The Alps: The Poor Man's Zermatt
By Lorien Warner
Olympic skiing gold medalist Mateja Svet was born here. Elan, a worldwide staple in ski equipment, is based here. This is a country that's steeped in ski culture. Austria? No. Try Slovenia.
This 12,559-square-mile parcel (bordered by Austria, Croatia, Italy, and Hungary) may be an infant among countries (it celebrated its fifth independence day last June 25), but its ski tradition is almost as old as the hills. Granted, Slovenia's 13 ski centers fall in the shadow of Western Europe's domaines skiables, but don't let that dissuade you from going: You'll revel in powder atop the Alps without fighting neon-clad socialites in endless lift lines. Plus, you'll pay a whole lot less.
Kranjska Gora, the largest and oldest of Slovenian ski resorts, is 53 miles northwest of the capital, Ljubljana, amid the jagged peaks of the Julian Alps. For $24 a day, skiers of any skill can experience 20 miles of runs and 20 lifts in a season that runs from December through March. Kranjska Gora is also a winter sports center, with cross-country ski trails, ski jumping, and World Cup downhill events. In the village with its fourteenth-century Gothic church, stay at the four-star Hotel Kompas (doubles, $45-$68; 011-386-64-88-16-61), which has 155 rooms and a nightclub (just about the only entertainment in town). More low-key, the 15-room Kotnik Hotel (doubles, $28; 64-88-15-64) has a restaurant that serves prsut (a type of smoked ham) and local wines.
Swissair (800-221-4750), Austrian Airlines (800-843-0002), and Lufthansa Airlines (800-645-3880) all fly to Ljubljana (round-trip from New York City, $646-$984). Slovenia's Adria Airways (61-131-81-55) connects with major European cities. For more information, call the Slovenian Tourist Office in New York City, 212-682-5896.