Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing in Slovenia’s Julian Alps

I’ve had quite a few enquiries recently via my blog regarding winter hiking in Slovenia. So, I thought I would put together a new blog post with some ideas about where to hike here in winter, and also about another alternative winter sport – snowshoeing.

Before I go on, however, one thing I would like to emphasise – and cannot emphasise enough – is that you MUST be properly prepared and equipped for winter hiking. In the past couple of weeks there have been a number of deaths in our mountains, and, as is so often the case, among them are tales of people going to the mountains in trainers or other such inappropriate attire. Proper equipment is essential year-round, but particularly so in winter, as is knowing the terrain. Personally, during winter, particularly when hiking alone, I stick to routes that I know and that I know are well-trodden.

kozlov-rob-15-januar-2011-021

As I’m not a skier – never have been and never will be – snowshoeing provides great exercise and (can be!) great fun too, provided the conditions are right. Putting on a pair of snowshoes for the first time is a slightly strange experience. One feels rather awkward and clumsy walking around with, what look and feel like, tennis racquets strapped to your feet, though the modern versions, as seen below, are somewhat sleeker in their design.

snowshoe-sizing

Once you get used to walking with a wider and slightly ungainly gait, you soon get used to it, though a pair of hiking poles is a requisite. Walking with snowshoes enable you to access places on foot that would otherwise be inaccessible during winter. However, snowshoes aren’t suitable for scaling high peaks, but rather for traversing wider, flatter snow-covered terrain.

vrata-krplanje-18-januar-2013-001-001

One of the best, and one of my favourite, places for winter activities is the Gorenjska region, where I live in the northwest of Slovenia, is the Pokljuka plateau. The entire forested Karst plateau, 20kms in length, is within Triglav National Park, and reaches an elevation of 1,400m. The highest peak is Debela peč (2014m), which, together with the peaks of Brda, Mrežce and Viševnik, are among the most popular with hikers year-round.

As can be seen below – me en-route to Debela peč – winter hiking, when at times you can be waist deep (or deeper!) in snow, can be exhausting at times, so isn’t for the faint-hearted!

debela-pec-19-februar-2011-026

But the rewards can also be fantastic, provided you are well-equipped, sensible, know the terrain, and are fit enough!

debela-pec-19-februar-2011-018

Pokljuka is approximately 15kms from Bled. Other than for a few months during summer, there is no regular, scheduled public transport to the plateau, so a car is essential. The plateau can also be reached from the road which turns off near Bohinjska Bistrica and leads up towards Gorjuše.

This year on 8-11th December Pokljuka hosted the annual BMW Biathlon World Cup. The plateau is a favourite training destination for many winter sports people from across Europe as well as for the Slovene military who have a barracks at Rudno Polje, which is also home to the Pokljuka Sports Centre and the Hotel Center http://www.center-pokljuka.si/en.html

druge_prireditve

Pokljuka is a very popular destination with fans of cross-country skiing. I have tried it, on a few occasions, but me and skiing – of any kind – are never going to get along! Here’s me trying to ‘play it cool’ whilst a group of Slovenian military recruits go whizzing by!

pokljuka-16-02-2008-017

I’ve been there at times when the weather is less than favourable too, though once home in the warm with a cuppa, all is forgiven and forgotten!

mrezice-25-november-2010-023

With its wide, open pastures and traditional wooden huts, the beautiful Planina Zajavornik highland is among the most popular parts of Pokljuka. The highland is also equally stunning during summer. You can cross the highland on foot and then head further up to the Blejska koča mountain hut, where you can enjoy hearty, traditional Slovenian food such as Carniolan sausage or a stew such as ričet, or, if the road is clear of snow, you can drive a little further by taking the road to the right from Mrzli studenec then park on the opposite side of the highland before continuing on foot up to the mountain hut.

cimg6921

There are so many lovely parts of Pokljuka, it’s hard to choose a favourite and it’s equally beautiful, if not more so, during summer. Below you can see the Kranjska dolina highland, which you pass if you take the road as described above. I particularly like cycling in this area in summer.

cimg8730

It’s fairly easy to navigate your way around Pokljuka, but a map of the Julian Alps will certainly aid you in planning routes.

I hope this has provided some ideas and inspiration for winter hiking in Slovenia. I wish you happy, and above all, safe, hiking!

© Adele in Slovenia

13 thoughts on “Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing in Slovenia’s Julian Alps

  1. Hi Adele, thank you for this blog post! Myself and a friend are coming to the national park at the end of next week. Are there are walks we can do with just walking boots? Could you recommend a couple of routes for us to try. We are staying near Lake Bled.

    Also, if we need specialist shoes/crampons where can we hire them from? Thank you for your help.

