MARTINSKÉ HOLE, STATISTICS:
Bottom station elevation: 597 metres
Top station elevation: 1,456 metres
Lifts: single chairlift six surface lifts
Total uphill capacity: 4,920 persons per hour
Kilometres of skiing: 12
Number of trails: 11
Adult ski ticket for one day: Sk550 (?13.50)
MARTINSKÉ Hole, known to locals as Martinky, is a diamond in the rough. It features well-groomed slopes, small crowds, and tremendous natural beauty, but lots of pull lifts (Pomas) and no snowmaking. The only recent investments in the resort consist of two new Pomas and a terrain park for snowboarders, which was scheduled to open on January 31. Eventually, the resort plans to install two chairlifts, improve snowmaking, and lengthen several slopes. Once these upgrades occur, Martinky will finally be able to take advantage of its full 859 metres of vertical, thus becoming a crown jewel in Slovakia's burgeoning snow sports empire.
Beginners, as long as they are comfortable with long pull lifts, should have no problems with much of the blue terrain at Martinské Hole. After a snowfall, experts will find excellent tree skiing with some good stashes of powder just off-trail on the upper sections of Mount Krížava. Both experts and intermediates will also enjoy steeper red trails on the upper right side of Krížava.
Because the mountain currently lacks a snowmaking system, skiers can generally only ski between 1,150 to 1,456 metres in elevation. That being said, Martinské Hole's high position in the Malá Fatra range and ample tree cover mean that natural snow holds very well at these altitudes. The resort's motto is, "We ski on snow, not ice".
There is free parking at the 1,250-metre mid-station, but the road is one way (up) from 06:00 to 12:00, closed for lunch, and then one way (down) from 13:00 until 18:00. Snow chains are compulsory for this road. An alternative means of accessing the mountain is to take the single chairlift from the Stráne base (597 metres). This slow chair, however, takes twenty minutes to reach the mid-station, and is often cold and windy. Anyone who has ridden the famous single chair at Mad River Glen in Vermont, USA will appreciate the historic experience of riding an old single chair, alone, without a companion with whom to snuggle.
Given the rustic qualities of Martinské Hole and its famous spruce glades, it is no surprise that telemark skiers flock to this mountain. The mountain is also popular for traditional Nordic skiers, who can enjoy a beautiful ridge trail from Javorina to Krížava. Snowboarders who only wish to play in the new terrain park can purchase a discount ticket for just Sk320 (?8). Non-skiers can visit the world-famous Bojnice Castle, just 30 kilometres from nearby Martin.
Martinské Hole is three hours by car from Bratislava and four hours by express train or weekend ski bus via Žilina. The resort sells food and other refreshments at slopeside chalets (chaty). The bean soup with smoked meat for 35 Sk (?0.9) at chata Pirmanka is excellent.
The nearby Hotel Martinské Hole is a marvellous blast from the past: an old socialist style structure with friendly bartenders and a fabulous local dinner menu featuring such staples as pork schnitzel and halušky. In an era where most hotels in Slovakia are owned by an international chain, it is nice to experience an older, more authentic Slovak hotel. The price is right too: Rooms at this 500-bed facility range from Sk300 to Sk850 (?7.40-21).