Slovakia is home to Europe’s hidden gem ski destinations. Deep in the Tatras Mountains, broadly part of the Carpathian range arcing across Central and Eastern Europe, there are 27 ski resorts such as the popular Jasna and beautiful Štrbské Pleso. Affordable ski lift prices, cheap beer and an abundance of spa facilities – plus excellent snow – make this lesser-known European country a must-visit for your next ski holiday.
In the ski resort of Jasna, the Mikulášska is an imposing traditional chalet standing beside a tree-ringed tarn. Originally built in the 1950s, it’s been carefully restored and expanded to include two smaller chalets, one of which contains a two-lane bowling alley. Public areas and the restaurant exude a modest alpine-chic vibe enhanced by a rather groovy spa. Rooms and suites have attractive, solid-looking wooden furniture.
When it opened in 1894, the so-called First Lady of the High Tatras was the region’s first mountain resort – drawing aristocrats, statesmen and artists. Ravaged repeatedly by wars and the Soviet era, only in 2016 did a massive renovation save this handsome mansion. Today, its 67 rooms are divided between the original and modern wings, with vintage and contemporary decor matched accordingly. The barrel-vaulted basement features a clubby Chesterfield-filled bar, cognac-and-cigar room and a games room with pool and table football.
Situated by Štrbské Lake, a gorgeous tarn in the High Tatras’ loftiest resort, the Crocus is a modern five-storey property – just a five-minute drive from the lifts at Štrbské Pleso. Featuring modern apartments with kitchenettes rather than rooms, the larger ones have fireplaces, balconies and space to sleep up to five. There’s a considerable spa and wellness offering here with a range of saunas, tubs and jacuzzis, plus treatments that include sugar-vanilla peeling and goat-milk massages.
Another Štrbské Pleso property, the Toliar is a straightforward hotel with mostly simple functional doubles, some with kitchenettes, and a handful of larger family rooms. They’re fairly austere and glamour-free, but there’s rather more joy and character in the restaurant, which specialises in hearty Slovak cuisine – expect venison goulash, potato pancakes with stewed goose liver and sweet potato and plum dumplings. Wellness facilities include an array of saunas, a tepidarium and an indoor pool.
The Tivoli dates back to 1902, when this charming two-storey villa with notably large windows was a climate sanatorium. At tiny Tatranská Polianka near Štrbské Lake, the property embraces a holistic-health vibe. The renovated hotel now features contemporary rooms with stripped floors, pelt rugs and whole-wall pictures of fluffy-cloud skies and forest sunbeams. There’s a decent restaurant and a lovely sun-terrace, plus they’ll help arrange an almost bewildering range of activities, from bobsleighing to tobogganing, snow rafting and dog sledding.
Standing almost in the shadow of arresting 2654-metre Gerlach, the Tatra Mountain’s loftiest peak, road-accessible Sliezsky Dom is Slovakia’s highest hotel. Just on the treeline by a small tarn, the rugged setting favours summer hikers, rock climbers and mountain bikers along with winter skiiers, ice-climbers and sledgers. The property resembles a swanky refuge, its corrugated facade embellished with wooden slats. Accommodation is pared-down piney, but suites up the style considerably. Hikers in particular might appreciate the steam and Finnish saunas, or enjoy the country’s highest massages.
On the edge of Štrbské, the Borovica’s conventional chalet-tinged apartment block hides an eye-catching lobby that includes a rock-wall feature. The spacious accommodation is cosy and welcoming, with solid wooden furniture, leather armchairs and high headboards – premium rooms have wood-burning stoves and even more space. Wellness facilities include six different saunas, plus treatments ranging from coffee oil peeling to Javanese massage, manual lymphodrainage and physiotherapy. It’s almost a relief to settle for a straightforward sanctum-like 20-metre pool and rooftop jacuzzi.
Named after the Fédération Internationale de Ski (International Ski Federation), the FIS lives and breathes skiing beside Štrbské Lake – you can even ski in and out. Within its angular ramp-like profile are straightforward rooms, suites and even economy bungalows, almost all featuring wooden panelling and mountain photography. In keeping with the uber-sportsman vibe, there’s a uniquely large 26-metre-long sports hall, and it caters for specialised training-programme diets.
Midway between Liptovská Mara, a 22sqkm recreational reservoir, and Chopok peak, this chalet-like hotel stands at the gateway to the Low Tatras Mountains. It’s a family-oriented resort with separate family and adult pools, baby swimming with instructors, a plethora of childrens’ activities including cookery classes and two-bedroom family rooms accommodating up to seven. Yet adults won’t feel short-changed with saunas, therapeutic poultices, massages and exotic body treatments available. At dinner, your stomach can enjoy gourmet wellness too.
Named after the Turiec River flowing through Martin town amidst the Fatra Hills, the Turiec is a sleek modern hotel – completely renovated in 2009 after the original ageing Soviet-era edifice was gutted. It’s close to several low-key ski areas, including the Jasenská Valley and Martinské, the town’s own urban ski-centre. Rooms are contemporary with snazzy headboard uplighting, yet not overly homely. You’ll eat well here in its candle-adorned restaurant, while the cool bookshelf-lined cafe features a pale Henry Moore-like sculpture.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Taylor Geiger.
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