplift capacity of 31,000 people an hour. Although 50 km is not that large, the ski area feels a lot bigger mainly because there are 12 dedicated freeride zones which open up vast amounts of off-piste terrain.
A lot of money has been spent on the Jasna infrastructure and most of the lifts are fast, comfy and efficient. Chopok, the top of the ski area, sits at 2024 meters providing a good vertical of 1081 metres. You can ski down both the north and south sides of the mountain which often experience different weather to each other.
There are 41 slopes in total with blue and red pistes each accounting for 14 runs. There are also six black slopes and seven ski roads. Around the mountain there are plenty of restaurants to be enjoyed while on a Dragon’s Lair ski holiday in Slovakia. These range from high quality a-la-carte to standard self-service.
Introducing Jasna Adventures
Jasna Adventures is a family business run by Adriana (Slovakian) and Justin (Australian). They met while on a ski holiday in Japan. Having skied all over the world decided to settle in Jasna. With two kids they live locally and are always on hand to ensure your holiday runs smoothly.
The goal of Jasna Adventures is to be the first choice adventure tour company for the Low Tatra region. And to deliver a unique winter or summer experience for families and groups that cannot be experienced elsewhere as we found out in this review of Jasna Adventures Dragon’s Lair ski holiday in Slovakia.
They combine professional standards, a personal touch, with local knowledge and global experience. This is across every facet of a holiday from transport to accommodation and activities to food. They can organise every aspect of you trip for you and will ensure it all runs smoothly. All you have to do is get to Slovakia!
Jasna Adventures offer a range of accommodation from hotels to self catered. However, the best option is the Dragon’s Lair which is their own chalet. It was built to offer a high-end European style chalet experience, which is a new option for the area.
Downstairs from the Chalet they also run Bar Fakt which is open to the public. It is well worth a visit even if you are staying elsewhere as it is friendly and has a great atmosphere – particularly when there is live music.
Review of Jasna Adventures
From being picked up at the train station on arrival, until drop off at the airport at departure, everything about Jasna Adventures was friendly and fun. We saw a lot of Justin and Adriana either in the bar, around the chalet, and on the slopes as they kindly showed us around.
They were helped out by Philippe and his girlfriend who acted as chalet hosts at Dragon’s Lair. Philippe also did a lot of the transfers to and from the slopes which are about a eight minute drive away.
The whole team clearly care about their guests and always did whatever they could to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. I found during this review of Jasna Adventures Dragon’s Lair ski holiday in Slovakia that the personal approach and positive attitude really makes a huge difference.
Review of Dragon’s Lair ski holiday in Slovakia
A review of Jasna Adventures would not be complete without discussing the Dragon’s Lair Chalet, which was completed in time for the start of the 17/18 ski season. So when we arrived in January it was still very new and in some ways still finding its feet. It hosts up to 17 guests across five bedrooms including two family rooms.
It is a stunning chalet with everything built to high quality specs. The main living area is huge, with floor to ceiling windows letting in lots of light and overlooking wooded areas. There are plenty of comfy seats so you can relax around the large fire in three different seating areas.
The dining section it actually a little small compared to the size of the living area with bench seats around a large wooden table. I ended up spending more time around the dining table than sat on the relaxing chairs, so personally I’d prefer more space and comfier seating for the dining expereince.
The bedrooms are equally well designed and well decorated. Mine had a very high ceiling – you could easily fit a mezzanine – and an exceptionally comfy queen size bed. The bathroom was small but functional with a lovely powerful shower.
Upstairs there is a spa area with a secluded hot tub. It is hidden away under the eaves, so it’s outside but with a roof overhead. There is also a sauna, showers and a room for massage treatments which can be booked in advance.
Downstairs is a large boot room with room to hang all your outerwear to dry. There are also boot warmers to ensure your ski or snowboard boots are nice and fresh in the morning – there is nothing worse than putting on damp boots.
Review of Jasna Adventures food and drink
The Dragon’s Lair offers a fully catered chalet experience for a ski holiday in Slovakia. Breakfasts are served up buffet style so you help yourself. The freshly cooked options are whipped up as and when guests get up, so you don’t have to worry about your eggs and bacon getting cold.
When you get back from the slopes in the afternoon there are delicious freshly baked cakes and biscuits. There are also savoury options such as cheese, meats and bread. It comes at the perfect time when you need to replace energy used on the slopes.
Dinner was three courses of homemade hearty chalet food such as Lasagne, which was good for chalet standards. Although I have had better, I have also had far worse. The beauty of a small personalised service is that if you don’t like something, have allergies or specific requirements, tell them and they will adjust the menu accordingly.
With Bar Fakt downstairs you could pop in for a drink or have it brought up to the chalet – prices were very cheap around €2 a pint. Slovakia doesn’t use the standard ABV (Alcohol by volume) units of alcohol, instead they measure the amount of fermentable material used by volume.
This results in beers that are classified by Slovakian standards at 10%, 11% or 12%. Don’t worry these are not super strong beers… The strength is often used in the beers name, and a 10 is 3-4% ABV, an 11 is 4-5% ABV, and a 12 is 5-6% ABV. So no stronger than at home, but much cheaper!
Eating out in Jasna
We were not on a fully catered option so two evenings we ate out. On one we visited the Hotel Tri Studnicky where we had an incredible meal. The food is a mix of tradition and creative flair that along with the rest of the hotel follows Feng Shui philosophy. It is well worth a visit particularly as the prices are very reasonable for the exceptional quality of the food.
