Into which mountains for skitoury?
You have already taken your first steps on the skytour and felt the wind in your sails? You would like to ski somewhere, but don’t know where? We suggest.
Macedonia (fot. BITE OF ME)
There are plenty of opportunities for skitouring in Poland – from the Beskids, through the Bieszczady, to the Tatra Mountains. And if you dream of a foreign ski adventure, you don’t necessarily have to go to the Alps. We will try to show you the lesser-known mountains of Norway, Macedonia, Romania or Greece. Valuable advice is provided by Skitour School instructors and local guides who know their mountains best.
In Macedonia you will find much less gullies and more open spaces, also with a steep incline
Skitouring in Poland is already a quite well-developed and gaining popularity sport, as well as a way of winter mountain tourism. We have a fairly dense network of well-equipped hostels, the facilities of which allow for beautiful tours lasting several days.
Let’s start with the Beskids. This is the best testing ground to start. Here you will find trails of varying degrees of difficulty: for beginners – those that end with a descent on a groomed slope, and those more wild – leading through vast glades and forests. The season here usually lasts from January to early March, in the highest parts sometimes until April. Beskids are hundreds of kilometers of beautiful trails. You won’t find many skitouring equipment rentals in the region, but you’re sure to meet ski touring enthusiasts here. Still, the great advantage of the Beskids is the small amount of skydiving traffic. So if you are looking for beautiful views and quiet, this is the region just for you.
Freeridowe’a cut in the Beskids (fot. Michal Gurgul)
The most popular are the Silesian and Zywiec Beskids and the Beskid Sadecki Mountains. You will find a lot of well-marked trails here. In the Beskid Zywiecki the most interesting is the region of Pilsko, the mecca of Beskid skitouring. Thanks to the excellent microclimate, skiing conditions here last much longer than in other areas. Several kilometers of ascents, but also beautiful descents and the possibility to plan a passage from hostel to hostel are the advantages of this place. From here there is also a ski bus, which leads to the famous Rysianka Hall. You will also find beautiful trails from Złatna Huta or Zabnica.
In the Silesian Beskid, Skrzyczne is definitely number one. There are several beautiful trails leading to them, and we can plan a descent, e.g. ski route. The views are magnificent, the hostel extremely hospitable, and the altitude reaches approx. 800 m. What more could you want?. An interesting option is also nearby Czantoria.
In the Beskid Sądecki the most interesting areas will be those of Krynica with Jaworzyna in the lead, Muszyna with Wierchomla or Rytro with beautiful skytouring routes around Przehyby and Niemcowa. Apart from the route to Jaworzyna, skitouring in this area is practically non-existent, which is a pity, because the wildness of the terrain is stunning. Some of the trails can be combined with downhill skiing trails. There is no avalanche danger in these areas. This is a great choice for beginner skitourists.
Skituring in the Bieszczady forests (fot. Matthew Frost)
A place shrouded in legend, one of the wildest in Poland. A stop for outsiders, artists and hoodlums, but also a place frequented by amateur mountain hikers, including skiers.
The favorable climate means that winter here lasts quite long and is usually harsh. The season sometimes begins as early as December and ends around mid-April, but for skydivers the best time will be late January, February and, with a good winter, early March. This is another mountain that will not surprise us with crowds and hustle and bustle on the trails.
Let’s give the floor to a specialist in this area, a SkitourSchool instructor.pl and author of 4 skitouring guides, Wojciech Szatkowski: “Skitouring Bieszczady can be divided into two regions. The first one is the more well-known and frequented one, i.e. the region of the Bieszczady National Park with Tarnica and Poloniny, which belong to the protected areas “.
Here you will find beautiful, vast landscapes, considerable altitude, long descents and harsh climate. One should strictly adhere to the regulations for moving along the trails. These are not as high mountains as the Tatras, but even here you have to watch out for avalanches, so it is already a bit higher school of driving. Wojciech Szatkowski speaks fondly of the second region: “It’s a bit wilder Western Bieszczady, where we can walk off-trail, however with the utmost care for the surrounding nature. Areas definitely worth your attention are peaks such as Jaslo, Okraglik, Plasza, Chryszczata, Wolosan, Osina, Lopiennik or Korbania. They offer a wonderful experience and a sense of total skiing freedom. A unique place not only in the Polish mountains, but also in Europe.”.
