Don't be surprised if little tykes pass you on the slopes; all Slovak children learn to ski at a young age.
Once a collection of seven 17th and 18th century collier's villages where coal was mined for the smelting works in nearby Staré Hory, today Donovaly is home to less than 200 residents year-round. It is a village that swells and shrinks with the seasons, and the busiest time of all is ski season.
Donovaly is not as glamorous as the resorts of the High Tatras, but obviously the word is out on this friendly spot, especially in Hungary. Every weekend, tour buses with the H stickers roll into the parking lot and unload hundreds of vacationers who dress far better than they ski. They are joined by carloads of Poles, Czechs, and Germans. Of course, Slovaks come here too, but many of them take advantage of the fact that public buses between Bratislava and Ružomberok drop them practically at the ticket stand.
Donovaly's ski area is divided into two parts, separated by the mountain road. All skiers, no matter how skilled, would do well to start on the more easy, broad slopes on the south side. Five lifts serve these gradual pistes, which generally have very good snow cover.
Beginners can spend an entire weekend in this area on the south side of the road, but advanced skiers will want to cross over to the challenges of the north side.
Donovaly's only chairlift takes skiers to the top of Nová Hoľa, a climb of nearly 500 meters to a peak altitude of almost 1,400 meters above sea level. Views from the crest can be excellent in several directions, with clear days offering a panorama including not just the Low Tatras, but also the Liptov valley and the High Tatras beyond.
Winter wonderland. The mountains of Slovakia provide vivid, wintry scenes as nature strokes its snowy brush across the land.
To begin with, take a few runs not under the chair, but to the base of other lift that ends at the mountain top.
Here is a good mix of steep and gradual, moguled and smooth terrain. At the end of each run, the mountainside kiosk entices with its offer of warming doses of becherovka or borovička.
When the time comes to head back down the mountain, follow the route to the base of the chairlift or veer right towards the cottages and ski all the way to the main parking lot. The point just where the slope heads back into the trees is a favorite launching pad for hang-gliders.
Expert skiers will not have to wrestle with any of Donovaly's slopes, as the area derives its reputation as a fine family spot. Equipment can be rented from a couple of points for around 250 Sk per day, and day lessons are available for 400 Sk per person. Add to this the 250 Sk lift ticket price, and Donovaly is one of Slovakia's better skiing bargains.
The rental shops, ticket offices, ski school, and hotels feature understaffed, yet generally friendly service in several languages. Given the fact that is located only 15 minutes from Banská Bystrica, where evening activities are more varied, there is little reason to stay overnight in the village.
S&S Travel tips
Ski Centrum Donovaly - Chata pod Magurou, tel: 088 / 799 752, fax: 088 / 799 880.
By car- From Bratislava, follow signs to Nitra (97 Km) than pick up Route E 571 east to Zvolen (102 Km). From Zvolen it's a short 21 Km to Banská Bystrica on the two lane E 77 heading north and a further 9 Km to Donovaly up a steep curvy road. All together the trip takes about three and a half hours.
By bus- From Banská Bystrica there are over 20 buses that stop in Donovaly running about every 45 minutes. There are three buses that go from Bratislava, at 5 am, 8 am and at 3 pm, dropping you right at the foot of the slopes. The trip takes about four and a half hours.
Penzión Almet- Donovaly 18, tel: 088/799-876, 799-877, 799-878. 120 beds. Single: Slovaks up to 380 Sk, foreigners up to 650 Sk. Double: Slovaks up to 650 Sk, foreigners up to 1000 Sk. Triple: Slovaks up to 800 Sk, foreigners up to 1350 Sk. Apartment: Slovaks up to 850 Sk, foreigners up to 1300 Sk.
Chata pod Magurou- Donovaly 130, tel: 088/799-742, 799-879. 40 beds. 260-460 Sk. Restaurant, sauna, fitness center. 260-460 Sk.
Penzión Zornička- Donovaly 129, tel: 088/799-723, 799-703. 65 beds. Cafť, bar, sauna, fitness center. Slovaks 240-300 Sk, foreigners 460-550 Sk.
Penzión Slniečko- Donovaly 23, tel: 088/799-734, 799-841. 60 beds. Restaurant, bar, wine cellar, video rental. Caters to company get aways. Slovaks 500-680 Sk, foreigners 800-1200 Sk.
Hotel Vesel- Donovaly 301, tel: 088/799-745, 799-781. 80 beds. Restaurant, bar, hopping disco, sauna, and short but soothing massage.
Hotel Agrostav- Mistríky 230, tel: 088/799-825. 55 beds. Restaurant and wine cellar.
Chata Zvolen- Močiarka 191, tel: 088/799-363. 21 beds.
18. Dec 1996 at 0:00 | Rick Zedník