Avalanche and Travel Safety in Bulgaria

If you are about to practice some sports activity in Bulgarian mountains, please have in mind the following:

  • The Mountain Rescue Service does not have the actual possibility to use helicopters and other highly technical devices in rescue operations. Sometimes (when there are roads or not very steep slopes on the road to the accident) they may use snowmobiles. RECCO sysem is not supported by them! Not all of the rescuers are equipped with avalanche. They will use 457kHz beacons in search of avalanche victims only if it is known that the victim has such a beacon (which means that it is useful to warn the local rescue service that you use such beacons before traveling and discuss the situation with them). For location of avalanche victims the most used method is by probing and if it is possible to take a trained dog to the place of the accident - with dogs.
  • There are NO Avalanche Hazard Reports!
  • The mountain climate in Bulgaria is very specific. It is formed under the strong influence of moist Mediterranean masses (coming with warm and extremely strong S and SW winds) and cold Atlantic masses (coming with W and NW strong winds). So it is common to have a few warm days (even with rain showers) followed by heavy snowfalls and drop of temperatures. After such situations fresh powder often lies on very hard crust. Sometimes we have periods with very intensivie snowfalls with more than 40-50cm of snow in a night. At such moments avalanche danger is very high and sometimes avalanches fall even in forests.
  • Predominating winds in winter are SW, W and NW. They often form thick slabs. According to our experience most dangerous are E and S slopes (hard slabs on icy crust after strong winds). Very dangerous are the upper and steepest parts of gullies, where often there are cornicles and slabs. At the beginning of spring, at the time of the first strong warming-up (usually about the middle of April) on many slopes fall wet avalanches. Typical sign of the increased snow instability is lack of any support from the snow (sinking very deep when traveling). After this period high in the mountains is formed corn and hard spring snow, which is very good for skiing.
  • The services of the Mountain Rescue Service in Bulgaria are paid from the beginning of 2001. Prices vary from 100EUR (short transport of person with broken leg) to more than 600EUR (avalanche rescue operations). There are local insurances, made by the Mountain Rescuers in every resorts. Some resorts have an included insurance in the ski lift tickets (but not all). These insurances DO NOT cover medical treatment, but only transport to a hospital.

Having in mind all the mentioned above we would like to advice you the following:
1. Ski, snowboard or travel in Bulgarian mountains with a local person with very good knowledge of local conditions. This is good not only for choosing the safest routes, but also to be able to coummunicate with other local persons about transport, accomodation and food. This may save problems and additional expenses.
2. Always carry rescue equipment, make avalanche tests, ski or snowboard safely and be ready to perform a rescue operation by yourself.
3. Make sure you have an insurance that covers all rescue expenses abroad.
4. Always negotiate prices before traveling. Drivers of vans and taxis are notorious for trying to cheat their clients.
5. We recommend contacting a local person and discussing trip plans before arrival in Bulgaria. You may get some useful tips.
6. Typical prices are: sleeping in a hut ~7-10USD; sleeping in small private hotels 10~15USD; sleeping in bigger hotels (3,4 stars) - above 50 USD; ski tickets (for a day) ~25-30USD (a big increase in 2005/2006!); Traveling with bus form Sofia to ski resorts - about 10USD; Soft drinks-0,5USD; tea, coffee- 0,5-1USD; beer ~1USD; soup - ~1-2USD etc.
7. And at last - skiing in Bulgaria can be great. Not very much skiers and snowboarders ride outside the ski runs, so Powder is not spoiled quickly. Usually you are The First on The Slope (especially outside the boundaries of ski resorts). Further more - in Bulgaria almost 70% of the "interesting" slopes wait for a "first descent"