Vista of Zakopane from the slopes of Nosal ski area
For the first time ever, I had broken away from the idea of booking a ski trip as one complete package, and descended into 'ad hoc' ski trip territory where I had booked all the elements of the ski trip to Zakopane
separately, and was looking forward to seeing how it would all come together. A swift flight into Krakow
airport, followed by two relatively simple bus transfers, and I soon found myself approaching the Polish resort town of Zakopane, famous, perhaps for being Poland's biggest fire hazard, many of the town's buildings being made of wood. This factor though, amongst others besides, contributed to the whole area's charm, and the town itself is a real gem, a well-equipped place replete with a huge aqua park (ideal for bathing after a ski session!), various restaurants of note (of which the 'grill' restaurants topped my list), and a whole load of souvenir stalls and shops which didn't really come under the 'tacky' variety.
Who'd have thought this was a 'ski hire' store?
It is worth noting at this stage that the ski areas in the immediate vicinity of Zakopane tended to cater mostly to beginners, and with the exception of one area, Kasprowy Wierch, did not offer anything too challenging or complete. Nevertheless, it did prove to be a fair amount of fun hopping from one ski area to the next on subsequent days, and witnessing a practice ski jumper complete a jump one one of Zakopane's ski jumping slopes is something I had not previously experienced on a ski trip. For my money, the really fulfilling ski terrains were located outside of the town, and reachable by minibus pretty easily. The blue runs at Bukowina Tatrzanska
provided an adequate day of fun on the pistes, but the slopes at the slightly further afield resort of Bialka Tatrzanska
provided a full day of totally blissful ski heaven, and easily validated the whole idea of being bussed out of the resort for half an hour just to reach those slopes.
Colourful souvenirs galore in Zakopane
Full marks must also go to the 'mini hotel' Fian, which were my lodgings for the 5 nights I stayed there, as this homely place had all the right kinds of features for a hotel of such a compact size, and a breakfast buffet which I descended upon on an early morning basis to highly satisfying effect. My overall verdict is that Zakopane caters more to the beginner's end of the skier's / boarder's scale, and is a great place for the fact that you won't feel confined to one particular ski area, as all the ski areas are unlinked. Plus, on a more lighthearted note, I wondered, as I boarded a transfer bus back to Krakow, if I could adequately claim, on that stretch of journey, that I had actually travelled from 'Pole to Pole'!