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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

Rogla: Year-round Recreation and Fun for All!

If you love the great outdoors, spending your free time being active, and breathing in fresh mountain air, then you will love Rogla! Located in the northeast of Slovenia on the Zreče side of the Pohorje massif at an altitude of 1517m, Rogla is a ski resort and year-round recreation destination.

Visit for a day, stay for a few days, or even longer, there’s no shortage of things to see and do! There is a choice of accommodation on Rogla – hotels, bungalows, apartments – but for the most modern and luxurious among them I’d certainly recommend the latest addition, the new Hotel Natura, which is really something a bit special!

I went to check it out during a recent visit to the Zreče thermal spa, read more here – http://wp.me/p7jQx9-7O and, well, me being me, decided to cycle up to Rogla! On reaching the hotel, after a 2 hour+ uphill ride (Zreče 360m – Rogla 1,517m) the giant wooden recliners on the hotel’s terrace were beckoning and thereafter it was hard to tear myself away!

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If you’re a keen cyclist then, although long, the road to Rogla is good and it makes a great day out. You can choose to either go on the main road, or, as I did, ride up at first on minor roads – which I’d recommend for great views and less traffic – before joining the main road, or for those with mountain bikes you can take one of the forest roads. There are also numerous other marked cycle routes on the plateau itself.

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Hotel Natura is the first hotel reached when arriving on Rogla and an excellent place to stay to explore the area, or just call in for a delicious meal made using local Pohorje ingredients as part of ‘Taste Rogla’. I headed straight for a glass of refreshing homemade iced herbal tea and elderflower cordial served in the hotel’s very welcoming and comfortable lounge area.

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Next came a well-earned meal in Restaurant Brusnica which was beautifully and imaginatively presented as well as being scrumptious!

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Hotel Natura offers excellent wellness facilities, massages, baths, and a sauna with a panoramic view – in winter overlooking a cross-country skiing poligon. I can image that the wellness facilities must particularly come into their own during winter after a long day’s skiing.

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Of course, if you stay at Rogla itself then you don’t have to cycle all the way up there and can instead spend more time exploring the area – note to self, do that next time! If you prefer exploring on foot, then Rogla is great for leisurely strolls or longer hikes. Pick up a map of the Rogla hiking trails and you can choose from 9 marked trails, varying in length from 2.3km to 25.9km.

One of the most scenic is the path to the Lovrenc lakes, which is made up of 20 small lakes that formed during the Ice Age. The lakes, which do not have a surface water inflow and are supplied only by rainwater, are surrounded by dwarf pine and in places are bursting with water lilies.  To get a better impression of the size and scope of the lakes, head for the best vantage point – the lake tower.

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The Rogla Bike Park has 6 trails ranging in length and difficulty, including a beginners polygon and obstacle trails. Mountain bikes can be rented and instructors are also available. More information here – http://bit.ly/29IhQSh

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Working began on building the rather unusual looking Church of Jesus Christ on Rogla in 2006 and it was blessed in 2010. The church has three bells, an impressive altar and notable church organ.

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Before starting the long (though very quick!) descent back to Zreče, there was time to enjoy a bit more adrenalin with a 1,360 metre descent on the Zlodejevo toboggan run. The return is by drag lift I hasten to add!

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Other outdoor facilities include a funpark, tennis courts. football field and running tracks. The Rogla Sports Centre is particularly popular with athletes seeking altitude training. There is a high altitude training room equipped with a multitude of fitness equipment where conditions up to 7,000 metres above sea-level can be simulated.

With an average of 100 days of snow cover per year, Rogla really is a year-round destination. In winter it offers downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, winter hikes and other fun snow-based activities.

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This is but a snapshot of all there is to see and do on Rogla! Find out plenty more here – http://www.rogla.eu/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Winter Holidays in Kranjska Gora; So much more than ‘just’ snow!

I’m not a fan of traditional winter sports, however, since living here I’ve had to get used to the fact that winter happens, and winter means snow. Therefore, I have learnt to participate in some alternative winter activities such as snowshoeing, winter hiking and, on occasion, cross-country skiing.

