European winters have a number of undeniable advantages. For example, the mild climate, numerous ski resorts, and the possibility to choose a vacation spot for every taste and budget. Last week the European Consumer Center found that this year, the cheapest places to vacation are at resorts in the Czech Republic. According to the center, a ski lift pass at the Trojak ski resort costs 300 koruna (about 12 euros), while in other European countries, similar trail lengths (2 to 10 kilometers) start from 40 euros.
Although the Czech mountains doesn’t even compare with, for example, the Alps, in terms of height, the local resorts have their up-sides, offering both mountain slopes and cross-country trails and even skating rinks. But what else would one expect from a small country surrounded by mountains on all four sides? There are 200 ski resorts in the Czech Republic, with trails totaling 450 kilometers. Moreover, Czechs are highly concerned about the money coming into the state coffers from tourists, which is why they heavily invest in the travel industry. Last year, investments in Czech ski resorts totaled about one and a half billion koruna (60 million euros).
The largest ski resort in the Czech Republic is Spindleruv Mlyn, which is located in the Krkonose mountains on the border with Poland. It is here that you will find Snezka, the tallest peak in the Czech Republic. Getting to Spindleruv Mlyn isn’t difficult – the resort is a two-hour drive from Prague. Slopes suitable for skiing total 25 kilometers and the resort has three snow parks, five chair lifts, and 11 ski lifts. The largest ski resort in the Czech Republic, Spindleruv Mlyn is affectionately called “our Chamonix” by the local residents. A day pass for all the lifts costs 30 euros. Here, skiers aren’t the only happy campers – in Spindleruv Mlyn and in neighboring Harrachov, there are bobsled runs that allow sleds to reach speeds of up to 65 km/h.
However, the Krkonose mountains aren’t the only place you can go in the Czech Republic. Experienced travelers prefer to rent a car and criss-cross the country, stopping briefly at different interesting places. Fortunately, the Czech Republic’s size (an eighth the size of France) makes it easy.
Hruby Jesenik is the second tallest mountain range in the country, located at the junction of two historical regions: Moravia and Silesia. Recently, a new resort called Kouty nad Desnou was built here on an area of 25 hectares. Kouty nad Desnou operates both chair and four T-bar lifts to take you to the summit. Jesenik’s neighboring mountain group, the Orlicke mountains, attracts tourists to its Cervena voda ski park.
At the opposite end of the Czech Republic, along the German-Austrian-Czech border, is the Sumava mountain range and a national park of the same name. As soon as snow covers the mountain in the autumn, Sumava turns into a winter wonderland. The main ski resort here is Spicak, located near the German border. Together with the resort in Sumava or, as they call the mountain on the other side of the border, the Bohemian Forest, they form one of the largest ski areas in Europe outside of the Alps. Cross-country skiing and ice skating enthusiasts will also find plenty to do here: exploring the natural landscape, which is best done from the trails. Not far from the town of Zelezna Ruda are two huge glacial lakes, the Cerne and the Certovo. Both are accessible on skis. The Lipno resort will please those who prefer skates to skis. Here you can skate on an 11-kilometer skating track, the longest in Europe. Lipno also features the largest children’s ski park in the Czech Republic. A day ski pass costs 20 euros for adults and 30 euros for families with children, regardless of the number of children.
For fans of professional sports, there is much to see. Each year, the Czech Republic hosts several world-class competitions. In March 2013, the Ski-Flying World Cup will be in Harrachov. Tickets can be booked now and a place in the stands for all three days will cost 600 koruna (24 euros). In 2014, the Ski-Flying World Championship will be held there as well for the second time.
Of course, we haven’t listed all of the Czech resorts, just the major ones. But the avid traveler has many to choose from. All the more so, since all of these resorts are located only a few hours’ drive from Prague.
The Czech Republic has more than the best beer in the world, but many opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. In the summer there is golf, hiking, and cycling, In the winter there is skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, skating, and heli-skiing. Outdoor recreation can always be combined with sight-seeing – there are seven cities in the Czech Republic listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and getting around to see all of them is not difficult. Especially since each city has one or more tiny, private breweries serving up fresh beer.
Text: Catalina Kochkina