Kolašin: a highly trending new ski resort in Montenegro
Kolašin probably had the largest amounts of snow in Europe during the period March 25-28, there were some 220cm of snow, where more than 120cm was reserved for fresh snow powder. This was heaven, literally. Top class!
Kolašin is in the south. It is quite odd to put the skis on your car and use the highway to go south. You then come to the end of the highway, and continue further south, pass Dubrovnik and continue even more south. I actually use a road which passes through Bosnia, and the towns Bileća and Nikšić to enter into mythical Montenegro. On my way back I go through Podgorica and the Skadar Lake down to the sea, and then I further pass Sveti Stefan, Budva, Kotor and Boka Bay all the way towards Dalmatia.
There is plenty to see along the way, it is a truly panoramic road which is hardly comparable to any other road. The entrance to Montenegro is across the Drina River at the Šćepan Polje border crossing, and then the road goes all the way along the Piva Lake through the town of Plužine. This road is not for everyone actually. It is one of the most beautiful and dangerous roads that I have seen. I simply have to use it at least once a year. Especially when you can reach Žabljak and its Durmitor peak at 1900m above the sea level in the summer by getting through Prijevoj from the Piva Lake, which is absolutely perfect.
The road is an adventure itself
When you tell someone that you have been skiing in Montenegro, it may confuse your audience, especially when you add that you have been in Kolašin, it makes no sense to them. This is a completely wrong assumption since Kolašin, Montenegro and skiing are pretty serious issues, with a trend to become even more serious in the near future.
I became interested in Montenegro a long time ago, since I was very young, but I went for skiing in Kolašin for the first time in 2014, and I had visited it several times since then. Regardless of my trips to the Alps, I always gladly go back to Kolašin.
I love Kolašin, both during the summer and during the winter, or as “Vjeverica” notes, she sees Montenegro as a little Switzerland. The Kolašin mountain centre can look like Andermatt in some sense, along with beautiful Žabljak and Durmitor, which eventually need some more investments to get them going.
The road to Kolašin is indeed an adventure with various contents, mountains, viewpoints, abysses, deep canyons and serpentines and it surely isn’t for everyone’s taste. The view is always impressive and it always awards the passenger, except when sometimes someone slips into the canyons of Morača or Tara, which can happen. The canyons of Montenegro are even more specific, they make a global story which can’t fit here, so I won’t even start it.
Kolašin is located on the river Tara, at around 1000m above sea level, as a confluence of roads and railways, with a central position between mountains Bjelasica, Kapa Moračka, Sinjajevina and Komovi on the south side. It is a perfect location, everything is so close, and every mountain makes a story of its own and you can’t tell which is more beautiful. Prokletije are also just nearby.
In addition to the location, I was attracted to Kolašin by its citizens too. These are very honest people who are proud of their town. I am always welcomed very sincerely, friendly and honestly and I always look forward to going back. I have been there two times this winter.
I love Hotel Bianca in Kolašin, its architecture, size of the interior, its gallery and its setting. It is one of my favourite hotels, it is like a giant cone. The employees are professional, the interior pool is one of the largest that I have seen, the massage service is good as well as its bars and the kitchen, of course in addition to the staff. There is an excellent shop in the hotel with ski, sport and hiking equipment. The woman owning the shop is very much informed about all the articles on display and the activities which they are used for. She is very kind and well-informed. The architecture of the City Council building, urbanistic solution for the main city square and the main city promenade, its symmetry and beauty remains an avant-garde, an aspiration. I would really like to own some property in Kolašin. I can imagine myself in the city centre, as well as on the mountain edges, it makes a great baseline, it can be enjoyed during the whole year, and now it is the right time for it.
So near but so far
Although it is relatively close, I currently do not believe in a massive discovery of Montenegro and Kolašin by the likes of Dalmatians, and especially Split as their greatest generator. There are some special mentalities in Dalmatia. Some efforts would be required in that sense, as I can compare it with discovering of Bosnia by the Dalmatians. It is all very exotic for them, and for us, it is quite an expedition and a journey and a road to the unknown. It is an adventure, one can say, but it is all there, all that is required is love and a desire. It is good as it is at the moment, I must say. I personally find Montenegrins somewhat very close to us, to our own settings, and I always joke in a sense that they represent all that we Dalmatians would like to be. Some kind of a “raw” base model. That is enough about Kolašin and its people for now, let us turn to skiing itself.
We will turn our attention to the Bjelasica Mountain, as it is at the moment the centre of winter tourism of Montenegro, miles ahead of Žabljak for sure. The Government of Montenegro decided to create a public company and to invest funds into development of winter sports, especially skiing. This is surely a good decision as it will add to development of the North side of the country as well. This decision has attracted further private investments which follow such infrastructural projects.
There are currently four or five top class hotels being built in Kolašin. These are five star hotels such as Westin or Marriott.
The Bjelasica Mountain is a part of the National park “Biogradsko Jezero” and most of the ski resort belongs to the national park.
