Weather

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Most winters I will be checking the weather at least 3 or 4 times each morning. Normally it is the first thing I do as I wake up. Roll over, kill the alarm, activate the WiFi and have a quick look to see if anything has changed while I was asleep.  Drive to work picking up the bread and Lilly make a coffee and check the weather again. Do the emails, confirm any new bookings, chat to Victor about what went on the night before, check the boilers, check the weather.  Vania normally comes in about 9ish so there will be one last check before I go out skiing which can be any time from 09:15 if there is powder or 10:45 if it is a piste day. This year with the stupidity with the season passes I’m still going out but now it is a mixture between skiing, biking and ski touring. All of which to a greater or lesser extent need a weather report.

If the year is going well or we are in the middle of a bit of a storm most of the afternoon will be spent checking out satellite images and barometric forecasts. I’m not as much of a geek or obsessive as it sounds in my group of friends I am one of the more dissinterested skiers. The polak will regularly check the forecasts while on chair lifts some even go as far as to install weather rock systems in their houses.

So who to listen to well for the truly obsessive there are 3 main options:-

Snow-forecast.com I have been using these guys for years, I even used to advertise with them in the past, nice layout easy to understand always wrong. They tend to underestimate the snow falls massively or over estimate. Either way they tend to get it wrong! However they do always predict precipitation correctly and have very good live weather maps that are great for checking out pressure and cloud patterns. I have probably spent more time looking at their site than any other!

J2Ski.com  Always right! A rubbish site impossible to easily understand and hard to navigate I don’t like it at all but and this is a pretty big but, they are normally right!

Accuweather.com  Lovely layout and easy to navigate and understand. I love their totally outrageous attempt at a monthly forecast, shameless! Historical data charts are fun and again easy to understand. Normally their predictions are not too far off the mark.

WOM   Word of mouth is the best sort of weather report of you are going on holiday and there are a few sources for Bansko that really add to the comedy value. Lance from The Bansko Blog adds a certain something to the mix with his live web based reviews of conditions now reporting for the bansko blog from piste No5 in Bansko right now….. lovely guy, slightly manic! Snow-Forecast.com has an Eyeball reporter  service that publishes reports from locals in each resort supposedly saying it how it is. Most resorts have a PR team and website constantly updating live info on conditions.

As I have mentioned in a previous posts  a lot of the people who are giving you wom info about any resort are not all that impartial, ski pass bookings, apartment rentals and the need to encourage guests onto the hill are all pressures that come to bear on the integrity of any reporter. I have even noticed a trend on one of the websites mentioned above for them to fluff up their reports at key moments.

So what to do? Do we believe our man on the ground reporting to you live from Bansko? Do we believe any of the sites? The answer is a big fat NO, but like some sort of drug crazed lab rat back we must go and check through each site again and again. In the words of  Alexander Dumas we can only wait and hope!

 

 

Steak house Lazur

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I don’t often go out in Bansko and I normally only go to places I know and love. My OCD is getting a bit embarrassing on this subject as not only do I tend to only go to the same places but we also tend to eat the same things there. At the log house we have to have the pork knuckle, Motikata the cornflake chicken with a side of spinach with sirenay, Mazata in Razlog? What would you order anything other than the ribs and green salad!

2014 is a new year and the start of a new decade for the Avalon. I have made some pretty rash resolutions, one of which is to go out more. So far this year the rarely spotted Aheneus Barba has been seen “out” in Hadji Georgi , Amvrosia, the chicken restaurant and even Pirin  75! Shocking I know, OUT, in the winter?! In new places!!! (I don’t think it will last) but in a fit of rash, wild unfettered hedonism WE, yes WE a group of friends not just Vania, Dylan and I, not just The Old Man and I but a whole group of people and I went OUT to somewhere NEW!

I’m a little confused about reviewing last nights adventure into “The New” as I am beginning to realise that restaurant reviews are about so much more than the food and the service. Last night is a perfect example, on one side we have the food and service described below but on the other we have our company. The Dearly Beloved, The Polak, The Northern Miner and the Bulgarian Babes, a lovely crowd liberally lubricated with some good Bulgarian red, you could have served us almost anything and we would have merrily chatted away into the wee small hours and then raved about the place the next day. I think the trick of a good review might be to go to the same place many times with every different combination of guests, as a group, on your own, with family, on business and on different days of the week but considering you can count the number of times I go out in a winter you are just going to have to risk our experience of a one night stand.

