Schussing in Slovenia

Hit the slopes at Rogla to ski, snowboard, and snowshoe in the picturesque Pohorje Mountains.

Published 19 Feb 2019, 16:02 GMT
Discovering Slovenia: AIR

When winter comes, there’s a tendency to hide from it. In Slovenia, however, the coldest season is something to embrace and celebrate. During the first flurries, the vivid green of summer is replaced by a crisp, clean blanket of snow—Mother Nature shrouding everything in a veil of mystery.

This is a time when you literally can make your mark on the pristine landscape—whether you’re a hardcore skier or snowboarder, or if you prefer the peace and solitude of snowshoeing. All the above was on my agenda as I stood on the edge of the Jezersko Valley, watching the first wispy flakes blowing in on the breeze. There was no doubt about it: winter was coming, and I was excited.

Just an hour or so earlier, I’d strolled cobbled backstreets and ancient alleyways in the capital city, Ljubljana, where post-hipster baristas whip up cold-brew coffee and contemporary galleries vie for attention. In mainstream European hotspots, geography forces you to choose between a bustling city break or the drama of the mountains. Here, however, you can do it all in a day—as I was about to find out.

Having grabbed a rental car, the plan was to meander east to the Pohorje Mountains in search of fresh powder, the Rogla ski resort having recently received a dose. First, though, I wanted to feast my eyes on Jezersko—a wide, tranquil valley—sheltered on all sides by towering mountain peaks, huddled together as if harboring a secret. On the other side in Austria, crowds of skiers flock each winter. Here on the Slovenian side, it felt like I had the whole valley to myself. 

Making tracks. Nat Geo photographer, Ciril Jazbec and his guide Nejc He. Rogla's snowshoeing trails.
Photograph by National Geographic

With the snow coming thick and fast, it was time to get moving. Amazingly, a few hours later as I pulled into the car park at the Rogla resort, the pregnant snow-clouds gave way to blue skies—the slopes covered in a sunny carpet of fresh powder, primed for my arrival.

Slovenia is described as a land of contrasts, and this is true when it comes to skiing. While resorts such as Vogel in northwest Slovenia are classically Alpine—craggy summits stretching up more than 5,900 feet (1,800 meters), overlooking the azure waters of Lake Bohinj—Rogla reminded me more of eastern Canada—smoother, rolling, tree-covered hills that stretch to the horizon.

In terms of Rogla’s skiing—or in my case, snowboarding—everything is refreshingly compact. In all, there are 13 groomed runs, catering to everyone from absolute beginners to those who like things a little steeper. With the sun shining and most people at work, I spent the morning helping myself to freshly fallen powder—rooster tails of snow cascading behind me as I scribbled my signature across the slopes.

Another bluebird day. The morning sun reveals the results of overnight snowfall in Rogla sky resort.
Photograph by National Geographic

By lunchtime I’d worked my way across the downhill map, stopping mid-morning for a quick espresso. After refueling at lunch with locally produced pork chops and mashed potatoes, dessert came in the form of snowshoeing. 

Rogla is surrounded by a variety of snowshoeing trails that whisk you off into what feels like uncharted territory. While you can hire a guide to lead the way, I was happy to head out alone. Within minutes of leaving the rental shop, I threaded my way between silver birch trees, the only sound the crunch of snow underfoot as I broke new ground. 

Indeed, on several occasions, I found myself pausing to take it all in, allowing my eyes to wander over the silent, powder-smoothed clearings ahead. It’s not often these days that you experience complete quiet. With the sun softening and sinking low, the sky erupted into shades of orange and red, dappled light turning the fresh snow into a crystalline carpet. 

As night draws in, a warm glow illuminates one of Rogla's rustic mountain huts.
Photograph by Ciril Jazbec

There’s only one way to end days like this—in front of a roaring fire—and that’s exactly where I found myself, less than an hour later as darkness closed the curtain on a perfect winter day. 

Following the footsteps

After a hearty breakfast in one of Ljubljana’s waterfront cafes, head to Lake Bled, where the eponymous medieval castle keeps watch over sky-blue waters. The lake often freezes in winter, turning it into one of the world’s most picturesque ice rinks.

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