This winter I visited Slovakia for the first time for a spot of snowboarding. I found that the Jasna ski area, Tatra freeride and overall Slovakian experience to be excellent and great value. Read this review of Jasna snowboarding holiday in Slovakia to find out if it would suit you too.
In the Low Tatras Mountains of central Slovakia you will find the countries largest ski area – Jasna Nizke Tatry (more commonly known as Jasna). There are 50 km of pistes accessed by a modern lift system that can handle 31,000 people an hour. There are also 12 large off-piste zones that open up vast amounts of terrain to freeriders.
There are 41 pistes, including 14 blue, 14 red, 6 black and 7 ski roads. The highest point at the top of Chopok is 2024 meters above sea level, providing 1081m of descent. From here there are long runs down both the south or north side of the mountain which often have different weather to each other.
The Jasna infrastructure has had a lot of investment with the majority of lifts being fast, comfy and efficient. There are many mountain restaurants to try during a Jasna snowboarding holiday in Slovakia. The prices are very low compared to the Alps with good quality a-la-carte costing around the same as standard self-service in France, whilst the cheap eateries are a bargain.
Jasna is located around 15 minutes from Liptovsky Mikulas, we arrived here by train from Bratislava which took around three hours. However, Wizz Air fly from Luton into Poprad-Tatry which is just a 30 minute transfer away. You can also fly to Krakow in Poland from where the transfer takes two to three hours.
We had four days on the mountain. The first two days there was still fresh snow to play in from recent snowfall, whilst the last two it had become tracked out. The last day was glorious weather but conditions had become very icy, particularly off-piste. Typically, it was on the last day we had booked an off-piste guide to explore the Tatra freeride.
We were in Jasna during the Polish school holidays, and as Poland was having a bad season for snow the resort was quite busy. When the weekend crowds joined the holiday makers it got even busier. I have to admit that at times the slopes felt too crowded, particularly as there seemed to be a lot of people who barely knew how to ski.
Crowds on the slopes also meant some queues for lifts. Often the lines looked huge, snaking out beyond the barriers that were there to contain them. However, the queues always moved quickly and in an orderly way – unlike in some places in the Alps.
I don’t think we ever waited more than ten minutes in a queue despite them seeming to be huge. This is testament to the quick lift system that has been invested in by Jasna. During quieter weeks I expect you’d barely have to wait at all.
The ski area in Jasna may only offer 50km of runs but they are long, varied and spread out. The slopes were well maintained and impeccable well pisted early in the morning.
My favourite runs were the long routes down from the top of Chopok on both the north and south side. In either direction there are a range options, although at first there is only one run south and one north which get busy. These would be daunting for beginners or nervous intermediates.
The south side is easier to access from Chopok with just a short section that everyone has to use. Unfortunately there is a tiny steep bit with a sharp corner that you cannot see around from the top. This makes it daunting for beginners, but it is well worth doing as just around the corner a very long, fairly flat blue begins that winds its way to the bottom.
There are also a couple of blacks near the top, they are not too steep but the incline is consistent for a long way hence their rating. The red ‘piste 33’ from around halfway down is probably my favourite run in the whole of Jasna as it’s wide, varied steepness and winds its way down through the trees in a pleasing way.
Overall I found the south a lot quieter than the north side of Jasna. It is also on the south that there is easy access to much freeride.
From the top on the north side there is only a red run for the first few hundred metres which is not suitable for beginners. At times during this review of Jasna snowboarding it got very busy and quite cut up making it more difficult than its rating. But once past the initial bottle neck there are wide blue, red and black pistes with plenty of space for all even when it’s busy.
If from the top on the north you keep heading right, you can skirt down the edge of the ski area (left hand side on the piste map) all the way to the bottom. It is a lovely long run, much of which is a blue with lots of side hits. Parts of this are used for ski and snowboard lessons but generally there is plenty of room on the wide piste.
