Snowboarding and Skiing in the Czech Republic

Where to snowboard or ski in the Czech Republic

Although the Czech Republic isn't known for its ominous peaks and famous resorts, there is plenty of good snowboarding and skiing to be had. Unfortunately, the weather here is unpredictable to say the least, and the season length seems to vary considerably from year to year. But this winter will certainly be long enough for you hard-working people to get up to the mountains at least a few times.

I must confess that I haven't ridden every resort in the Czech Republic, and frankly I wouldn't want to. (Many are quite small, and chair lifts are an exception rather than the rule.) So this article will give you the lowdown on the places where I've ridden, as well as some practical information about other resorts that get high marks from those in the know. If I missed one of your favorites, please contact me with new or updated info so this article can be a more informative and useful guide for our fellow riders.

Like I said, the Czech winter is a tricky monkey - so please don't blame me if there is no snow in February but tons in April (actually you could probably blame some petroleum plant in Iowa, but I digress). The season typically lasts from early December to late March / early April.

The best place online to get snow and weather conditions in English is holidayinfo.cz or ceskehory.cz. There's also a show on CT-2 every morning from 7:55 to 8:30 called "Panorama" which shows panoramic views from ski resorts all over the Czech Republic. Try also these web weather services: http://www.meteopress.cz/ or on Yahoo weather.



Rokytnice nad Jizerou


Rokytnice nad Jizerou is one of the Krkonoše's best resorts with quite a few different hills to choose from although the best and most popular one is Lysá hora or Horní Domky. This mountain, or shall we call it a hill, has a maximum height of 1,315 meters above sea level, and is great for beginner and intermediate snowboarders and skiers. The slopes are all nice and wide, which is nice for snowboarders and there are some cool little spots just on the edge of the trees for jumps and dips into powder. WARNING: The ski patrol are pretty avid about keeping you out of the trees so ride at your own risk -- fines can be up to 10,000 CZK, although you are more likely to lose your lift pass and pay 1,000 CZK.

There are two four-person lift chairs which service Lysá hora, the first of which can be taken from the main parking lot and cash desk where you buy your tickets. There are an additional six T-bars -- or at least the Czech equivalent -- and between all of these there are five blue runs, four red runs and one (very short) black run. The longest run is the "1", which is 3,200 meters long and, although it is a blue run it is a fun ride down the mountain with nice hops back and forth along the edge and into the trees (just a little). The red slopes are quite good as well for all you downhill skiers although be warned the occasional beginner wanders across the slope so be alert.

Practical Information

Cost: 590 CZK per day (510 CZK until Dec. 23rd)

Operation times: Lifts now open 8am - 4pm (4:30pm in late season)

Accommodation: A large selection of hotels, hostels, pensions, and private apartments are available. One good resource is: http://www.rokytnice.com/en/accommodation/

Transportation: Bus is the easiest and safest way to travel, the bus leaves from Černý Most and takes between two hours, 15 minutes and three hours, 45 minutes, depending on which one you take. Check the bus schedule here.

Lifts: 2 chair lifts/4 tow lifts

Snowboard park: Yes

Night skiing: Yes


Špindleruv Mlýn

The largest resort in the Czech Republic, Špindleruv Mlýn boasts multiple quad lifts, all levels of difficulty, and a fully modern ski center. Essentially there are two areas to choose from when travelling to Špindl, Medvedín and Svatý Petr. Your lift pass covers both mountains, and free ski busses run between the two facilities.

Svatý Petr The larger of the two mountains at SM is also the more diverse. A long, winding blue run allows beginners (as well as the rusty) to get their bearings calibrated and their balance figured out. The two red slopes, or intermediates, are both challenging and fun. The black slope beckons for all you speed demons, but watch for stray beginners wandering into your streaking path. Although highly illegal and punishable by a hefty 10,000 Kc fine, for me the real fun is the cool riding in the trees beneath the lift.

When there's fresh snow it's a fantastic place to ride with great jumps, soft powder, tight turns for swift carving, and a great little cliff to jump at the bottom. My advice is to hook a hard left after that jump and get back on the run before the lift operators/ski patrol see you. Tip: They wear red.

Medvedín Peter's bearish brother is also a pleasure to ride, but for different reasons. Despite some great jumps and cool off-trail riding, I would say that Medvedín is better for skiers than snowboarders. Just like Svatý Petr, there are blue, red, and black runs on Medvedín. But what makes Medvedín so special is that the whole back of the mountain boasts tons of runs for beginners and some for intermediates.

The problem with this side of the mountain is that there are only tow lifts, so if you don't feel like riding back up the mountain, stay on the front side. My personal recommendation is to take the right trail when you get off the lift (i.e. the left trail when facing down the mountain) and hug the sides for softer snow and interesting terrain. There are cooler jumps, and the slope is wider than on the other side.