One of the best resorts in Slovenia for winter-based activities, both traditional skiing-based as well as alternative winter sports, is Kranjska Gora.

Though Kranjska Gora can sometimes affected by its relatively low altitude, and thus lack of, or meagre amounts of, snow, the resort has made concerted efforts to ensure there are plenty of other activities and events taking place during the winter season should lack of snow be a problem. Here are just some of the things happening in Kranjska Gora this winter, where there’s something on offer for all the family, whether skiers or not.

Kranjska Gora Welcomes You! which takes place weekly until the end of February on the snow beach behind the Ramada resort, comprises music, children’s entertainment and a presentation of what to see and do, and is an ideal way to acquaint yourself with all the resort has to offer.

Skiing, of course, is the number one activity in Kranjska Gora. The slopes are particularly suited to beginners, though seasoned skiers will find some more challenging runs among the 18 ski slopes with 5 chairlifts and 13 drag lifts. As with any major ski resort, there are numerous ski schools and ski rental outlets. On a sunny day, with the backdrop of the magnificent Julian Alps, you can, I’m sure, see the appeal!

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There are over 40kms of maintained cross-country ski trails. The keen-eyed among you will notice that whilst this is me, it isn’t me in Kranjska Gora! This is me on Pokljuka! Although I’ve tried cross-country skiing, alas me and skiing – in any form – just don’t, and never will, get on, but I wanted to include this photos just to prove that I have tried!!!

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The Vršič pass, which leads from Kranjska Gora to the Soča valley, is usually closed for much of the winter due to snowfall.* Providing someone has blazed a trail before you, it does, though, make a great place for a winter hike. Below you can see me on the road – yes, that’s a road! – at bend 17, with wonderful views of the Julian Alps. I must stress though, that you do need to be well-equipped for winter hiking and be sure to only follow worn trails if you don’t know the terrain.

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* The Vršič pass doesn’t currently look like this. At the time of publishing this blog (4 Feb 2016) we have had very little snowfall  – though there was fresh snowfall in the mountains yesterday evening – and for the first time that I can remember since being in Slovenia, the pass has remained open for much of the entire winter, though only for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes equipped with winter tyres and/or snow chains. Please be sure to check the traffic information centre website for the latest traffic information – http://www.promet.si/portal/en/1traffic-conditions.aspx

When there is heavy and fresh snow, hiking isn’t always possible so a pair of snowshoes are called for. Snowshoes enable you to traverse the snow without sinking in it up to your waist – or deeper! They fit over regular winter hiking boots and are easy to use, though do feel somewhat ungainly to begin with.

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Every Thursday at 5pm the Kranjska Gora Culinary Journey takes place. Diners set off on a journey to visit five restaurants within the town and enjoy a different course, with accompanying drinks, at each venue. More information here – https://www.hit-alpinea.si/en/culinary-journey

Husky sledding trips can be booked and arranged in Kranjska Gora, though actually take place just over the border in Italy.

The Eskimo Village comprises a hotel, restaurant and bar. Guests can partake in a number of fun snow-based activities such as snow golf, igloo building, and sledding.

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You can even cycle in the winter at the Winter Bike Park. Hmm, much as I love cycling I think I’ll give that one a miss, but I’m sure it’s an adrenaline-junkies dream!

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There’s also no shortage of winter events, many of them international, including Family Day on the Snow Beach (13.2), Snow Volley 2016 (20.2), Audi FIS World Cup, Vitranc (5 & 6.3) and the Planica World Ski Jump Championships (18-20.3)

You can also see more about winter sports in Slovenia in this short video.

