Skiing in Serbia: Balkan bonanza

The mountains of Serbia have plenty to offer the discerning skier, says Matt Carroll

In the 1990s, as the civil war tore the former Yugoslavia apart, Serbian tourism officials came to the World Travel Market in London to try to entice visitors. They got the cold shoulder. Yet with peace (mainly) prevailing in the Balkans, skiing in Serbia is now a reasonable prospect - especially for anyone seeking value. Before the war, the Serbian resort of Kopaonik was popular with a selection of British skiers; every season, a few thousand would fly over for a dose of quirky culture, excellent food and great terrain.

Two years ago, Crystal put Kopaonik back on its books, and the hotels are filling up with Brits once more. So what is it that we love so much?

For starters, the fact that everything is on your doorstep. There's no mucking about with shuttle buses to get to the slopes; everything is a short stroll away. This is just as well, given the long distance from the Serbian capital. Arriving here after a four-hour transfer from Belgrade, I was relieved to find that it took only a few minutes to dump my bags at the hotel and get involved.

There are 21 lifts here, which give you access to a good spread of easy blues and cruisy reds - all of which will have most beginners and intermediates grinning like Cheshire cats. Snow coverage is good too: the first flakes generally start falling just over a month from now, and stick around until early May.

As is often the case when I rock up to a resort, however, the steadily falling snow started turning to sleet while I sat on the chair lift for my first run down Karaman Greben. The result was a watery mess at the bottom of the slope. Rather than get angry (or risk an embarrassing wipe-out), I headed to the bar instead.

The Hotel Grand is one of the biggest in Kopaonik, and has good facilities including a well-stocked gym, sports hall and spa. Even though I probably didn't deserve it, I booked myself in for a "Swedish", in a bid to put some life into my legs. Next, I headed off in search of food. There's a good selection of restaurants in Kopaonik, but for a taste of true Serbian hospitality you must try Suri (00 381 36 71 072). Decked out in rustic style (think wooden rafters and various stuffed animals), it's run by Radomir Velickovic - a veritable Goliath of a man who warmly declares his "love" for you (in Serbian, naturally) the moment you walk through the door.

This is the place where Serbia's celebs come to feast. Sitting just a few tables away was Ceca - the country's best-known pop idol and former wife of the notorious paramilitary leader, Arkan, who was killed in a shoot-out several years ago. Avoiding all eye contact, I waded through eight courses of the finest Serbian cuisine, including pecenje (roasted ox), and various cured meats.

Slope-side eateries are also different in Serbia. I ended up at a cosy little cabin near the top of the Karaman Greben lift. The huge open fire in the centre of the room, and seats draped in furs, are just the ticket after a morning on the mountain. And at £7 for a huge spread, including a couple of local brandies, it's better value than you'd get in France.

Kopaonik can hold its own when it comes to nightlife, too. One of the more interesting bars I found was Kortina Ski Club, where sweat dripped from the ceiling as Serbia's bright and beautiful strutted their stuff to a selection of Euro-pop "classics". If flailing elbows are not your thing you could try the more understated Royal Bar, where you're more likely to get a seat (and a drink).

Having indulged in après ski beers before I'd properly skied, I was eager to hit the slopes the next morning. Thankfully, the snow conditions were better and I warmed-up on Duboka 2 (meaning "deep gulley"), which starts off as a red before becoming black halfway down.

What amazed me was the stash of untracked treasure I found beside the Karaman Greben lift. It was 11 o'clock in the morning, and not a single soul had ventured onto it. I quickly nipped under the wire and set about laying out some chunky turns, laughing to myself the whole way down like some maniacal snow beast - much to the amusement of the witnesses on the nearby lift.

The other benefit of coming to Kopaonik is that you can stop over in Belgrade on the way home. Many of the bars - like Ben Akiba, the first one I visited - are hidden away inside seemingly innocuous buildings. After climbing a flight of concrete stairs, I was shown into one of the most sophisticated cocktail bars I've ever seen. There, among the brushed aluminium and exposed brickwork, I began a night out that rivalled anything London and New York have to offer. What's more, my mojito cost less than £2.

Conclusive evidence, if you need it, that Serbia is a perfectly sensible skiing choice.

Throughout January 2007 Crystal Ski (0870 160 6040; is offering seven-night, self-catering packages to Kopaonik for £199, including flights from Gatwick. One-week half-board at the Hotel Grand costs £349

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
Researchers have said it could take only two questions to identify a problem with alcohol
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Day In a Page

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style