Winter Wonderland

The Prague Post

Skiing, bobsledding, snowboarding, sledging — the Czech Republic’s got it all

Excellent news for snow enthusiasts: The Czech Republic is surrounded by mountains. Regardless of whether you’re a ski buff, snowboarding guru or a fan of bobsled runs, you don’t have to leave the country to have a good time. So pull up a chair, and let us help you map out your winter plans.

People who know their way around a ski lift will probably want to start things off with a trip to north Bohemia and the Krkonoše mountain range near the Polish border.

“The largest amount of downhill slopes, cable cars, ski lifts and the best known Alpine resorts such as Pec pod Snežkou, Harrachov or Špindleruv Mlýn can all be found here,” notes Markéta Chaloupková, the public relations manger for CzechTourism.

The Skiregion covers the western half of the Krkonoše Mountains and extends into the Jizerské Mountain range. A single pass will get you into the area’s five resorts: Harrachov, Rokytnice nad Jizerou, Paseky nad Jizerou, Rejdice and Příchovice. Facilities are here for both beginners and for advanced skiers and snowboarders. The Skiregion has 40 kilometers (25 miles) of downhill slopes and 200 kilometers of cross-country trails.

The region is also great for snowboarders.

“The snowpark at Svatý Petr is known for its number of jumps and series of hurdles,” Chaloupková notes. “They also have enough space for big air and acrobatic skiing.”

Fans of ski jumping may want to make a stop at the Harrachov Ski Resort. The resort has a number of downhill slopes and cross-country trails. There are also eight ski jumps here. International competitions are regularly held at Harrachov, and a number of world records have been set on these jumps.

The slopes of the Jizerské Mountains are the ones to hit if you want to test the runs that will be used for the 2009 FIS World Skiing Championship. Jizerské also has some fabulous trails for cross-country skiers in the area around Nové Mesto nad Moravc;.

Even though the Krkonoše range tends to see more experienced skiers, beginners should not shy away. The area has a number of ski schools. And Rokytnice nad Jizerou attracts skiers of all levels since it has a mix of easy, intermediate and advance slopes.

If skiing is not your thing, perhaps you might want to give bobsledding or sledging a spin. Zvonková cesta is a 3.5-kilometer run that old-time sleighs used to ride along a century ago. It links Cerná hora and Janské Lázne. You can take another ride from Malý Šišák to Dívrí Lávky. If you’re still looking for an adrenaline rush, try the bobsled run in either Harrachov or Špindleruv Mlýn. And, if you luck out with nice weather, take the cable car up to the top of the country’s highest mountain, Snežka. You’ll see beautiful views of both the Czech Republic and Poland, and, if you’re a skier, there are cross-country trails along the mountain ridges. In fact, the Krkonoše cross-country ski route is unique to Europe. It offers 520 kilometers of ski trails.

Continuing along the Polish border, we enter north Moravia. The Orlické Mountains are a smaller, cozier range. They offer 80 kilometers of cross-country trails and downhill slopes at the Deštná and Cícky resorts. A dog-sled race, the Šedivácek Long, will take place here Jan. 23-27. In north Moravia, the best ski slopes can be found on the Jeseníky Mountains.

“Experienced skiers will like the Jeseníky Mountains, as they have the highest-placed ski lifts and downhill routes in the country,” Chaloupková says.

Resorts in this area include Cervenohorské sedlo, Klepácov and Ramzová.

Further south, along the Slovak border, the Beskydy range beckons the cross-country skier. More than 100 kilometers of trails cross the range, including the Lysohorské route and the trails around Pustevny and Tešínské Beskydy. The ski resorts of Pustevny and Bílá offer downhill skiing.

Travel west across the country to the Bohemian Forest along the German border, and you’ll find easy to intermediate slopes in the Šumava mountains.

Because they don’t have the big slopes and massive resorts, the Šumava, Orlické and Beskydy ranges may be a better choice if you are looking for a quiet weekend getaway. Šumava, in particular, has tons of smaller resorts to choose among, including Zadov, Špicák and Kramolín. If you plan to stay for more than a few days, you might consider buying a ski pass that lets you into all three resorts. Snowboarders have their own space at Zadov, and cross-country skiers are taken care of, too, with 150 kilometers of trails to explore.

After a long day — or week — on the slopes, unwind in the west Bohemian spa area. The foothills of the Krušné Mountains are home to the three most well-known spa towns in the Czech Republic: Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázne and Františkovy Lázne. The largest ski resort here is Klínovec. This is a good place for a group with a variety of interests. It has a park for snowboarders, a special slope for children, two ski schools and a couple of rental centers.

Another popular resort in the area is Boží Dar. Not only is this the highest town in Central Europe, its easy slopes are perfect for families and beginners. Nonskiers can enjoy snow tubing, and cross-country enthusiasts will appreciate the 100 kilometers of trails stretching all the way to Germany and back. But, of course, the chance to indulge yourself in some spa treatments and other wellness procedures is the biggest attraction of these skiing areas.

“There’s always more than one possibility to choose from in the Czech Republic,” Chaloupková points out. “Alpine resorts in the Krkonoše Mountains, beautiful nature in the Jeseníky Mountains or combining winter sports and spa relaxation in the foothills of the Krušné Mountains.”

Being centrally located, it’s easy to jaunt off to the Alps or other such well-known ski areas in Austria, France or Italy. But don’t neglect the mountains in your own backyard.