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Grab your skis, it’s time to hit the slopes > part 2 February 2, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Mainland.
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Kalavryta, just 203 kilometers from the heart of Athens > Located on the northwest side of the Helmos mountain range in the Peloponnese, just 203 kilometers from Athens, the Kalavryta ski center is by no means the largest of Greece’s resorts but has become a mecca for serious skiers and snowboarders in recent years.

The season got off to a great start regarding the white stuff, with Kalavryta opening its lifts on December 16 – this author being one of many snowboard enthusiasts battling to be the first on the slopes to make fresh tracks.

In operation since 1988, there are 12 trails with a range of difficulty from beginner to the very difficult Stiga 1 and 2 trails from the 2,340-meter-high summit – where on a clear day skiers are treated to a sea view – as well as excellent off-piste skiing and snowboarding among clusters of pine trees.

Kalavryta also offers free lifts for beginners as well as student discounts, while the always lively chalet at the base of the mountain often hosts memorable parties in the evening.

The town of Kalavryta itself – just 14 kilometers from the ski center – has its place assured in the hearts of Greeks for its association with the struggle against Turkish occupation in 1821 and the Nazi massacre of over a thousand villagers for resistance activities during WWII. An old schoolhouse has been converted into a museum dedicated to the memory of those killed and is also well worth a visit.

Equipment can be rented on the mountain but there are several rental outlets in and around the town where prices are more reasonable. A range of accommodation can be found via the website www.Kalavryta-ski.gr, while those seeking a more luxurious option can look to the recently opened Castle Resort perched just above the town www.castleresort.gr.

Parnassos, the largest ski center in the country > The largest ski center in Greece is located 180 kilometers from Athens at Parnassos. The official website’s claim that the ski center is “the best organized in the country” is a valid one with 13 lifts and 18 trials covering 22 kilometers in total stretching down from the 2,200-meter summit in two sections. While much of the mountain features wide open pistes with plenty of easy and intermediate runs, for the more adventurous, the mountain also boasts 12 off-piste trails, such as the challenging Sahara trail on the Fterolakka section of the mountain. The nearby town of Arachova just 17 kilometers away is a hub of activity during the ski season, with many visitors choosing to use it as their base rather than stay in the many smaller and more cozy chalets and hotels on the route toward the ski center. While the claim that Arachova is the Myconos of winter is a little far-fetched, what is an attractive winter resort town in a spectacular setting at an altitude of 960 meters draws many Athenians at weekends. This makes it the winter resort to be seen in and ensures a lively atmosphere. Useful websites > http://www.parnassos-ski.gr, http://www.arachova.gr.

Vasilitsa’s superb off-piste trails > What has been in recent years arguably one of the country’s most underrated winter sports resorts, Vasilitsa now rightly stakes its claim as one of northern Greece’s star attractions.

Situated in the prefecture of Grevena, the resort is 250 kilometers from Thessaloniki in the heart of the Pindos mountains in the northwest. Due to the quality and quantity of snowfall, Vasilitsa boasts some superb off-piste trails deep among clutches of towering pine trees, hugely popular with snowboarders.

Boasting majestic views from several vantage points around the mountain – the summit of which is approximately 2,700 meters – Vasilitsa boasts three chalets, seven lifts and 16 trails in total, offering a wide range of difficulty from beginner to advanced.

The two most difficult trails can be found at the 2,113-meter summit of the Alexander the Great lift.

The first lift (Elimeia) was built in 1975, however, the resort has since undergone two major expansions, one in 1993 and the second in 2000, both of which have contributed to making it one of the best ski resorts in Greece.

As well as the three chalets close to the mountain – of which Distrato offers cosy accommodation with magical views of the slopes – there is plenty of accommodation available in the small picturesque village of Smixi nearby, which also boasts wonderfully traditional tavernas and restaurants to while away the evenings beside roaring fires after a hard day on the slopes. At 417 kilometers from Athens, it may be a tough ask for capital dwellers to make the trip but it is a journey definitely worth taking. Useful websites > www.vasilitsa.com, www.snow-vasilitsa.gr/modules.php?name=Chalet_Distrato.

Mt Pelion’s small but beautiful resort is ideal for the family > Well known all over Greece for its spectacular natural beauty, the Pelion region is also home to one of the country’s smaller yet beautiful ski resorts.

Located in the prefecture of Magnesia on Agriolefkes, the Pelion peninsula’s highest peak, the resort’s setting among dense beech trees is as stunning as would be expected. The resort has six pistes tailing down from the 1,471-meter summit which caters mainly to beginner and intermediate levels, making Pelion an ideal option for families.

There are plenty of accommodation options in the charming village of Hania just 2 kilometers away, and further down the mountain at Potaria (12 km).

Pelion’s proximity to the city of Volos (27 km) makes in obviously popular with residents of the city as well as day-trippers from the surrounding area during the peak season. Weather permitting, the center also offers the unique experience of night skiing on Saturdays.

Being at a lower altitude than most ski resorts in Greece, Pelion can tend to suffer from a lack of snow on occasion so check the snow reports carefully well in advance of any trip. Pelion is a year-round tourist attraction, however, so there are plenty of other options, including hiking trails, walks and over 20 villages dotted around the mountain all retaining traditional Pelian architecture to explore. Useful websites > http://-www.skipilio.gr/home.htm, http://www.pelion.gr.

Kaimaktsalan: Up in the clouds > Greece’s highest ski resort, Kaimaktsalan, is known as the “Arachova of the north” due to its stunning setting, organization and charming village abodes. If that’s not enough, its location between 2,040 and 2,524 meters means it has the best snow in the country.

Perched on top of Greece’s third-highest peak – the other two being Olympus and Smolikas – Kaimaktsalan also features a quaint chapel, Prophitis Ilias, at the summit. The resort features wide open pistes and some challenging off-trail opportunities, making it an ideal place to test and improve your technique. The previously abandoned settlement of Aghios Athanassios has been transformed into one of northern Greece’s most picturesque mountain villages boasting beautiful, cozy hotels, spectacular villas and quaint boutiques. There are plenty of equipment rental options available on the mountain as well as some luxurious accommodation in the chalet with suites on offer featuring jacuzzi’s and the all-important fireplace.

Appealing attractions nearby are the hot springs of Pozar, also known as Loutra Loutrakiou to southern Greeks, where tourists and locals visit during the winter months. The town of Kerasia, featuring traditional houses, a park and cherry trees, is also well worth a trip. Useful website > http://www.kaimaktsalan.gr.

Seli’s stunning panoramic views, a skiers’ paradise > Having installed the very first ski lift in the country back in 1934, Seli is Greece’s oldest resort. Located in the Vermion Mountains in the north of the country, Seli is to Thessaloniki residents what Parnassos and Kalavryta are to Athenians.

Just 95 kilometers away from Thessaloniki, Seli draws many visitors from the city as well as many more from neighboring Balkan countries. It is a skiers’ paradise with mainly downhill runs catering to all levels.

Stunning panoramic views of Mount Olympus – Greece’s tallest peak – and Mount Athos are also possible from the summit of the Efkleia lift on a clear day.

In total, there are 11 lifts and 19 trails, a spacious parking area and plenty of accommodation options at the two mountain shelters as well as in the nearby towns of Naoussa and Veria, which are 20 kilometers and 24 kilometers away respectively.

There is also a small village at the base of the ski center with several cafes, bars, tavernas and ski schools. Useful websites > http://www.seli-ski.gr, www.meteo.gr, www.snowreport.gr, www.snow-forecast.gr.

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