Lazur Steak house

5/5 Great steaks and Mexican food

Price 35lv a head for plenty of food and wine.

Service 5/5 friendly quick and unobtrusive staff. Felt like we were in a British restaurant with non of the “aww right mate” rubbishthat has infected Bansko. and lost of smiley attentive service

Atmosphere 5/5 Very busy place all the tables were full all night (on a monday) most tables were turned round once through the evening.

Food 5/5 “probably the best steak I have had outside Buenos Aires” (The Polak)  was the quote of the night. Salads were interesting,the  DB and I shared one with caramelised pears wrapped in Parma ham, if I was looking for fault it was a little over dressed but next time I will just ask for the dressing on the side. The Northern Miner had something mexican that looked and tasted great and one of the Babes had a chicken dish that again proved popular. The steakswere the main highlight, great beef, aged well cooked well and served with great classic sauces and chips!   The Bulgarian Babes, The Polak and I shared a couple of chocolate soufflé which were more like chocolate fondant but lovely all the same. Brandies, coffees, lots of wine and beer. We were still drinking at midnight and spent less than a normal night at a Mexhana!

This one night stand might turn into something more meaningful!

 

 

Dragon Alliance

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Respect to Dragon Alliance click here for their website I bought a pair of goggles from them last season and due to some unlucky defect with the pair I bought all the film came off the lens. After a disappointing experience with their agent in BG I pretty much gave up on them and decided to write off the 150 euros they cost as an expensive lesson. Last month a friend suggested that I should get in touch with head office.

Well Dragon are not the sort of company to leave a client in the lurch. Amazing customer service, polite, friendly, fast and helpful and a replacement pair of goggles in the post within a month!

Great gear made by great people, THANK YOU DRAGON!

A black and white world

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It has finally snowed and snowed and snowed! I went up the hill to have a proper look today and found a black and white winter wonderland. It’s not much maybe 15 or 20 centimetres and it is really wet and heavy but it is snow and with a bit of work it should keep the pistes open for weeks!

I’m planning to get fit enough to be able to ski tour to the top of Kutelo by the end of the winter. today I managed to get as far as the Bunderitsa car park which is not very far.  To put it into perspective I am now fit enough to walk to the bottom of the hill! I need to get fit enough to walk to the top of the hill! It’s going to be a struggle!

If you believe all the hype on the snow-forecast sites it looks like the mother of all storms is on its way! 54cm of snow was forecast for Sunday, training might have to go on the back burner, if it turns out to be true I will mostly be ripping it up in the pow for the next week!

It’s all amazing

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As I am getting grief from all sides for my brutal honesty about the conditions on the slopes in Bansko I have decided to turn over a new leaf and start talking Bansko up like the fluff monkeys! It’s amazing! The skiing is great the snow conditions in reality are sooo much better than any reposts you are hearing. Woo Hoo this is turning out to be an awesome season!

I know I am much younger than most of the other people reporting on the ski conditions here in Bansko and thus much less experienced in the world of business and marketing but I have spent most of my life living in ski resorts and all my working life in hospitality. This sort of behaviour, lying to your clients to try and make that extra sale, talking up the conditions in the hope of getting one extra booking, is totally unacceptable in my world.

I think it is much better to under sell, down play, even to err on the side of negativity than to lie to our guests and get their hopes up to be dashed on the rocks of reality. I describe our hotel as a simple family hotel, but in reality we are one of the most highly recommended businesses in Bulgaria. Why do so many of our guests rave about us? I would say it has a lot more to do with what they get when they are here is more than they were expecting, than us being amazing. It’s all about expectations, if you are gong to claim that you are the best you better be sure you really are the best because your guests are going to be expecting perfection.

