If you are looking for an affordable skiing destination, where mountain slopes of different size blend with magnificent scenery, Mavrovo might be the perfect place. Macedonia can offer adventure opportunities aplenty during the summer season, but with the arrival of winter, skiing in Mavrovo is the chief attraction.
In what is less than two hours on the highway from Skopje, you find yourself at the entrance to one of the most captivating national parks. The windy road will take you through mountain scenery, next to adorable winter cabins, and circle around the magnificent lake before arriving directly to the ski resort.
From there, a skiing adventure begins. Suitable for beginners and veterans alike, dozens of slopes await. Sliding down the mountain or cutting through dense forest scenery, the skiing trails redefine immersion, allowing you to forget about everything else and focus on the present moment.
Located at the beautiful slopes of mountain Bistra, the skiing center Zare Lazarevski towers above the village of Mavrovo. This ski resort is perhaps the most popular winter destination in Macedonia, where attractive terrain meets plenty of hospitality.
Skiing in Mavrovo – where to begin?
Well, much depends on your travel arrangement. If you arrive by car, and have an afternoon to spend, the best way is to go directly to the parking lot in front of the entrance to the ski center. You can rent the equipment right there, and catch the ski lift for a ride all the way up to the slopes.
This is also the place where organized transportation will drop you in the morning and pick you up before nightfall.
If, however, you want to spend the winter in Mavrovo, you’ll have to find accommodation first. There is plenty of choice, and you’ll be left deciding between luxurious resorts, budget hotels, and family homes that offer all sorts of arrangements. Everything is within driving distance, inside of a few miles radius.
Zare Lazarevski Ski Center
With plenty of ski lifts, the ski center Zare Lazarevski is where you start the Mavrovo skiing adventure. The altitude ranges between 1255 meters and 1860 meters, offering a garden variety of slopes when it comes to difficulty.
You can follow the trail as it goes down the mountain, or chart your own path through the forest. If you enjoy cross country skiing, there is a slope called Mirna Dolina, which translates into Calm Valley, where you can choose between skiing and snowboarding as you follow the 7.5 kilometers long trail, which combines together the best of both worlds.
Once you are up, however, beautiful scenery awaits – the magnificent Mavrovo Lake is down below, visible in its entirety. Surrounded by snow-covered mountains it is a sight to behold. Needless to say, you will find similar distractions along the trails, as nature unfolds in front of you.
The terrain is excellent, and each trail is well maintained by heavy ratrack machinery. You can even enjoy night skiing in Mavrovo, thanks to lights and loudspeakers covering some of the slopes, so there is no need to cling to your alarm clock, rethinking your night owl status.
The evening hours are between 7PM and midnight, when tracks officially close for maintenance.
Getting to the ski center
The entrance to Zare Lazarevski is at the base of the ski lift, right next to the parking lot. It is near the Hotel Makpetrol, immediately after you drive to the end of the Mavrovo lake.
If you are renting a well-equipped vehicle, and know how to handle windy turns, you can follow the road to Galicnik and keep to the left until you reach the ski center. But I wouldn’t recommend this at all. Scenic as it is, the terrain is also steep, with harsh and sudden turns that will give you a headache regardless of your experience in handling the wheel.
If you want to reach the ski resort Zare Lazarevski for any reason, their phone number is +389 (0) 42-489-065.
Winter in Mavrovo
Plenty of people book their skiing holiday in Mavrovo only to be disappointed once they arrive in the capital city. But the climate in Macedonia is equally colorful as the terrain itself. Sometimes, even during peak season, Mavrovo can be covered in snow while most of the county is not.
Check the snow forecast for Macedonia, but also make sure to specifically check the weather in Mavrovo. Winter in Macedonia and winter in Mavrovo can very well be two separate things.
There is a Mavrovo live camera stream available, but statistically speaking the average snow cover is around 70 cm deep, so there is no need for worries.
The extended season, if you are fortunate enough, spans between November and April, but peak season is right after Christmas, on the 25th of December, and lasts throughout the entire month of January.
If, by any chance, you are traveling through Macedonia, and it starts snowing, make sure to grab the ski equipment right away. The snow in Mavrovo piles up rather fast and the entire ski center can become operational within a single weekend.
Mavrovo skiing holiday – what you need to know
Like many people who arrive from abroad, some of you will need equipment. Renting is beyond affordable when compared to western standards, and you will quickly realize how the math shapes up to make skiing in Mavrovo a budget friendly holiday.
Price for renting the equipment
You can rent the equipment at the ski resort, or the parking lot nearby, and it will cost you 12 dollars per day for the entire set (including the ski or board, bindings and poles).
The ski pass, for an entire day, will cost an additional 14 dollars, but there is plenty of opportunity to buy it cheaper from someone else mid-day, or sell yours as you decide to leave the ski center and head back home.
If you are a complete beginner, there is a ski school on site. The cost of hiring an instructor, depending on time and the size of your group, may vary but it is much more affordable than you might expect.
Hospitality, nightlife and entertainment
Since every place in Mavrovo is within driving distance of a several miles radius, there is plenty of choice when it comes to cafes, clubs, restaurants and bars.
You will find the mountain hut right next to the ski center, where you can enjoy hot tea with snacks, while all of the clubs are down near the parking lot next to most of the hotels and resorts. You can visit some of the restaurants, like Glamur, Alpina and Chezarina, to kick of the night, and continue with the party at Ratrack or Jeti.
If you just want to take your coffee, or have a lunch on your way back, simply follow the road to Skopje and you’ll arrive at Mavrovi Anovi.
The most popular place, however, for a cup of tea, is the mountain hut which is up there on the slopes.
Other things to enjoy during winter in Mavrovo
If you are tired of hitting the slopes one day after another, driving around the lake can be a lot of fun. The entire road will take 33 kilometars, circling the lake and providing some breathtaking panoramic views. If you take an afternoon to explore this part of Mavrovo, you should definitely visit Black Rock – a popular lookout on the other side of the lake.
Skiing in Macedonia
For better or worse, Macedonia is not the most popular skiing destination on the Balkan Peninsula. Foreigners will often choose Bansko in Bulgaria, or Borovec in Serbia, leaving Mavrovo less crowded even throughout peak season. And while both of these are more attractive if you are an experienced skier, the prices are non-comparable.
Skiing in Macedonia is far more affordable, although not necessarily worse. Mavrovo in winter is a real fairytale, and there is plenty of mountain terrain to explore off the trails if you are the adventurous type.
Both food and hospitality are attractive enough to warrant a visit, and you can enjoy more traditional Macedonian cuisine than you can swallow, while staying way under your budget.
If, at the end of the day you enjoy the Mavrovo winter experience, you’ll definitely enjoy some of the other parts of Macedonia in winter as well. Krushevo is a very small and charming town with its own ski center, and Popova Shapka has the highest and most intense slopes in Macedonia, so you can test your metal. On the other side of the country, to the south east, there is also Berovo – a winter fairytale surrounded by dense pine forest, and a magnificent lake up in the mountains.
But Mavrovo seems to have it all – the beautiful lake, the iconic church, plenty of traditional restaurants, and some of the most captivating skiing slopes on the Balkan Peninsula. So if you want a budget friendly winter experience, that is also rich with adventure, definitely go for a Mavrovo skiing holiday.
An outdoor junkie and an adventurous spirit who loves the mountain. Slavko regularly talks about travel, lifestyle design, holistic health and fitness. You can find his writings on popular magazines around the net, and his regular guides and columns in The Lifestyle Updated.