Hitting New Slopes

For MT
In the midst of all the celebration and hype that has followed Sochi's selection as the host city for the 2014 Winter Olympics, one could be forgiven for thinking that there's only one place to get away from Moscow on a ski trip. But with prices in Sochi going up faster than the buildings for the event itself, skiers and snowboarders are starting to look for other options to get their fix of winter sports.

The resort of Bukovel in eastern Ukraine's Carpathian Mountains is a rapidly growing ski area billed as the country's first European-class resort, with a modern lift system, snow machines and comfortable accommodation. At 900 to 1,370 meters above sea level, it is the second-highest ski area in Ukraine, so there is almost always plenty of snow. And if there isn't, Dragobrat, the highest resort, is just a short drive away.

The resort has 14 lifts serving 50 kilometers of runs, which cater to skiers and snowboarders of all standards. The pistes are well prepared although not quite to European standards.

But importantly, Bukovel does not, at least yet, suffer from the overcrowding problems of many European resorts. Even in this year's early-January holiday season, lines for the lifts were on average one minute.

There are, of course, those who don't have to wait at all. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is a regular visitor and when he is there, he is ushered to the front of lines, and pistes are closed for his use. There's no place for democracy on the ski slopes!

Svetlana Lizogubenko / For MT
A group of Cossacks putting on an energetic display to entertain skiers and snowboarders at the bottom of Bukovel's slopes.
The night skiing from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on two of the red runs is an enchanting experience: There's something deeply beautiful about gliding from the heights down hazily lit slopes surrounded by snow-covered fir trees.

Bukovel also offers some European-style amenities: The Panorama cafe at the top of Mount Dovga, the resort's highest point, provides a variety of refreshments from mulled wine and cognac to chocolate bars and espressos, all of which can be enjoyed from the cafe's 360-degree terrace with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

While Bukovel has a way to go to challenge European resorts, in terms of both the slopes and the amenities, it is a reasonably priced and fast-developing alternative suitable for all levels of skiers. A bid is in the cards for the 2018 Winter Olympics and, according to an ambitious expansion plan, there will be 278 kilometers of runs and 35 lifts by the 2008-09 season, which would make Bukovel one of the 20 largest resorts in the world.

How to Get There
Bukovel's transportation links are still developing. There are two ways to get there from Moscow:

Fly to Lvov and then travel onward by bus (about a four-hour trip). AeroSvit has daily flights from Sheremetyevo via Kiev. A roundtrip ticket costs around $480.

Fly to Ivano-Frankovsk then take the bus (trip lasts around one hour). AeroSvit flies daily from Sheremetyevo via Kiev. A roundtrip ticket costs around $480.

Where to Stay
The Bukovel resort was built in 2001 by an investor who owns all the accommodation at the site. Hotel Bukovel is more precisely a complex of modern cottages located just a few minutes' walk from the slopes. The complex has a sauna, swimming pool and fitness center, and the rooms are cozy, well equipped and modern. A standard double costs around 2,000 hryvnas ($400) for three nights with breakfast included.

Polyarys Hotel is located in Yaremche, a short bus or taxi ride from the slopes. The hotel organizes a shuttle to and from the slopes in the morning and evening for $4 roundtrip. While not as exclusive as the Hotel Bukovel, Polyarys Hotel is a comfortable alternative for those on a tighter budget. A standard double room costs around 1,000 hryvnas ($200) for three nights.

Lift Passes and Lessons
A full day pass costs 178 hryvnas on weekends and 152 hryvnas on weekdays. A night-skiing pass for slopes one and two from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. costs 18 hryvnas per run on weekends and 15 hryvnas on weekdays. A set of basic skis, poles and boots can be rented for 95 hryvnas per day, and a snowboarding set for 75 hryvnas. Individual and group lessons can be organized. A four-hour group session costs 100 hryvnas.