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PLANETSKI GOES EAST - Jane Peel, Jasna, Slovakia
Wednesday January 24, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

With much of the Alps hit by a cycle of storms, we made our way to the Low Tatras. Where? A mountain range in Slovakia.




The Low Tatras.

Doesn't sound too promising, does it?

I have an image of dodgy snow conditions, rickety old lifts, unchallenging runs.

Welcome to Jasna.

It's not what you think.


 Jasna, SlovakiaWelcome to Jasna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's the biggest and most popular ski resort in Slovakia and it has an impressive modern lift system.

I head up the mountain on one of the first chairs out of the base at Lucky (pronounced Looch-key) at 8.30am.

Lift from Lucky, JasnaFirst lift from Lucky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lift in JasnaFast, comfortable lifts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, big in Slovakia is small by alpine standards, but first impressions suggest it has plenty of terrain to explore.

Unfortunately, on day one, I can't actually see much of it.

At the top it's cloudy.

Strike that. It's foggy.

And there's a little bit of wind.  OK, OK, a lot of wind.


 

But the snow feels good. I can't see it, but it feels good.

Down in the trees, visibility improves and the snow is still good.

In the trees at JasnaIn the trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the trees, Jasna, SlovakiaIn the trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We might be in the Low Tatras - the skiing is from 943 metres up to just over 2,000 metres - but, as they say in these parts,  what this place lacks in altitude it makes up for in latitude.

It is just south of the border with Poland and has a cold, snowy climate in winter.

Jasna, SlovakiaJasna - snowy & cold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold climateCold climate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jasna - top of Mount ChopokJasna - very cold at the top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jasna has just under 50km of groomed slopes for all levels of skier and snowboarder and plenty of freeride options.

Somewhere out there in the murk beneath Mount Chopok are the couloirs where the Freeride World Tour held qualifiers in 2017.

If the weather improves, I might manage to get a photo to show you.

Who knows, I might even get to try one or two of them out, although I can pretty much guarantee that I'll be heading for the least gnarly of them.

It's early days but I've been pleasantly surprised by my first ski experience in what we used to call Eastern Europe.

Oh - and the Goulash soup I had for lunch on the mountain for the grand sum of €6.90 was THE best.

Full stop.

Goulash soupGoulash soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The clouds lift

Now that's better.

I can see the peak of Mount Chopok from the bottom...

Mount ChopokClear view of the top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...and when I get to the top I can stand upright.

Today there's no wind and the sun is shining.

At the top, JasnaAt the top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the top, JasnaAt the top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I head down the north-facing slopes, I can see some of the couloirs used for the Freeride World Tour qualifiers.

Gulp.  Erm, maybe not.

Freeride World Tour couloirsFWT drop-in zones are over there

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in the distance are the High Tatras, and beyond them Poland.

Jasna, looking towards the High TatrasLooking towards the High Tatras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The south facing slopes, which had been completely obscured by low cloud on day one, are now clear.

I can literally see for miles.

JasnaSunshine on the southern slopes of Jasna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



JasnaOn the south side of the mountain


























There's even some chalky snow off the sides of the piste to enjoy.



My guide for the day is Justin Garrett of Jasna Adventures, whose newly-built chalet, The Dragon's Lair, opened for guests just before Christmas.

He's not your typical Slovak guide but he is passionate about skiing in Jasna:

I'm certainly beginning to appreciate what this place has to offer.

There's far more extensive and challenging skiing here than in many resorts in this part of the world (and I might yet get to experience some its freeride terrain - my visit's not over yet), but where it does resemble other eastern European ski areas is in the value for money it offers.

Half a litre of very good beer will cost you under €3 on the mountain and far less than that in town.

And where in the Alps can you get a seriously good hour-long apres ski massage for €30?

MassagePost ski pummeling



























Where are the slopes?


That wind and fog on day one?

Pah.  Nothing. 

When the gondola you're travelling in to the top starts swinging like a pendulum, you know it's bad. 

And when the clear skies vanish to be replaced by a pea souper, you know it's going to be one of those days.