Useful Links:

Tourism Kranjska Gora – http://www.kranjska-gora.si/en/

Kranjska Gora Welcomes You – http://www.kranjska-gora.si/en/events-calendar/621-Kranjska-Gora-welcomes-you

Eskimo Village – http://www.eskimska-vas.si/en/

Winter Bike Park – http://www.bike-park.si/home

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

Snowy Slovenia Facts and Figures

Allow me to start this week’s blog by giving myself a small pat on the back. Why? Well, because last Friday my blog achieved its 50,000th view – something I’m really rather proud of. Ok, granted, it’s not up there matching the figures of some of the world’s ‘supper bloggers’, some of whom probably achieve that many views in a day, but for somewhat lesser-known Slovenia, and little old humble me, I think/hope/believe it’s quite an achievement. The greatest number of readers are actually in Slovenia, as often Slovenes themselves tell me that they turn to my blog for ideas and inspiration; this is followed by readers from the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands…… and as far away as Bangladesh, Mongolia, Senegal, Ghana, Martinique and more; a total of 110 countries to date.

It’s now been 3 weeks since my fall and, hopefully, that means I’m at least halfway through the healing time. Unfortunately, the fresh, and heavy snowfall on Friday, and again on Sunday afternoon, meant that I couldn’t get out much at the weekend as I’m just too scared at the moment in case I fall on ice again, particularly as I currently only have one arm for balance.

As I was sitting watching the snowfall from my window on Friday, and the snow was growing higher by the minute, I was wondering what the actual record snowfall figures are for Slovenia and set about finding out. Here, instead of a blog about MY latest snowy adventures, are some rather fascinating Slovenia snowy facts and figures:

  • The most amount of snowfall in 24 hours – 125cm – Dom na Komni mountain hut, 1951 & 1970
  • The most amount of snowfall at less than 500m above sea level – 105cm – village of Soča, near Bovec, 1970
  • The most amount of snow in one place – 700cm – Kredarica, below Mt. Triglav – 2001
  • The most snowfall in one season – 1662cm – Kredarica, winter 2000/2001
  • The longest lasting snow cover – 290 days, Kredarica – 1976/77 & 1984/85
  • The earliest snowfall in a place below 500m above sea level – Kotlje, Šmartno pri Slovenj Gradcu, 11 September 1970
  • The latest snowfall in a place below 500m above sea level – Nomenj – 10 June 1974

So, instead of being out there enjoying snowy hikes, I’m resigned to looking back wistfully at photos of previous ones and looking forward to future ones. With that in mind, and for those looking for somewhere to enjoy the snow, and/or those who are maybe thinking about a winter visit to Slovenia, I offer below a few ideas for some of my favourite winter hikes and other snowy activities in and around the Radovljica area:

  • The Pokljuka plateau is a haven for all things ‘snowy’ – there’s the biathlon centre, cross-country ski tracks, skiing, and hiking. A very popular destination is to the hut ‘Blejska koča’, which can be a destination in itself, or the more hardy can continue onwards towards Mrežce (as seen below), Brda or Debela peč, the highest peak of the plateau.

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  • The Dom na Komni hut is one of the few huts that is open all-year round and the route up, beginning from the car park by the Savica waterfall at Lake Bohinj, is usually well-frequented and trodden. From the hut there are also a number of other options to continue onwards on the Komna plateau.

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  • The Koča na Taležu hut (725m) is popular with locals from around the Radovljica area as it is easily accessed, offers fantastic views for relatively little effort, and offers good food and a warm welcome

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  • The Valvasor dom hut is another popular winter destination for hikers and sledgers. The path begins at the Završnica reservoir.

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There are also currently tracks prepared for cross-country skiing in Radovljica, behind the Spar supermarket, and in Kamna Gorica.

It should of course be remembered that during winter anyone visiting the mountains must be well-prepared, equipped, and experienced in such conditions. The current fresh snowfall means the risk of avalanches is high, currently level 4 out of 5 on the avalanche danger scale, and unless you are familiar with the terrain and the conditions its not recommended to take on anything too adventurous at this time of the year, hence I tend to stick to (relatively) easy and well-trodden routes.

You can also find out more about these destinations in previous posts by using this blog’s search facility (top right corner).

The week ahead looks like being snow all the way, so until next week……

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

 

 

Seven Years in Slovenia!

