News that a strong Swiss Franc has all but excluded the Swiss Alps as a ski destination, brings rise to the question; “Where is the best European ski destination?” Of course we have expounded upon this subject many times, heralding Eastern European destinations such as Slovenia’s Kranjska Gora, Bansko in Bulgaria, Croatia’s Bear Mountain, Romania’s Sinaia or Brasov, and many others. The “Eastern ski paradise” is always economical compared to the rest of Europe, but now the bargain calls loudly.
Let’s be honest, we have a vested interest in you choosing to ski on the slopes of the Carpathians, the Slovenian Alps, Georgia’s Caucasus Winter wonderlands – we are all about promoting destinations in Eastern Europe. This is a business propostion, but also a public service in the travel industry to show travelers places they will love. How is that for transparency? Let’s look at the comparative value shall we?
In this story from the Wall Street Journal, a man named Mark Butler (no relation) took his family to Switzerland on a little vacation. The prices he found, for the normal add ons we all have grown accustomed to, were nearly life threatening, certainly budget busting. A normal dinner for two in Klosters cost the man over $230, if you can imagine. This was not at one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants either, just a normal Shoney’s Big Boy arises in my imagination. Butler’s story is reflected in the fact that European skiers are staying at home now rather than taking to the slopes. This is not good news for anyone. Currencies differences are being felt.
Now, had Butler chosen to visit Romania’s Sinaia not only would his children’s college funds have been in better shape on his return to the UK, he and his family would have had the added pleasure of experiencing a new place, new people, and expanded their horizons a bit. Sure the accommodations in Romania are not always as modern as those in the Alps, but a luxury accommodation at Sinaia can be afforded and still be a value. Let’s face it, everyone who takes to the mountains in Winter is not a Saudi oil Minister. But it would be nice to feel like one for a change.
Comparing Sinaia via Homeboy Ski, and Klosters via Snow Forecast, of course the latter is bigger and taller, factoring in “crowded and expensive” sure does make that mountaintop droop. The price of a beer at Klosters ends up being €5 to €6 while a good brew at Sinaia costs about €1.5. Extrapolate everything from there, and it becomes clear that package getaway to Prince Charles’ favorite ski spot, can only be afforded by the Prince himself. Klosters is twice as big and three times as famous, but you can drink, eat, and in the end ski more in Romania.
The cost of a day pass on the lifts at Klosters ends up being €54 at today’s exchange rate. Down home in Romania? Less than half that – €2o. Maybe the Swiss factor in the mountain is twice as tall? Is Klosters beautiful, without a doubt one of the best places to ski on Earth. But, is it 4 times as beautiful or more fun than Sinaia? And no Swiss, Austrian, French, or Italian resort can offer a visit to Dracula’s castle, less than 50 kilometers away.
Taking the deal from Heathrow to Klosters at IGLUSKI for € 823 looks like a bargain until you factor in 40 beers at € 5 ea., € 400 worth of lift passes, and about a million euro in meals (okay exaggeration a bit). Using the same booking site, heading to the Carpathian resorts from Heathrow and staying at a centrally located hotel will set the skier back € 596 for a like accommodation.
The good and bad news is accommodations at the village of Sinaia are usually chalets, but Romania’s largest resort Brasov is only 15 minutes away. Sitting back with a great bottle of Romanian wine for € 3, eating a gourmet meal to fill an army for the same price as a burger in Switzerland, and skiing the entire Carpathian experience somehow seems to be a better value. But I could be biased.
Of course Mr. Butler would have had a great obstacle finding such a deal. And that is where Argophilia comes in I am sure. The Swiss Franc got you down, come to Eastern Europe. Tired of Bavarian oompa music, visit the Caucasus. There is another Europe out there, far older, and waiting to be rediscovered. Luckily for the traveler, it is far cheaper too.
And then, you could have your own utlra cool villa, minutes away from the mysterious and powdery Carpathian resorts of Romania. The Villa below books in peak season for € 90 per night if my research is correct at Transylvania Tours – Something Different.
A special thanks to Welcome to Romania for their image of the skiers discussion atop the Transylvania Alps.