At the top, JasnaPea souper
























We won't be exploring the off-piste today.

I once tried on a pair of ski goggles set up to show exactly what the visually-impaired British skier Millie Knight sees when she's racing. 

Basically, it's very, very little. 

So when the wind blew freezing snow onto my googles - and try as I might I couldn't shift it - all I could think of was 'I am seeing what Millie Knight sees'.

I had one clear spot the size of a 2p piece, but at least I wasn't racing.

The group I was skiing with decided the only thing for it was to head low and spend the time refreshing our avalanche search training.

Avalanche rescue refresherAvalanche rescue refresher


























Avalanche rescue refresherAvalanche rescue refresher



























By the looks of the queues for the lifts, the weather hadn't deterred the regulars.

Lift queueQueuing to brave the elements




 




















I have one final morning to give freeriding in Jasna a go before leaving Slovakia.

Let's see!

Freeride time


My last day in Jasna dawns and it's a bluebird one.

I'm finally going to get to try out some of the ski area's famous off-piste.

That avalanche search training yesterday - my first of the season - was well-timed. 

Off-piste in JasnaTogged up for freeride



























We are a group of four.  I'm with a mountain guide called Martin and two friends, Luke Rees and Mark Barber, who are both snowboarders.

We are fully kitted up with transceivers, shovels and probes, which is more than I can say for a couple of reckless skiers we later encounter.

The avalanche risk has reduced from 3 out of 5 earlier in the week to 2.

While that means improved safety off-piste it's going to be tricky to find decent conditions.

Mountain Guide in JasnaMountain Guide Martin assesses the route



























It hasn't snowed for six days, there's been a lot of wind with fluctuating temperatures.

We will ride the north-facing slopes and hope for the best.

They're rock hard.

Off-piste in JasnaOff-piste in Jasna

























The snow is unforgiving - the teeth-chattering, knee-battering kind.

And there are so many shiny ice patches that one of the snowboarders is offered an ice-axe.


Off-piste in JasnaIce axe for safety
























To say that the Meterological Couloir (40 degrees at the top, according to our guide) is a challenge in these conditions, is an understatement.

Meterological Couloir, JasnaAbout to head into the Meterological Couloir



























Meteorological Couloir, JasnaHeading into the Meteorological Couloir



























Even the Little Girl Couloir - so called because it's wider, less steep, so one of the easier couloirs - is not exactly a doddle.

Little Girl Couloir, Jasna Little Girl Couloir


























Little Girl Couloir, JasnaLittle Girl Couloir


























We all get down safely, though not necessarily elegantly.

In just over four hours we've sampled a small bit of the freeride terrain here but not the FWT couloirs.  They would have been lethal in these conditions.

Mark Barber & Guide Martin Off piste in JasnaA rest and a cuppa for Mark



























It's a shame there was no soft, knee-deep powder but I saw enough to convince me that they weren't lying when they told me that Jasna has skiing and snowboarding for everyone - on and off-piste. 

Slovakia was a new experience for me but I would willingly return.

Thanks to Luke Rees of the action sports website Awe365.com for taking some of the freeride photos.


FACT BOX

Jane stayed with Jasna Adventures in their chalet, The Dragon's Lair, prices from £533pp, Saturday to Saturday.

Included:
  • ​7 nights accommodation with breakfast in The Dragon’s Lair
  • 6 x 6-day adult lift passes, 6 x 6-day Junior lift passes at Jasna
  • Return Airport transfers from Poprad Tatry Airport to Jasna
  • Daily private lift shuttle (8 mins to lifts)
  • Daily apres drink and snacks at The Dragon’s Lair chalet
  • Daily access to the chalet jacuzzi (outdoor) and sauna
  • Evening transport

Not included: Flights, lunch, dinner, drinks, travel insurance.

Wizz Air flies from London Luton to Poprad-Tatry with fares starting at £22.99pp one way.

Find out more about Jasna here.

The Dragon's Lair, Jasna AdventuresThe Dragon's Lair, Jasna Adventures


























The Dragon's Lair chalet, JasnaInside The Dragon's Lair


























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