Mavrovo is Macedonia’s oldest national park. It’s an exceptional beauty, a small village around a large lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains – and it’s home to the Zare Lazareski ski resort.
We hadn’t initially planned to go skiing in Macedonia – since we’d already been skiing in Bansko and Charlie didn’t take to it all that well. But there’s not much going on during winter in Macedonia apart from skiing and I love it, so she put on a brave face and we took to the slopes in Mavrovo.
We’d heard about skiing in Mavrovo from the couple we stayed with at Lake Ohrid, who said Mavrovo was supposed to be the most beautiful place in Macedonia (apart from Ohrid, of course!) and we’re glad we trusted them.
What Are the Slopes Like at Mavrovo’s Ski Resort?
There are around 10,000 metres of ski lifts and chair lifts, enough to entertain a beginner for a week, an average skier for three days or an advanced skier for a weekend.
There are slopes for all ability levels though there isn’t quite so much space for complete beginners as perhaps there should be. Skiing in Mavrovo is best suited for people who have had a few days practice on a dry ski slope beforehand. There are some very difficult slopes too that will challenge even the best skiers and one or two places to go off piste. However, these challenging slopes are a little on the short side.
A Note for Beginners! When we first went up the main ski lift, we copied what everyone else was doing and put our skis on before we got on the chair lift. I realised that this was a mistake only when it was too late… if you put your skis on at the bottom, then the only way to get off the chair lift is to ski off down a small but steep slope. Not a problem if you know how to ski, but for total beginners (such as Charlie) it is a guaranteed fall in the snow!
When is Ski Season in Mavrovo?
Average snowfall in Macedonia in ski season is 70cm, which usually means that there is decent coverage from November to April.
How Much Does It Cost to Go Skiing in Mavrovo?
Skiing in Macedonia is very affordable. In England, we often categorise skiing along with private yachts and other pursuits of the super wealthy. But skiing in Eastern Europe remains a very affordable activity that I think everyone should try at least once!
In 2016, for one person we paid:
11 euros for a return bus ticket from Skopje to Mavrovo.
10 euros per night for accommodation.
10 euros per day for ski rental (poles, boots and skis)
13 euros per day for our ski pass
All in, including food and accommodation, you’re are looking at spending about sixty euros per person for each day of skiing! There isn’t actually a supermarket, but there’s a shop selling snacks and three restaurants within walking distance of the chair lift. I recommend getting dinner in the restaurant overlooking Lake Mavrovo, which is further down the road from the ski life. A warm meal, a hot fire and a view of the lake after a hard day’s skiing is an excellent treat.
Renting Ski Gear and Getting Ski Lessons in Mavrovo
There are a handful of ski rental places just outside the chair lift. Do shop around, because although the prices are more or less the same, the quality of the ski gear and the friendliness of the staff does vary!
We weren’t able to find anywhere renting out ski clothes in Macedonia, so you’ll need to bring your own ski gear (salopettes, a ski jacket, thermal underclothes and goggles).
Ask at one of the hotels and they will certainly be able to set you up with a ski instructor, otherwise I’m sure that you could find one quite easily on the slopes. The son of the couple who we were staying with also offered private ski lessons.
How to Get to Mavrovo
Mavrovo is about an hour and a half from Skopje, Macedonia’s capital, making it very easy to get to if you have your own car.
But we didn’t have a car, so we took the bus. You can get a bus from the main bus station to Mavrovo, but the bus stop in Mavrovo is ten kilometres from the ski slopes… Unfortunately though, the public transport system is quite ridiculous and there isn’t a public transport system which connects the two! We decided to walk through the snow, dragging our suitcases as we went, and were lucky enough to be picked up by a local who kindly offered us a lift to the slopes.
It turns out that most people either drive their own car directly to the slope, or they take a tour bus which arrives from Skopje at 09:00 in the morning and returns to the capital later that same day at about 15:00. The other possibility would be to get a taxi, which would best be arranged in advance as there aren’t any outside the bus stop.
Where to Stay When Skiing in Mavrovo
The ‘village’ beneath the ski slope is made up of around thirty buildings, perhaps seven or eight of which are ski hotels. These are expensive by Macedonia standards at about 30 euros a night at a minimum. We’re budget travellers and love staying in local places, so there was no way we were shelling out for an overpriced hotel online. We decided to take our chances and look for a place when we got to Mavrovo.
There are lots of places for rent with signs displaying phone numbers as you walk down the road, but as luck would have it that guy who mistook us for locals and picked us up while we were trying to get into town had a room available to rent in his family house! The family treated us very kindly; they brewed us endless cups of Turkish coffee, tea made from herbs picked on the local mountains, homemade wine and, of course, rakia (the local fruit brandy that is drunk at every opportunity in Macedonia!)
We paid 20 euros per night for a double room.
Why Go Skiing in Mavrovo, Macedonia?
Macedonia is one of the cheapest countries in Europe, making it an excellent destination for a budget ski holiday. Not to mention that Macedonia is also a wonderful country that is unfairly overlooked by travellers.
Judged on the quality of the ski slopes alone, Mavrovo is sadly behind rivals such as Bansko. But going skiing in Mavrovo does have several compelling advantages. For one, it is extremely cheap to ski in Macedonia, cheaper than even Bulgaria. Secondly, Mavrovo national park is more beautiful than Bansko; Mavrovo’s lake is stunning and you can see it from the highest slopes.
Being a less popular ski destination compared to other countries and ski towns like Bansko works to Mavrovo’s advantage — the village still looks like a traditional Macedonian mountain village with a couple of beautiful churches, one ruined and half submerged by the lake in summer. The slopes are also less crowded, which means less queuing for the ski lifts, and the club music, while present in the ski bars, is at least, turned down a little.
All in all, Mavrovo is a better option for those who are less serious about skiing and apres ski and more focused on enjoying being surrounded by mountains and nature.
Looking for other places to travel in Macedonia? Check out our Guide on Where to Travel in Macedonia.