There is also a beginner area just above the main base station. This includes some magic carpets and a fenced off area. Plus lift B3 gives access to a shallow slope used as beginners progress onto the mountain. Although this can get pretty rammed as it is also the main route down from the upper slopes to the centre.
Jasna has twelve different freeride zones most of which can be accessed from the top of Chopok. On the first couple of days there was still very nice snow and we played in the easy to access freeride zones on the south side. Just take the blue from the top and pop off to the left wherever you wish for fairly easy freeride.
On the second day, following a lovely line of powder we accidentally went too low – to the left beyond where the red 33 and 35 meet. We ended up in amongst fairly thick trees heading down into a gorge. It was difficult snowboarding but with a few short hikes up, and by picking our way through the trees, we made our way back to piste 33 about two thirds of the way down.
By the end of the second day conditions had warmed up so when everything froze overnight it made the Tatra freeride much more difficult and less fun. We still found some small powder stashes on day three but for the most part conditions were icy.
So we stopped off to do some avalanche training. I had not done any for two seasons so a refresher was well overdue. However, I was pleasantly surprised to have remembered how to perform a rescue.
On day four we had a guide booked in what were the worst off-piste conditions during this review of Jasna snowboarding holiday in Slovakia. Freeze thaw and refreeze had occurred again so normally freeriding would be off the cards. But with a guide booked we checked out the Tatra freeride anyway.
After testing our ability on a couple of easy areas the guide took us to Couloir Meteorological. In good conditions this would be an incredible run through a long 35-40 degree couloir. But in the icy conditions it was very treacherous. To be honest I was bricking it slightly as one fall could see you sliding out of control a very long way.
With four in the group the guide went first. He had identified me as the most experienced of the rest so I was to go last. Having seen the guide take it slow and steady, then watched a skier and snowboarder both struggle I had plenty of time to wait my turn and fret.
I have ridden steeper and scarier, but in the icy conditions it was one of the toughest descents I’ve undertaken. In the narrowest and steepest sections it was sheet ice that made putting a turn in dangerous, so I mostly stayed on my heel edge. When I could turn speed built very quickly and slowing down was a serious challenge. But completing a steep icy couloir was very rewarding.
Next for Tatra freeride was Little Girls Couloir, so named as even a little girl can do it. Although in the icy conditions it was far from easy, particularly on a windblown section at the top that was sheet ice offering no grip. Once over this and into the couloir it was easy compared to Meteorological, but a challenge in the conditions.
The route out at the end of both couloirs was a long traverse on a combination of flat sections and wooded slopes. I was glad to be on my toe edge as the icy conditions made it difficult for my mate doing a heelside traverse. Whilst I made it across he ended up stuck in some trees and having to hike up – if you are goofy it’s best to ride switch (if you can) for the traverse out.
Overall we only explored three of the twelve freeride zones and what I saw I loved. As the good conditions at the start of this review of Jasna Adventures snowboarding holiday in Slovakia showed the off-piste can be great. Although the tougher routes we tried were in icy conditions the potential for Tatra freeride is incredible and I’d love to return.
The DC snowpark is one of the longest in Eastern Europe. There are three large kickers ranging from 10-12 metres, nine jib features, three small jumps and a fun zone (bumps, banked corners etc). So there is plenty to keep even hardcore park rats entertained.
I only managed one run through the park, mainly because I was enjoying the off-piste. However it seemed impeccably well maintained with plenty of features for both beginner to advanced freestylers. Despite most of the ski area being pretty busy the freestyle zone was actually fairly quiet, which is alway nice.
Of course a review of Jasna snowboarding holiday in Slovakia would not be complete without talking about the accommodation. We stayed with Jasna Adventures in the Dragon’s Lair chalet which opened for the 17/18 season. The Dragon’s Lair was built in a high-end Alpine chalet style that tends to appeal to us Brits.