Practical Information

Cost: 650 Kc per day (550 Kc until Dec. 22nd)

Operation times: Lifts now open 8:30am - 4pm (4:30 in late season)

Accommodation: There are tons of places to stay in Špindleruv Mlýn, ranging from expensive to dirt-cheap. Another option is to stay in Vrchlabí, which is just a 15-minute bus ride from the resort. Here are some ideas of prices for chalets and pensions.

Transportation: A car is the quickest and most comfortable way to get there (travel time approx. 1 ½ hrs.). However, if you are not blessed with a company car, then the bus is adequate and not so time consuming. Busses leave from the Florenc bus station quite frequently (travel time approx. 3 hrs).

Warning: It is highly advisable that you buy a round trip ticket. During high season the busses fill up quickly and you could get stuck.

Warning 2: The return bus will land you at Cerný Most (end of the B Metro line) so don't be shocked when it takes you an additional 30 minutes to get home.

Lifts: 4 chair lifts / 15 tow lifts

Snowboard park: 1

Night skiing: Yes


Harrachov

Although not as large as Špindleruv Mlýn, Harrachov is a great little mountain. The trails are decent, and after a heavy snowfall the off-trail riding is superb. The front side of Harrachov consists of one long run, while the back offers multiple slopes that cater to all three skill levels. Riding in the trees is fun and demanding, with a five-meter cliff about halfway down the slope under the chair lift. (The landing is a bit sketchy, so have someone spot for you). In short, Harrachov is great for beginners and intermediates, but there's not much for the pros here.

Practical Information:

Cost: 540 Kc per day (450 Kc until Dec. 22nd)

Operation times: Lifts now open 8am - 4pm (4:30pm in late season)

Accommodation: There are ample places to stay here in every price range. It's not absolutely necessary to make a reservation in advance, but you'll pay less if you do. German is the preferred foreign language here, but most people also speak English. Check out these accommodation options.

Transportation: If you're without a car, trains run quite often from Hlávní nádraží. But a better choice is one of the many busses from Cerný Most or Florenc. Here's some more info on public transportation.

Lifts: 2 chair lifts / 11 tow lifts

Snowboard park: No

Night skiing: No


Pec pod Snežkou

This large ski resort sits on the back side of Snežka, the Czech Republic's highest mountain. The lack of chair lifts makes it better suited for skiing than snowboarding, but if you have strong legs and a strong will, you'll find Pec to be well worth the effort. This mammoth mountain is ideal for long, interesting, and illegal rides in the trees. An added bonus is the great night riding.

Practical Information:

Cost: 550 Kc per day (480 Kc until Dec. 23rd)

Operation times: Lifts now open 9am - 4pm (4:30pm in late season)

Accommodation: A large selection of hotels, hostels, pensions, and private apartments bless this resort, so finding a place to stay should not be a problem. Here are some options.

Transportation: Once again, if you're without a car, the bus is your next best choice.

Lifts: No chair lifts / 11 tow lifts

Snowboard park: Yes

Night skiing: Yes


Špicák

Located in the Šumava region of southwest Bohemia, Špicák is a small but fun mountain. This part of the country doesn't get as much snow as in the northern Krkonoše, but when it does it's worth the trip. In particular, Špicák offers some exciting off-trail riding. Adding to this thrill is the most dangerous looking single-person chair lift I've ever seen. Just 20 Kc buys you a single ride up this dinosaur of a lift, which is situated about 100m to the right of the main slope. Perfect for beginners, this smaller slope is also great for people who like jumping over fences and dodging trees in soft powder. Špicák isn't a major resort, so don't expect one. That said, it's fun, cheap, and conveniently located right next to the train station.

Practical Information:

Cost: 410 Kc per day or 60 Kc per ride on the chair lift

Operation times: Lifts now open 8:30am - 4pm (4:30pm in late season)

Accommodation: Reservations are highly recommended, as it's a much smaller place. Here are some suggestions.

Transportation: Take the train for a change of pace, but be advised it takes anywhere from 3 ½ to 6 hours. So choose your times wisely and bring some friends.

Lifts: 1 chair lift (technically) / 9 tow lifts

Snowboard park: No

Night skiing: Yes


Cenkovice

Although quite far away, Cenkovice is a great little escape, especially in early spring. Cenkovice gets its best snow in March and April, which makes for ideal snowboarding as you reap the benefits of sunshine and powder. There are no chair lifts, but there is a brand new snowboard park-and the whole trip is very cheap. Cenkovice is highly recommended for those who want one last ride before its time to pack up the gear and get ready for summer.

Practical Information:

Cost: 300 Kc per day or 25 Kc per ride

Operation times: Lifts now open 9am - 4pm (4:30pm in late season)

Accommodation: Rooms are very cheap but quite tricky to track down. Your best bet is to do some hardcore detective work. Here are some options to help you get started. Cenkovice is small and intimate, which makes it perfect for friends or couples trying to get away for awhile.

Transportation: Be prepared for a long and confusing journey! Those who are ready for this adventure will need the train, the bus, and their own two feet.

Lifts: No chair lifts / 6 tow lifts

Snowboard park: Yes

Night Skiing: No

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