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Popova Sapka and Eskimo Freeride Review

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Snow Cat eskimo Freeride Popova Sapka

Popova Sapka and Eskimo Freeride Review

“Popova Sapka is the most famous winter resort in Macedonia. It is an off piste paradise, especially if you try snow cat skiing with Eskimo Freeride. Once you visit Popova Sapka you will want to come back for sure. Your experience will be totally different to western European resorts. If you are not a fan of back country adventures you won’t be thrilled with the local infrastructure. Total length of runs is modest, lifts are obsolete and piste grooming is not that great. But you will be blown away by the scenery and nature. Food is delicious. Hospitality is great. Everything is affordable.”

Pros: freeriding heaven, beautiful nature, tasty food.

Cons: if you are not an off piste skiing enthusiast you will get bored in 2 days; reduced, old infrastructure.

POPOVA SAPKA SLOPES

Easy 6 km (30%)
Intermediate 7 km (35 %)
Difficult 7 km (35 %)
TOTAL 20 km

Popova Sapka is well-known for its high annual snowfall and high number of sunny days. It has 20 km of ski slopes. There are 2 chair lifts and 6 drag lifts. Infrastructure is ancient.  Lifts are slow. Often, resort management decides not to open some of them. Long queues are possible during weekends or national holidays. Highest peak reached by lift lays at a respectable 2,510 m above sea level. All pistes are above tree line. Difficulty of slopes is diverse, although it will suit beginners and intermediate skiers the most. Snow reliability is good, even though there are no snow-making machines. Hotels are situated at 1,700 m above sea level. General level of skiing is very low. You will see many people zooming down the slope, kamikaze style, without any control, wearing jeans or tracksuit.

A cable car used to connect the resort with the closest town called Tetovo. Sadly it was destroyed in the 2001 conflict between the Albanian minority and Macedonian security forces. Things have settled down since then. There are no security issues in Macedonia at the moment.

Popova Sapka, powder, skier going down slope

FREERIDE AND SNOW PARKS IN POPOVA SAPKA

As I have mentioned at the beginning of this Popova Sapka and Eskimo Freeride Review, the resort is a freeriding mecca. You can use ski lifts and do a good number of great lines on the surrounding slopes. Popova Sapka is ideal for this, and you will find incredible terrain for off piste skiing all over the resort.

The main reason for visiting Popova Sapka is the Eskimo Freeride operation. It was founded by a group of people who used to ski here more than 30 years ago when they were kids. One day they lost themselves in the mountain and were forced to spend the night outside. They decided to make an igloo and everything else is history.

Eskimo Freeride has 2 specially converted snow grooming vehicles for off piste excursions. Snow cat skiing allows you to explore vast back country areas without walking or having to pay big money for heliskiing. Thus you will be able to reach 2,747 m above sea level and make long descents below the tree line. Slopes are diverse, from wide and open pastures to tight turns around trees. The back-country area is huge.

Safety is absolutely paramount. There are two guides with every group (in the front and in the back). You will be equipped with a beacon and an airbag backpack.  Instead of a hard hike up the mountain with equipment on your back, you will be chilling in the snow cat full of fruit, chocolate and snacks. Quick lunch is included in the price.

TIP 1: find dates outside high season and get a better price. TIP2: check the weather forecast before booking, if possible. During bad weather, visibility can be a problem. Also, high winds often blow off snow and some parts of the area can get difficult for skiing. TIP3: phone the organizers if you want to book your trip since they don’t check e-mails often.

Popova Sapka doesn’t have a snow park unless you build one on your own :).

Popova Sapka Panorama, hills on sunny day

HOW TO GET TO POPOVA SAPKA

Popova Sapka is situated in north west Macedonia, close to the city of Tetovo (only 8 km away). The Macedonian capital, Skopje, is 65 km away. There is a highway connection between two of them. It will take you 1 hour 26 minutes to get from Skopje airport to the resort. The airport is well connected to other European cities.  If you like low-cost carriers, Wizz Air and Eurowings link Skopje to 13 countries. There are no direct bus lines between the airport and Popova Sapka. You will have to get to Skopje first, than catch a bus to Teteovo and at last find a ride to the resort. In order to save time try to arrange transfer with your accommodation.

If you like to travel by train just forget it since railways in the Balkans are slow and always late.

popva sapka, 3 skiers above clouds

WHERE TO STAY IN POPOVA SAPKA

We have stayed at the Arena Teteks hotel. It was used as accommodation for workers of a nearby textile factory during the communist era. Nowadays it has been renovated. Do not expect too much, but it does have everything you need. Food is tasty. All Eskimo Freeride guests stay there.

Popova Sapka doesn’t have a lot to offer when it comes to hotels. The situation is better concerning apartments and guest houses. You can stay in the nearby Tetovo (8 km away) if you have a ride to the resort.

mountain view from snow cat eskimo freeride

WHAT TO DO AFTER A DAY ON SNOW (APRES-SKI) IN POPOVA SAPKA

Nights on Popova Sapka are quiet. There are no posh restaurants or night clubs. You won’t mind it since you will be so tired you won’t be able to keep your eyes open. You can visit Tetovo and try food at Meze Bar Bure Barut.

mountain panorama, above clouds

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