    Adam

    • Hi Adam, I’m glad my blog has proved of interest and use to you. At the moment you would definitely need crampons for any hikes, even low level ones, as last Friday we had a strange day of first rain then snow and everything froze so even around town in many places the pavements are still covered in ice. It’s not very pleasant. However, you could get away with just some of the lightweight chain type crampons for easier walks, I use these kind – http://www.intersport.si/shop/pohodnistvo-kampiranje-44100/pohodnistvo-44155/dereze-53766/dereze-veriga-ice-track-587f0768c38b375c278b456c

      As you can see, they are not overly expensive and therefore you would be better buying them than hiring them – I don’t think you’d actually even find anywhere hiring out these kind.

      You would need good winter hiking boots.

      If you have both of those, plus a pair of gaiters would come in handy, you could certainly do some winter hikes, but stick to well-trodden paths and those within your comfort zone. You could go up to the Pokljuka plateau from Bled, providing you have a car. There are loads of places to hike up there.

      • Thank you Adele! So informative. Where would we be able to hire crampons? We don’t think we can take them on the plane. We have all the right gear apart from that. Do you think there are any routes up mountains we could use without crampons? We are going to go to Pokljuka plateau as you recommended.

      • Are you only bringing hand luggage? If so, then yes, it will be a problem. I’ve found a few places that hire out crampons, but they are all the heavy duty kinds of ones, for ice-climbing and serious mountain hikes, which I think/presume you wouldn’t want/need. Here is an example – http://kofler-sport.si/?page_id=86 where you can see a picture of the type of crampons they hire (the Slovene word is ‘dereze’).

        I don’t think you will find the lightweight ones for hire, as they are so cheap, people just tend to buy them.

        At the moment you will need crampons pretty much everywhere as it really is so icy. But its mostly a problem at lower levels, once you get higher and there is more snow, its easier to walk. So you might find it ok at Pokljuka as you begin at over 1000 metres. However, having said that, personally I would always have crampons with me in winter, wherever I go.

      • You are right. We are only taking hand luggage as the cost of hold luggage is so much!

        I’ve found Iglu Sport in Ljubljana to hire crampons but I will contact Kofler to see if they have what we need. As an alternative we could buy some lightweight ones, I know you sent that website through but we can’t really order online. Is there a shop we can visit to buy them at a good price?

        Thanks so much for your help, we are confident but your help has been so valuable.

      • HI Adam, if you are staying in/near Bled, the closest shop for you would be Iglu Sport in Lesce (it’s right opposite the Lesce-Bled railway station) or go direct to Veriga, also in Lesce, which is the company that actually makes the lightweight crampons. It is located just behind the TUS supermarket in Lesce.

      • Hello Adele

        I just came home after spending 5 days in Bled.
        Altough weather wasn’t the way I wanted it to be, I have had a fantastic hike up Debela Pec and day after, Visevnik.
        The only way I was able to that was thanks to your blog!
        Path up the Debela Pec was frosen with very litle snow. I didnt need my crampons nor iceaxe.
        All together gorgeous mountains.
        Thanks again
        Kindest regards
        Andrija

      • Hi Andrija, Thanks for writing again to let me know about your hike. I’m so glad it all worked out and that you enjoyed your hikes on Pokljuka.
        It would be quite different if you were here this week, as there is now about 60cm of fresh snow in the mountains, which fell on Sunday/Monday. But anyway, you had a good time, which is great!
        Best regards,
        Adele

  2. Hello Adele

    Thank you very much for an informative homepage. I have already fallen in love with Pokljuka region!
    Next week, my wife and I will be going to Bled. She is going for a conference, me, to do some winter hiking in the area.
    Do you have any idea if one can hire snow shoes in Bled?
    I have all the other equipment since I have been hiking and climbing for most of my life.

    Thanks again for your help
    Kindest regards
    Andrija

    • Hello Andrija, I’m pleased that you have found and like my blog. Yes, Pokljuka is a lovely part of Slovenia! Unfortunately, at the moment there isn’t enough snow for snowshoeing. It’s been a strange winter so far. November was awful, with 22 wet days. But since the start of December we have had only one wet day, last Friday, when it rained then snowed a little. In the valleys it has made it rather icy but up higher there is around 30-40cm of snow, but still not really the soft, fresh snow you would need to snowshoeing. It’s been one of the coldest winters that I have had since moving here, but also one of the sunniest and driest. Of course, I’m sure more snow will come, but for the next week there is also none forecast. If things do change, I believe you may be able to hire snowshoes from the hotel at the sports centre on Pokljuka, though I’ve never done so myself and not sure what kind of snowshoes they have. Enjoy your trip to Slovenia! Regards, Adele

      • Thanks again for the answer. I will bring all of my equipment and decide on the day what to do.
        Really looking forward to it! And thank you for telling me about Debela Pec, I really didn’t have any idea where to hike.
        Kindest regards
        Andrija

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s