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Kopaonik Review

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Kopaonik Review

Rating: ★★★★ 7.1 out of 10

“Kopaonik is the biggest and the best ski resort in Serbia and with Bansko (Bulgaria) one of the best in south-eastern Europe. It is affordable, and snow reliability is good due to snow making equipment. Kopaonik is best suited for beginners and families. Slopes are great for off piste skiing. There are around 55 km of runs. Pistes are not too long. It is not easy to get there, but the situation is improving because Niš airport (2 hours and 15 minutes away by car) has introduced new low-cost carriers (Wizz Air and Ryan Air). Before wars in former Yugoslavia took place many British tourists used to visit Kopaonik. Nowadays, domestic skiers and people from the region dominate. Serbian hospitality is well-known, and food in this area is delicious and affordable.“

Pros: Great for families and beginners, affordable ski pass, lots of off piste skiing options, good night life

Cons: Small when compared to western European resorts, lack of expert runs, problems with parking

kopaonik-ski-map

click to enlarge

SLOPES

Easy 24 km (44%)
Intermediate 19 km (32 %)
Difficult 13 km (24 %)
TOTAL 56 km

The highest point of the resort is situated at 2,017 m above sea level. Slopes are surrounded with wooded areas and covered with snow-making machines. The state-owned company which runs the Kopaonik ski resort is investing in development every season, thus lifts are new and fast. Queues are possible in high season on some lifts (close to the resort centre), around New Year’s Day and in first half of February.

Pistes are great for beginners who have plenty of room for progress. Runs are not too long (the longest one is 3.5 km), and there are only 2 slopes which will challenge expert skiers. Grooming isn’t up to western European standards, but it is OK. Scenery is great because the mountain is surrounded with beautiful pine woods. Resort management has invested in snow making machines, and as a result of that Kopaonik didn’t have problems even though there was lack of natural snow in the last two seasons.

Kopaonik winter panorama

FREE RIDE AND TERRAIN PARKS

One of the best things about Kopaonik is free ride. The resort has many spots where you can practice it, but there are no guides and schools specialized for off piste excursions. People who visit the mountain are not crazy about going off groomed runs. There is a substantial number of beginners and people struggling even on blue slopes. As a result of that, you will have plenty of fresh powder days after last snowfall just for yourself.

The resort management has designated an area around Gobelja Lift for free ride. Another good spot is the slope between Duboka and Krcmar lifts. If you choose to hit this run you can catch the Krcmar lift, but you must turn right earlier and go to Krcmar piste. If you want to ski to the end of the slope you should go through woods and you will end up on Duboka lift (don’t go alone, without someone who knows the terrain, because you might end up lost in dense woods). This area is protected (wild life conservation) and people have had problems with stewards in past seasons.

You should also explore the slope which connects Karaman Greben and red Duboka runs and area around Gvozdac lift.

Until season 2018/19 Kopaonik had snow park near Malo Jezero lift. Officials removed it and promised construction of new one for the 2019/20 season. Huge step back for the resort.

 

Kopaonik Duboka 2 Lift

 

HOW TO GET TO KOPAONIK

Closest airports are in Belgrade and Niš. The Belgrade airport is further away (294 km or around 4 hours by car) but it is better connected to other European cities. Niš airport is closer, 131 km away (2 hours and 15 minutes by car) but it has only 2 companies which use it (low cost companies, flights are cheaper than if you fly to Belgrade with the same carrier). There are no direct public lines from airports. Check out possible solutions online (you will find ads, prices vary according to the number of passengers).

If you like to travel by train just forget it. Serbian railroads are now slower than they were 100 years ago (this is not a joke but official information). Delayed trains are usual. If Serbian railroad managers were the same as ones in Japan, who are known for punctuality and ritual suicides when train gets late into station, after a single day there would be no live railroad managers left in Serbia.

If you are driving from the north, you will use the motorway for a good part of the trip. Then you will have to turn to local road, and the last leg of the journey can get complicated because the wind creates big snow banks on the road from time to time. Winter maintenance is good, but sometimes you will have to fit snow chains to your tires.  Check with your accommodation if they have a parking spot for your car, because it can pose a problem. You will probably either have to pay for it, won’t find an empty space, or the local people will try to extort money from you claiming that they have shoveled it clear from a pile of snow.

 

pano_20150316_102442

 

WHERE TO STAY ON KOPAONIK

There are 3 big areas where you can find your accommodation. The first one is the central area where major hotels are situated. It has the best location on the mountain since everything you might need (ski lifts, shops, restaurants, bars, etc.) is within walking distance (5 minutes). But comfort comes with a price.

A good solution might be the so-called “Weekend Houses Area”, 5 km away from the central section of the resort, where you can find small pensions and apartment houses. We liked Apartments Kopaonik (they had great value for money). Prices are lower but you will need to catch a taxi or drive to the base of the first ski lift or to other points of interest. There are additional costs because you will have to pay for a Taxi (around 1.5 EUR per person, one way ride) or you will have to find parking (see the last sentence in “How to Get to Kopaonik” paragraph).

The third possible location is village called Brzeće. It offers the cheapest accommodation, but you will need to drive around 23 km (35 min) to get to the resort centre. Also you can use the Bela Reka lift (ancient, 2-seater, needs ages to get you up or down because the slope next to it is never open).

WHAT TO DO AFTER A DAY ON SNOW (APRES-SKI) ON KOPAONIK

If you want to have a break during the day you should go to Rtanj (Mali Karaman lift). Try the donuts, barbecue, or some traditional dishes cooked in large earthenware pottery.

You should try “rakija”, a domestic moonshine made of fermented fruit in the Balkans.

In the evening you can eat at Salas 137 (an ethnic restaurant), visit The Pub and Mr. Stefan Brown.

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