We also ate out in Liptovsky Mikulas one evening. With fine dining the night before we went for the opposite and visited Restart Burger.
If burgers could win Michelin Stars, Restart would be in for a shout! They have over ten different types of burger including traditional, spicy Mexican, and one loaded with pork belly, onion rings and egg. The most expensive was just €8.75 which by UK standards is an absolute bargain.
On the slopes we ate at the Chopok self service one day which was OK. We also tried the Happy End Bar for lunch one afternoon, it was nothing special. However we had fabulous meals on the mountain at the Hotel Družba offering traditional Slovakian food and the Von Roll Restaurant which was Slovak with a modern twist.
Review of Jasna ski area
Of course lovely accommodation and great food is nice. But this review of Jasna Adventures Dragon’s Lair ski holiday in Slovakia wouldn’t be complete without talking about our time on the slopes.
**This is a quick review of the Jasna ski area. For much more detail check out our review of Jasna snowboarding holiday which is due to be published 4th of May 2018.
With a mixed group of skiers and snowboarders there were normally six of us out on the slopes together. We had four days on the mountain with a mixed bag of weather. There was still fresh snow to play in for the first two days, when visibility ranged from great to non existent. Whilst the last two days had better visibility but the fresh snow had turned icy.
Unfortunately, we visited during the Polish school holidays and as ski resorts in Poland didn’t have much snow many Poles were visiting Jasna. This made the ski area quite busy, particularly at the weekend. At times the slopes felt crowded, and the ability level seemed quite low making for some interesting skiing.
This also meant there were some lift queues which at times looked huge. But queues moved quickly and we never waited more than 10 minutes – which is a testament to the quick lift system. Also queues were very orderly, unlike in some places in the Alps. During quieter weeks I expect you’d barely have to wait at all.
The ski area in Jasna is varied and nicely spread out making the 50km of piste feel a lot larger. The slopes are very well maintained and apart from a few bottle necks didn’t get too cut up despite it being a busy week.
From the top of Chopok there is over 1000m of vertical descent with routes down both the north and south sides of the mountain. There are various options on both sides, although to get to them everyone takes one route in each direction which for beginners and nervous intermediates can be daunting.
On the north side the first few hundred metres is a red which is not suitable for beginners as it gets very busy and cut up. But once through the bottleneck there are wide runs suitable for all levels and plenty of space for everyone. My favourite was the red and blue piste running from the top down the far left of the piste map.
The south side is less busy and easier to access from Chopok. There is just a short tight section that soon opens up offering an easy blue all the way down and a variety of blacks for the more advanced. The red piste from around halfway down was my favourite in Jasna, it’s wide, varied and winds its way down through the trees.
The beginner area is just above the main base station on the north side. There are three magic carpets for complete beginners in a fenced off area away from the main slopes. Right next to it there’s a very easy slope with a dedicated lift that is perfect for beginners to progress on.
Freestylers will love the DC snowpark which is one of the largest in Eastern Europe. There are three large 10-12m kickers, three small jumps, nine jib features and a fun zone with bumps and banked corners. So plenty for park rats.
During this review of Jasna Adventures Dragon’s Lair ski holiday in Slovakia I spent a lot of time off-piste. There are 12 dedicated freeride zones that range from very easy to very difficult. Qualifiers for the Freeride World Tour have been held here proving its pedigree.
Most of the freeride is accessed from Chopok. Head to the south side for easy off-piste, just take the blue run and pop off the left into a huge powder field. There are more easy options on the far right on the south side. Overall there are lots of options keeping pistes within easy reach. In fresh powder this area would be incredible.
On the north side there are some very challenging couloirs and the freeride has more of a backcountry feel to it. If heading here you should go with a guide as there are cliffs and other dangers. Plus it is not so obvious how to get back to the piste, so you could end up with a very long walk if you get it wrong.
Review of Jasna Adventures holiday: Conclusion
Jasna adventures provide an excellent holiday experience. The accommodation at Dragon’s Lair is fabulous, the food good and the team incredibly friendly and helpful. There is also a great atmosphere in Bar Fakt and very nice beer at a fraction of the price you pay in France.
Overall Jasna is a very impressive ski area. I still can’t believe it only has 50 km of piste as it feels much larger with some long runs and plenty of options. The off-piste is incredible, with vast amount that is easy to access and plenty of challenging routes available. In fresh snow this place would be immense.
On the downside the slopes got pretty busy and there were a few lift queues. Also the Dragon’s Lair chalet is a short drive to the ski slopes. The transfer went smoothly every day except on the sunday when there was a queue of cars to get to the ski area, so the eight minute ride took half an hour.
To conclude this review of Jasna Adventures Dragon’s Lair ski holiday in Slovakia, I’d say it is a great option if you are looking for a low cost but high quality ski trip. You get far more for your money here and there are some sacrifices, but you could probably afford two trips to Jasna compared to one in France.
Ultimately you will pay considerably less than for a similar level of accommodation and service than in more traditional destinations. Plus the slopes are very good for everyone from beginners to experts and freestylers to freeriders. At the end of the day I would be very happy to return, which says it all really.
I hope you have found this review of Jasna Adventures Dragon’s Lair ski holiday in Slovakia useful. If you’d like to book a trip check out their website: www.jasnaadventures.co.uk