Hey, under the Tatra Mountains themselves!
Poland’s highest alpine mountains, a kingdom of hiking, but also mountaineering and skiing, including skydiving. They abound in a mass of beautiful trails of varying difficulty. These are definitely mountains that should be approached with humility, carefully checking the weather and avalanche notices. They are also the only mountains in Poland that will please beginners as much as veteran ski tourers. The most difficult ski slope in the country, the Gronsky West, is located here.
The approach to Grześ, as well as the further route, are not technically difficult, Western Tatras (fot. Adam Tulec)
Mateusz Mróz, spiritus movens of Skitour Zakopane, told us about the Tatra Mountains: “The season in the Tatras is long, the first snowfalls usually appear in November, although – as the current winter shows – this is not the rule. The season lasts from January to April, sometimes May, but early spring and March’s longer days are best for skydiving. This is also when the avalanche situation is usually the most stable, and the weather circumstances are also more pleasant.”.
The Tatra Mountains, as they are under park protection, have quite clearly defined rules of movement on skis, which should be strictly adhered to, respecting the Tatra nature. Strictly skiing areas are, of course, the area around Kasprowy, but you should read the map well, so that no one will give you a ticket for not moving properly. Caution should also be exercised due to people going downhill. Most trails are two-way, and sections in the forest can be really narrow and winding.
The Polish Tatra Mountains are a great destination for skydivers (photo Skitour School)
In the Polish Tatra Mountains, follow hiking or skiing trails. The only deviation from the summer line of the trail may be to bypass it with a safe variant, due to avalanche danger. There is no total freedom in Slovakia either. The regulations are currently being tightened. The Tatras are a mecca for skitouring, so it’s hard to find peace and quiet here. In addition, there are quite a few hikers as well.
Matthew, when asked about recommended routes, answers without stammering: “For beginners, the best would be the area around the Wielka Kopieniec, Kasprowy or Kopa Kondracka, although all of these places require us to have a good technique of movement and mastery on the descent. A beautiful, scenic trail also runs to Goose Neck via Rusinowa Polana. Grześ and Rakoń are also frequent destinations. For those more seasoned hikers, interesting options will be the long and challenging round to Błyszcz via Ornak and a visit to the sleeping knight, Giewont. On the latter, you should be especially wary of hikers, who both the trail and the beginning of the descent “hole up,” which does not facilitate either the ascent or descent.”.
And if not Poland, then what?
Outside Poland and the Alps, there are plenty of places with excellent conditions for skydiving. An alternative to the Polish mountains are the beautiful Norwegian, Romanian, Macedonian and Greek ranges. In the era of cheap flights, distances are significantly shortened, which makes it easier to decide on further travel.
One of the countries best connected to Poland by air is Norway. Wild nature, small population, breathtaking views, m.In. On snow-laden fjords, glaciers and mountain ranges, it’s quite a treat for skydivers.
Norway offers a unique combination – downhill almost to the sea (fot. Vish Orlovsky)
Norway is one of the countries where ski tourism has its roots, not only cross-country skiing, but also high-altitude skiing. Hence, both activities are very popular here, and the mountains and favorable climate provide ample opportunities to practice them. Worth recommending are the Tafjord mountains – wild, vast, not too high, with gentle slopes. Another SkitourSchool instructor tells about them and other noteworthy places in Norway.pl, Valldal Naturopplevingar guide Michal Król: “In this area, we especially recommend the long, about a week long, beautiful route from shelter to shelter. Yes, there are no staffed shelters here. Instead, you will find fully equipped winter shelters where you can sleep and prepare food. The stay is paid. All you have to do is fill out the form and send the money by wire transfer to the account provided, after the trip is over. There is a universal key to the huts, which is rented from the local tourist association. So, on the trail you can use 6 huts: Tjønnebu, Vakkerstøylen, Pyttbua, Veltdalshytta, Danskehytta and Jakobsselet. Along the way you can pass the beautiful surrounding peaks, including Puttegga (1999 m n.p.m.), the highest peak in the area.”.