I celebrated my 7th anniversary in Slovenia this week – gosh, how time flies! I spent a pleasant evening with friends who ensured I didn’t spend it alone and who pronounced themselves, resplendent with badges, the official founders of the Adele in Slovenia Fun Club! I’m not yet entirely sure what being a member of this club entails, but watch this space!!!

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After what seemed like an eternity, although in reality it was only around three weeks, the sun finally made a very welcome reappearance  during the latter part of this week. Alas, it was somewhat brief, but it was much needed and almost at once it felt like the whole country, or at least this little alpine part of it, suddenly breathed a collective sigh of relief after the harsh bout of weather that Slovenia has had to endure during the past few weeks. There is, of course, still a huge clean-up operation taking place and, as is so often the case, once the media have left, little of the remaining work in clearing up after such a disaster, gets any coverage. Current predictions are that it will take at least a year for areas of forest that have been entirely, or at least extensively, devastated to be cleared.

I took full advantage of the few hours of brilliant early morning sunshine on Thursday and made a much longed for trip to Valvasor. Since the heavy snowfall and ice, which caused so much destruction, hiking had become pretty much a no-no, as most paths were inaccessible due to fallen trees. However, having asked around, I heard that the path to the Valvasor mountain hut (Valvasorjev dom), one of my regular winter haunts, was in good condition so I wasted no time in going. I certainly wasn’t alone and was surprised how many other people I met; skiiers, sledgers, hikers – no doubt all of whom had been (im)patiently yearning for some sunshine, much as I had. Incidentally, I noticed there is also now a new winter sports area, including a small cross-country skiing area, a children’s ski area, a sledging track and an ice-rink, located just 300metres from the Završnica reservoir.

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It occurred to me whilst listening to the news this week, which was once again dominated by bickering politians and the latest corruption scandals, that perhaps the only upside to all the recent weather related news was that the nation has had a brief respite from all the usual news – the same the world over no doubt! However, this week Slovenia has really had something to celebrate with our winter sports stars performing exceptionally well in Sochi. For the first time in the history of women’s downhill skiing, two gold medals were awarded as Slovenia’s Tina Maze and Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin recorded identical times and were named co-Olympic champions. Other Slovene medallists (so far) are Peter Prevc, silver in the men’s ski jumps, Vesna Fabjan, bronze in cross country skiing and Teja Gregorin, bronze in biathlon.

Here in Radovljica, preparations for this year’s traditional Shrovetide carnival, known here as ‘pust’ are in full swing. The street parade will take place on Saturday 1st March and is a spectacle of colours as the streets through the town are filled with a procession of floats accompanied by children (big and small!) dressed in handmade costumes and masks. The parade will start at 2pm and travel through the centre of Radovljica ending in the old town centre at Linhart Square.

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Additionally, this year a new event will be taking place in the Radovljica Mansion – the Pust Dance.   This unique event is aimed at reviving the tradition of pust whilst combining it with characteristic cuisine and adding a dash of humour to the times in which we live. For those attending the dance, masks will be obligatory and prizes will be awarded for the best ones. A meal will also be served, provided and cooked by the local restaurants involved in the Taste Radol’ca project. The entire evening’s entertainment, including a welcome drink, dinner, dance and guaranteed fun, will cost just 15 euros per person. More information and details about reservations can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/

I popped to the capital, Ljubljana, on Friday for a meeting and got ridiculously excited about seeing green grass! I’m not much of a city person usually but after seeing nothing but whiteness for some time now, the sights and sounds of the city were something to behold. Friday was of course Valentines Day too, so love was in the air – apparently! But then there’s always love in Slovenia since it’s the only country with ‘love’ in its name – sLOVEnia!

It’s school holidays for a week now and therefore the ski resorts throughout Slovenia, all of which are operating and have copious snow, will be in full swing. Meanwhile in Radovljica, the Olympic size swimming pool is offering free swimming for children all week from 9am – 11am; perfect for keeping the little ones occupied and out of mischief!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014