The Dragon’s Lair can host up to 17 people across five bedrooms. Two of the bedrooms are family rooms that can sleep up to five people, with three single beds in a Mezzanine above a double bedroom. The chalet is stunning with everything finished to a very high quality.
The living space is a huge open plan area with a real fireplace the centre of attention surrounded by three different seating areas with comfy sofas and armchairs. The dining area is a large wooden table with wooden benches. It would struggle to fit 17 people, but there is lots of space to add more tables and seating if required.
The bedrooms are stylishly decorated. Mine had a very high ceiling with room for a mezzanine, plus lots of space and very comfortable queen size bed. The bathroom had a lovely shower, and although the overall size was not that large everything was nicely finished, impeccable clean and functioned well.
On the top floor of the Dragon’s Lair is a spa area. Hidden away under the eaves is an outdoor hot tub which is lovely to relax in. The spa area also has a sauna, showers and a massage room in which treatments can be booked in advance.
There is a large heated boot room downstairs with plenty of room for everyone’s outerwear to dry. Plus boot warmers to dry out your footwear. It also has a separate entrance so you can dump your gear without traipsing through the chalet. As a nice touch they also provide slippers for all.
At the Dragon’s Lair you can have a fully catered Jasna snowboarding holiday in Slovakia. Breakfasts included hot and cold options, with the hot dishes being cooked as guests get up for breaky. They also serve afternoon tea, which includes freshly baked cakes plus bread, cheese, and meats.
Dinner was three courses of typical chalet food such as lasagne and stews which was all very tasty. I have had better chalet food elsewhere, but I have also experienced much worse. In the interests of this review of Jasna snowboarding holiday in Slovakia I’d say they do a good job of keeping you very well fed.
Below the Dragon’s Lair is Bar Fakt which has a great atmosphere – particularly when there is live music. It is open to the public and well worth a visit even if you are staying elsewhere. As a guest in the chalet you can either drink in the bar, or have drinks brought up to the accommodation. Prices are very reasonable, you’ll pay around €2 a pint.
From the moment we were collected from the train station until we were dropped off at the airport, the Jasna Adventures experience was exceptional. We saw a lot of the owners Justin and Adriana plus our chalet hosts Philippe and his girlfriend were always around.
Each day they transferred us to and from the slopes and spent time with us on the mountain to help us get our bearings. The entire team obviously care about their guests and do everything they can to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.
If you are looking for a low cost ski destination then there are few better than Jasna. Prices for food, drink and accommodation are all much lower than France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria.
The only relatively expensive cost is the lift pass, which for an adult costs €220 for 6 days or €43 for one day. Although this is cheaper than most ski areas, for the size of Jasna I feel it is a bit steep. But with all the other savings – including cheap Wizz Air flights – a holiday to Jasna will cost around half the amount of a similar level ski holiday in well-known destinations.
It also has to be said, that although there are only 50 km of runs Jasna feels bigger and is a very impressive ski area. There are some long runs and plenty of options for all levels and styles of skier and snowboarder. The Tatra freeride provides vast amounts of easy to access off-piste, plus there are some seriously challenging options. In fresh snow Jasna would be a freeriders heaven.
The only downside of Jasna is some slopes got very busy and there were lift queues. Also the ski slopes are a short drive from the accommodation, which although it only took around eight minutes is not as nice as ski-in ski-out. But the Dragon’s Lair chalet is stunning and the Jasna Adventures service fantastic with good food, plus a friendly and helpful team.
To conclude this review of Jasna snowboarding holiday in Slovakia, I’d say it is one of the best options if you are looking for high quality and low costs. Yes there are some sacrifices to be made, but by visiting Jasna you will save a fortune, so they are sacrifices most people will willingly make.
We hope you found this review of Jasna snowboarding holiday in Slovakia useful. If you fancy taking advantage of the low costs, or the Tatra freeride appeals to you then head to www.jasnaadventures.co.uk for more information. To find out more about the ski area go to: www.jasna.sk