Norway – Approach to Kvitegga 1489 m (fot. Michal Kowalski)
Nearby are also more popular mountain ranges for alpine skiers, such as the Sunnmøre Alps and Romsdal Alps. They offer not only spectacular views of the fjords, but also a whole range of trails to tackle, including steep gullies and cul-de-sacs where you can get a taste of real skiing adventure.
When asked about the best route, Michal answers: “The most spectacular route here is the one on Slogen (1564 m n.p.m.) – a steep but beautiful peak above Norangsfjorden, which you will reach by taking off from the Patchellhytta hut.”. And in the Romsdal Alps, Michal highly recommends Romsdalstien or Romsdal Trail, a beautiful trail connecting 4 huts: Skorgedalsbu, Måvassbu, Vasstindbu and Svartvassbu. By the way, you can climb the surrounding peaks, including the famous Kyrkjetaket (1439 m n.p.m.), considered one of the best skiable areas in Norway.
Norway – descent from Fremste Blahornet (1478 m), photo. Michal Kowalski
“The greatest thing about the Norwegian mountains is that there are no regulations, so you can freely roam everywhere, even in the buffer zone of national parks. As a curiosity and an incentive to visit these beautiful areas, let’s note that Tafjord is part of Reinheimen National Park, which is home to the largest herd of wild reindeer in Scandinavia. There are no designated trails here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drive here. On top of that, you can camp anywhere, as long as you don’t affect nature and don’t disturb other people”-Michael hints.
Although mountain skiing is very popular here, large areas allow you to enjoy powder, peace, quiet and still wildlife. At the same time, the season is impressively long and lasts from the end of October to June, depending on the area. Due to the long polar nights, the best months for skydiving are March and April.
Another interesting destination is Romania, which can be reached both by plane and car. A SkitourSchool instructor told us about it.en, licensed guide, Salvamont mountain rescuer, Cristi Tutunea.
Romania – the area around the famous Ciucas peak (fot. Matthew Frost)
Skitouring in Romania has a tradition of about 20 years and is still developing. Equipment can be borrowed here without much trouble. There are only a few winter resorts and ski stations in the country, the rest are freely suitable for skitouring.
For beginners and intermediates, excellent terrain will be the Ciucas and Baiului mountains. The Bucegi, Retezat and Parang mountains offer trails for all levels of initiation, while the Fogarashes will cater to experienced mountain skiers. In the north, you can also go wild in the Maramures mountains, where you will find trails up to the intermediate level, and in the Rodnei mountains, which are closer to the Fogarashes. There is also Retezat – here a better preparation is required.
Among Cristi’s recommended areas and routes are: Padina in the Bucegi mountains – for beginners and intermediates, the Bratocea ridge in the Ciucas mountains, and the main Baiului ridge – these are also good routes for beginners or slightly fitter mountain skiers. For the seasoned, Cristi recommends Balea in the Fogarashes, as it is the most easily accessible, and abounds with beautiful and challenging trails.
The season in Romania usually starts in December and lasts until May, and in the Fogaras even until June. The best time is February and early spring, when the avalanche situation stabilizes. There are hostels in the mountains, but on the routes for advanced levels. For example, in order to pass three huts during one tour, each day we have to cover more than 10 km of ascent and 1200 m of elevation gain. Beginners will find quite nice accommodation in guesthouses and cottages in Padina, from where you can leave in the morning and return to the valleys in the evening.
Romania – approach near the Azuga lift with old supports in the background (fot. Matthew Frost)
We asked about the issues of orders and bans in the mountains for skiers. Cristi assures: “The only restrictions and bans apply in the highest parts of the mountains, in the parks of Piatra Craiului and Retezat. In other areas there is full freedom of movement in the mountain areas.”. It is worth noting that interest in splitboarding is growing rapidly in Romania, and the skitboarding and freeriding community is also growing in number. It is definitely worth coming here!