The reality of Bansko now? Enough runs are open to allow for a fun week, the crowds have gone home and snow is falling but really don’t expect too much and bring your swimmers as you might want to spend a day or two in one of the fantastic spas scattered round the valley.

So when everyone has become disillusioned by the fluff monkeys I will still be keeping it real.

 

Boots and blisters

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Freeride skiing is all about, well if you’ve read some of my older posts you’ll know what I think it is all about. What it is not about is sunny days loafing around resort waiting for the snow to come. The winter is a shockingly emotional time for me, sleep deprivation due to the long hours added to exhaustion from all the skiing, the highs and lows of good, bad and best days on the hill. Amazing guests, lovely guests, repeat guests, regulars that come every year, guests that make me work, guests that really really make me work it’s a roller-coaster of emotion!

Then every once in a decade the snow god lets you down and the winter starts late, 2013/14 is one of those years. A big blob of stable weather is sitting over the Balkans, not a breath of wind, I check the long term forecast twice a day, I watch the satellite images most mornings, snow-forecast.com , Accuweather.com  , these are my friends, I’m pretty much stalking both sites and both just predict wall to wall sunshine. The dumb thing is I know it doesn’t matter, a bad start normally means a great mid and end of the season but experience and logic mean nothing all I can see are those little yellow sunshines.

All this pent up emotion is coming out in strange ways, anyone who is positive about the season is instantly hated, friends in Verbier, St Anton, Courcheval are no longer friends. Wars are started over nothing arguments spring up. Weirdly, considering all the rage, I’m feeling huge amounts of affection for Vania, my only partner in the war against the lack of snow! The snow gods are cursed, I’ve even thought about some sort of voodoo sacrifice, madness has set in!

So in an attempt to remain sane I have thrown my brain at some huge tasks, learning about this and that, writing essays, but the body is still craving release so I have dusted off my touring skis and my bike and I’m spending an hour a day beasting myself around the hills.

This is where the boots and blisters bit comes in.Llast week in a fit of rage I stomped off up the ski road, music blaring and mind switched off. I tried to wear myself out. It wasn’t too hard, Christmas and New Year have taken their toll, a couple of pre-season weeks eating too well in Italy and France  really took their toll.

Knackered I stopped and skied home to find that my boots and feet don’t get on. It’s strange as I have been skiing in the boots for 18 months but the damage caused by touring was shocking. Claret and yellow muck soaked my socks, skin flapping all over the shop generally a disaster. Fortunately some of our regular guest are marines so a brief consultation and a couple of days in slippers meant I could walk and work but now I need to find a long term solution. The last week has been spent studying blisters and I feel I can almost say I’m an expert! I’m now stocked up on iodine, jelly-like plasters and zinc oxide tape. God willing it will snow and I can go back to skiing via the lifts but in the mean time I’ll wrap myself up like a mummy and keep on keeping on!

 

Doom!

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I am now pretty certain that this is the worst start to a winter season I have ever seen. It feels like a lifetime ago that it last snowed the mountains are more brown than white and the only reason there is any skiing at all is because Ulen have sucked the river dry making fake snow.  Add to this the fact that half of eastern Europe has decided to spend Christmas and New Year in Bansko and it means that what is open is rammed full of nutters sledging, walking and falling down the mountain!

Now I am no athlete, to be fair I am pretty fat but I do like to spend at least 3 days a week in the hills, cycling, hiking, skiing, walking climbing whatever it is I just really enjoy being in the hills. So with the lack of snow and packed pistes added to the fact the Ulen have limited the number of days I can ski I am trapped in town doing nothing and feeling a bit like a caged bear.

Yesterday I decided to address the problem head on and get my ski touring gear and go up the ski road. So with a bit of Verdi blaring in my ears and a load of frustration in my soul off I stormed! Stormed is the word I have never been so in the zone, technique perfect, muscles feeling rested I literally flew up the hill.  My boots are not the best fit for touring and rub a little however it wasn’t until I stopped that I felt that warmth in my ankles that says blisters. Rage and Verdi must have an aesthetic effect as I had trashed my feet  and didn’t even notice I was doing it.

So today to add insult to injury not only am I a trapped bear but I am a trapped bear with really sore feet!