Slovenia’s skiing has been put into the international spotlight by Tina Maze, the most successful female ski racer in Slovenian history. Multi-tasking Maze is one of the few winter athletes who competes - and regularly wins on the international level - in all five skiing disciplines: Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G, Downhill and Combination.
|Kdranjska Gora: Courtesy of Kranjska Gora Tourist Boar|
In her own country, Maze is a superstar: five-time winner of best Slovenian athlete, a fabulous fashion model and a pop star with Slovenia’s most watched You Tube music video. Born in 1983, Maze grew up in Crna na Koroskem, in northern Slovenia less than two hours drive from the country’s top ski resort, which hosts the men’s World Cup Slalom events every March.
|Kranjska Gora: Courtesy of Kranjska Gora Tourist Board|
Tourists come to Kranjska Gora from all over Slovenia, Germany, Croatia, Italy and also Great Britain. According to Kranjska Gora Tourist Board Director, Mirjam Žerjav, out of a total of 177,398 overnight stays in the resort during the 2013/14 season, domestic visitors accounted for 81,429 and foreign visitors 95,969. Of the international visitors, the majority was from Croatia (21,117) followed by Italy (17,416), Britain (13,997) and Germany (3,634).
British ski operator has been bringing skiers to family-focused on and off over the past 20 years. Their numbers have ranged from year to year, from a maximum of around 3,000 to about 300 predicted for the 2014/15 season. This is in line with national ski visitation numbers which reached a peak in 2008/9 at 207,790 but were down to just 128,296 skiers in 2013/14 - reflecting the slow recovery in the European economy since the recession.
|LTO Kranjska Gora|
Compared to typical ski holidays in Switzerland and France, prices are low in Kranjska Gora. During the 2014/15 season, for example, a week’s stay with Inghams in a four-star hotel in February cost around £579 per person (including flight, resort transfer, accommodation, breakfast and dinner) and was discounted to £429 by the end of January.
In the past two decades, there has been considerable investment in hotels, new apartments and sports facilities, says Žerjav: “All the lifts are practically new - the investment in the past ten years was over 20million EUR. And all hotels have been renovated, an investment of around 50 million EUR.” Hotel beds have increased from 1,384 in 2006 to 1,905 in 2013 and apartment beds have risen from 1,384 in 2006 to 3,054 in 2013.
|LTO Kranjska Gora - www.slovenia.info|
Set near the Italian and Austrian borders with the spectacular Julian Alps as a backdrop, the affordable ski resort with 30km of skiable slopes appeals particularly to novice and intermediate skiers. As the most forested country in mainland Europe, the scenery is also highly rated. With a good variety of ski trails and the challenging World Cup run at Podkoren, this is one of Slovenia’s most popular ski resort for families, says Zuber Sameja, ’ product manager for Slovenia. Snow cannons, producing more than 500.000 m3 of artificial snow, supplement precipitation on 85 percent of the ski terrain.
Factors which encourage skiers to try include family facilities, novelty, affordable skiing, good value après ski, in traditional inns, and the friendliness of local people. “Skiers want to try something else and also Kranjska Gora holds the World Slalom and Giant Slalom Cup every year,” Zuber adds. The town of , set in the Zgornjesavska Valley is picturesque, attracting domestic and international visitors summer and winter due to its mountain and lakes appeal.
|LTO Kranjska Gora|
As well as the ski hill, winter amenities include a snow park, cross country trails, ice climbing, night skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, ski touring, and kids’ activities. Hotels are equipped with triple and quad rooms, most with door-to-slope skiing. There are many family-friendly events throughout the winter, including in December a live nativity scene which is constructed in the . As well as the (part of the World Cup series), the Planica World Cup Finals, a , is held each March.
|Night skiing at Kranjska Gora - photo by Aleš Fevžerwww.slovenia.info|
The national profile of Slovenia’s ski industry received a boost when ski racer Tina Maze burst onto the World Cup scene around 10 years ago, winning in all five alpine disciplines, as well as nabbing two Olympic gold medals at Sochi. Awarded best female athlete of the year for 2005, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014, she is a Slovenian national heroine. “We’ve yet to see internationally but certainly she is a great ambassador for ski Slovenia and she is present at many U.K. events hosted by Spirit Slovenia,” says Zuber.
“Slovenia tourism is working very hard and, as a frequent visitor, I have seen many changes that are positive - especially new German ownership of the main airport of Ljubljana, quite a few gateways from Croatian airports, too, so more possibility of improving numbers,” Zuber adds.