We usually associate Greece with carefree relaxation on the beach, sprinkled with good wine and olives. Others hit here for climbing. Arguably, few people see the country as a paradise for skydivers. Meanwhile, our local guru, SkitourSchool instructor.en, IVBV guide Babis Marinidis, revealed to us that high-altitude skiing has been developing here for roughly 10 years, the last five of which have been groundbreaking, and the number of skiers continues to grow: “The most famous place is, of course, Mount Olympus. A decent skitouring “trip” on the north side of the mountain with about 2,000 meters of elevation gain and the longest descent in the country is quite a challenge and a wallop of excitement,” he stresses. He also adds that the season here lasts from mid-December to early May, and the best skiing is from February to mid-April. Skitouring is allowed everywhere outside the strict reserve. There are accommodation facilities, but they require advance organization.
Approaching Mt. Olympus – a typical Greek landscape, where the slopes are wide, but their gradient reaches up to 40 degrees (photo. Babis Marindis)
Greece offers all kinds of mountain activities, from rock climbing in Kalymnos or Leonidio, to ice climbing in Tzoumerka, to Olympus and Pindus for skydiving. In April, you can brave the steep gullies, and finally take a dip in the sea and drink coffee on the terrace overlooking the sea. Definitely recommended!
Finally, a few words of encouragement about the Balkans, and more specifically Macedonia, as told to us by Metodi Chilimanov, a SkitourSchool instructor.pl, UIMLA licensed guide.
Skitouring has been known in Macedonia for a long time. Legends circulate about the passage of the western traverse as early as the 1940s. 20th century, but it was never a very popular sport. Today it is gaining popularity and is slowly developing. “The aforementioned western traverse along the border with Albania and Kosovo is a definite number one. The Shar Mountains, together with Korab, are a vast region of about 80 km in length and offer many opportunities. The range is characterized by a compact and high ridge, which connects about 30 peaks with an altitude of more than 2,500 m n.p. m.” – says Metodi.
In Macedonia, due to the large number of windy days, there are quite a few places with little snow, but there is also a mass where the condition is like fairy tales (photo. BITE OF ME)
Other interesting places are the Yablanica and Galichica mountains in the Ohrid and Struga regions. They abound in good quality snow, even though they are lower in elevation (the highest parts are at about 2250 m n.p.m.). The drive from the peaks toward the big lake is quite impressive.
Another interesting point on the map of skiing is the Pelister National Park with its specific microclimate, Mediterranean influences and characteristic high tree growth. This makes downhill skiing here a thrill, as it takes place mainly in the forest.
Another worthwhile place for skiers is Kozuf, located on the border with Greece. Here we find excellent snow conditions and well-developed infrastructure.
As you can see, Macedonia offers many opportunities for avid skydivers. We especially recommend the Korab mountain, due to the total wildness of the place. It can only be reached by a 4 x 4 off-road vehicle. Here we will find beautiful, long descents on the northern slopes with altitudes of approx. 1000 m. Korab is the highest peak in Macedonia and Albania, with excellent skydiving conditions on both sides of the border.
The ski season in Macedonia lasts about four months, starting in November or December. Very good conditions appear around January, and in February there is already enough snow that it is mostly possible to ski straight down to the towns and villages at the foot of the mountains. However, March is the most recommended, due to the stabilization of the snow cover and more sunshine and longer days.
“The only thing missing in the local mountains is good accommodation facilities and hostels. The closest outing points are high altitude villages and towns, but with a pretty well developed road network.” – Metodi adds.
“For the time being, there are no special regulations for skitouring. However, in order to move around the national parks and border mountains, a special permit comes in handy, especially for Korab. In this case, you need to report the trip at the Mavrovo Park headquarters and pay an inexpensive amount” – Metodi hints.
There is nothing left to do but to warmly invite you to all the above-mentioned places!