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Skiing in Greece - Konstantinos Valtadoros, Greece.
Thursday September 30, 2010 - Email this article to a friend

We are not talking water skiing, but snow skiing and it is surprisingly good. Last winter the main resort, Mt. Parnassos , closed on May 10th and the powder can be awesome. PlanetSKI reports from Greece.

"Oh, do you have snow in Greece? Really?"

That's the most typical question I hear, every time I visit the Alps.

Greece is famous for its "3 S's": sea, sun and sand. But for some people, the 3 S's  doesn't mean that.

For some of us, the 3 S's is only snow, skiing and snowboarding. Yes, winters in Greece include snow. Sometimes, too much snow.

And all over the country, there are 21 ski resorts. Impressive? Or perhaps unbelievable? But it's true.

Down here, in the southeast corner of Europe, above Africa, there are some people who are addicted to snow, and wait every year for these small ski resorts to open for the public.

Unfortunately most of the ski resorts, are quite small, and sometimes don't even open. Technical and organisational problems, lack of equipment or experienced personnel, lead to few days of operation.

However some of them, are full every weekend, and it's quite possible to see people on the highways, with ski racks on their car roofs, heading to a ski resort, even in mid April.

So here's your armchair guide to the ski resorts of my country, from the South to the North.

Greek powderGreek powder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt Helmos. Kalavrita Ski Resort (1700 m - 2340 m).

The resort, with seven lifts, is one of the two biggest ski resorts in Southern Greece.

With two double chairlifts, and a few platelifts. Due to its near distance to the city of Athens (200 km) it's usually overcrowded during weekends and holidays and the waiting queues cause disappointment.

However it has its own fans, due to some nice slopes including one steep black one, and the nice scenery around.

Mt. Parnassos (1,640m - 2,260m)

It's another ski resort near the city of Athens, and the biggest one in Greecewith with 13 lifts, including two 4-seater detachable lifts, and over 35 km of slopes It is definitely the No1 Ski resort in Greece.

As Kalavrita, it too is overcrowded over the weekends and holidays, and is also very expensive.

On the other hand, it is well organised, the grooming of the slopes is quite impressive and the ski resort stuff is very well trained and experienced.

It is quite possible to visit Mt. Parnasso for spring ski, due to the perfect grooming and maintaining of the snow.

The season of 2008-2009 finished around 10 May. (www.parnassos-ski.gr)

Mt Pelion (1,163m-1,471m)

Not far away from the North, around middle Greece is Mt. Pilion.

The ski resort of Pelion is nothing special, it has only five lifts (two platelifts and three chairlifts), a few slopes, and low altitude . But the scenery is awesome, and the specific ski resort has some of the best records in amount of snow fallen in just a few days.

This being Greece the skiing would not be complete without a myth.

When the company, finished the installation of the first chairlifts at Mt. Pelion, a representative from FIS and the Lift Company came to check the progress of the work done.

The myth  says that the FIS representative went to the top of the mountain took a look at the lifts, then around the mountains and said to the resort manager; "Is this in the west the sea?"

The mountains of GreeceThe mountains of Greece"Yes," was the reply.

"And in the East, is this also the sea?" he said.

"Yes," was again the response.

"Then, the lifts are too short and not tall enough, the snow will bury them."

The resort manager laughed but Mt. Pelion is indeed between two seas and the humidity of the area is tremendous.

During mid-winter, when Balkan countries are buried under the snow, the air coming from N.East becomes colder while travelling over the frozen Balkan.

Over the Aegean sea, and approaching Mt. Pelion, the air, collects the humidity of the area and bangs it over the mountain as heavy snow. It is not unusual for resort staff to find their office and the lifts completely buried by snow after a big storm. (visit www.skipilio.gr and check out the photo gallery)

Mt. Falakro (1,755m-2,056m)

Going to northeastern Greece you will find this area; the word "falakro" means bold and it describes the mount perfectly.

Mt. Falakro is  one of the best ski resorts in N.Greece, with eight lifts, including a 4-seater detachable chairlift, the one and only in N.Greece.

 However, the ski resort is usually not working properly because of strong winds and fog.

Also the rise of Bansko Ski Resort, in Bulgaria attracts most of the visitors of Mt.Falakro, and nowadays the resort faces a few economical problems (www.falakro.gr)

Mt. Vermio(1,420m-2,005m).

Going from the east to the west you will find another good choice for skiing in Greece: Mt. Vermio and 3-5 Pigadia ski resort.

The specific ski resort is definitely one of the best in Greece despite its low altitude again.

One chairlift and four platelifts are few but enough for the operation of the resort, but during holidays the waiting time is sometimes too long.

However 3-5 Pigadia is unique for three reasons: first of all, its slopes are below the tree line, and the fog and the wind doesn't affect its operation. Furthermore the resort has the best artificial snow system in Greece, almost 100% of the slopes could be covered with artificial snow.

In addition, the resort is famous for Filipos.

Filipos is the name of a red-black slope, probably the most difficult slope in Greece, and one of the most difficult in southern Europe. The slope, some parts of which are totally black and other ones red, is usually covered with hard, compact and sometimes icy snow. 3-5 Pigadia has its own fans and most of whom are skiers (www.3-5pigadia.gr)

Mt VermioMt Vermio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt.Voras (2,000m- 2,500m)

A few kilometers away, is Mt.Voras-Kaimaktsalan. The resort of Mt.Voras, is the highest resort in Greece.

Usually it has the longest season in Greece, from early December till late April. It is not uncommon for the resort to close in mid April, not because of lack of snow, but because of lack of visitors.

It has one double chairlift, two platelifts and one t-bar. It also has one of the best slopes in Greece for its snow-quality. However, all lifts and slopes are above tree line, and the resort is vulnerable to the thick fog, and strong winds.

Quite often, visibility is terrible and the weather situation needs only 15 minutes to change. A few meters from the top of the mountain, are the borders which separate Greece and FYROM, unfortunately the political conflict between the two countries stop all the plans for cross-border extension.

( www.kaimaktsalan.gr)

Mt VorasMt Voras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vasilitsa (1,620m - 2,250m)

The last stop for our journey, is Vasilitsa Ski Resort in the N.West side of Greece.

The micro-climate of the area and the weather circulations in Europe usually help the mountain to accept huge amounts of snow. The altitude is respectable and the scenery is amazing, with trees even over 2,000m.

Vasilitsa is the powder kingdom in Greece, and as expected a favorable place for snowboarders.

Skiing and boarding among trees is possible and the freeride area is huge, but the resort suffers from lack of stuff and sometimes from inexperienced management.

During the last years it attracts more snow fans then ever, but the problems mentioned above, lead to miss-functional operation, especially regarding the lifts, and consequently big queues.

However, the prices are still low, and if you are lucky and visit Vasilitsa after a snowfall, with most of the lifts operating, the opportunities for freeriding pleasure will be unlimited (www.vasilitsa.com)

VastillaVastilla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking goodLooking good

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course those are not the only ski resorts in Greece. However the rest of them, are quite small; some with just 1 to 3 lifts.

So there you have it; you may have thought Greece was just for summer.  Well think again.  I can't wait for the coming winter and there are many thousands of Greeks like me who feel the same.

For news of more skiing in unusual places see this PlanetSKI story from last summer about the skiing in Corsica.

For the spirit of the mountains

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