The mountain itself is wonderful, it is of volcanic origin which means that it is green, tame, full of water, relatively mild, grassy and lacking a distinctive rock topography. It spreads over three mountain ridges with each having their peaks at an attitude of around 2100m above sea level. Everything is interconnected with roads, nomad settlements and it is nice to take a tour there during the summer and during the winter as well. When you take a look from the peak ridge, which is also where the cable car will take you at around 2050m above sea level, you will practically see the whole world. A brilliant perspective, a million dollar view. You see Žabljak to the north, along with Morača Mountains and Sinjajevina, and Komovi, Prokletije and Visitor to the south, along with some mountains and peaks over 2500m above sea level towards Albania, and even Macedonia and Serbia up to some extent.
Heavy snowfall in the winter
This confluence of climates, with warm and moist air coming from the Mediterranean, and with cold air from the east, together with a favourable position of cyclones brings heavy snowfalls in the winter. There is sometimes snow in the south as well since it is at a high altitude, together with heavy winds when they centre in the Tyrrhenian sea, and when the rainfalls cross over Croatia and parts of Bosnia, and get to the Eastern part of Bosnia and especially Montenegro and Albania, which is pretty close, with less than 30km air distance.
First let me mention the Kolašin 1450 ski resort, which is privately owned, with two main ski lifts, and a six-seater going all the way up to the Viline Vode peak which is at 1840m above sea level, and a twoseater leading up to Ćupovi, at 1880m above sea level. The next ski lift goes to Ključ, which is at 1900m above sea level, which is excellent for free rides. That particular two-seater is rarely functional, and when it does work, it needs about 20 minutes to get to the top, so it can be stated that half of the ski resort was unavailable for the past few years. That lift needs to be immediately replaced. The ski resort is north oriented, and it is more favourable than the higher ski resort due to strong wind storms and snows. The Ključ track was never in operation when I was there, and I only used the two-seater once to Ćupovi, and the view from the track was brilliant and quite interesting.
I strongly believe, and think of it as necessary, that the two-seater needs to be replaced by a four-seater or a six-seater during 2021. That part of the mountain needs to be opened before the next winter due to several reasons. Very good tracks and view-points, and new increased high category hotel facilities make up some of the reasons.
All this is needed also due to the fact that construction of a new K-7 four-seater is planned for the next season, which will connect Kolašin 1450 and Kolašin 1600, both of them named after altitudes of their base stations. In my opinion, if all tracks were in function, there would be around 20-25 km of available tracks. The connection is necessary and very much required for both ski resorts, with a common ski pass, which will be more expensive. Experiences from other joint-operated ski resorts indicate that it would be easy to share earnings in comparison to the achieved turnover. There are some more ski lifts and a wide common ski track. The tracks are mainly of red category and difficulty level, with a wide blue track which is ideal for first steps. When observed from the upper ski track, the felled forest reminds me of American ski resorts, and each perspective and view is impressive.
Now it is time to mention Kolašin 1.600, which is 2-3 km far from Kolašin 1.450 by road, it is a new ski resort, owned by Ski Resorts of Montenegro. I was monitoring the press regarding the building of this ski resort, I also observed its master plans and I had used it last season for the first time. I think that it actually opened last season, but there was little snow available then, which is quite the opposite in regard to this season. Kolašin probably had the largest amounts of snow in Europe during the period March 25-28, there were some 220cm of snow, where more than 120cm went to new snow powder. This was heaven, literally. Top class!
So far this ski resort has been declared to have 11km of tracks, which is quite realistic, and it is served by only one ski lift, the new K-8 six-seater.
It is fast enough and adequate for current operations as it can serve all tracks. It is south oriented which can be a problem due to the sun or the heavy wind which can spread the snow around, but it is quite nice to ski under the sun.
The track classification is very diverse, so that from the Troglave peak at 2.050m above sea level there are 4 main directions and tracks. It resembles the Alps in some ways, since the top part is above the tree level. The tracks are wide enough.
Track number 1, which has a blue classification, is more than 3km long, and it passes through the mountain ridge, and it winds down west to the bottom at 1.550m above sea level. This blue track is very interesting and it is of good configuration for both the beginners and the more experienced skiers since it is challenging and diverse. It is wide enough, steep enough, it also has a flat part and a very interesting second part of the track. All in all, it is an excellent track. It passes by the Katun settlements which are that much covered with snow that even house roofs can’t be noticed, like in a fairy tale.
The second track would obviously be the Track number 2, which is a proper red track which is straight and wide at the beginning across the main slope of the mountain, it is constantly accelerating, very wide, and then it gets narrow in the steep part behind the main slope in the so called funnel, and then it gets diverse again. A great track, you can take it over and over again even ten times without getting bored, it is 2.3km long.
Between those two tracks there is a combination of tracks which starts over the black Track number 4, which has a serious opening – a slope, after which at 80-90km/h you enter into a straight and wide part towards the bottom. It then continues as a Track number 5, which is of red classification. A beautiful track with a couple of small turning points, wide, flat and simply made for carving and pleasure. The Track number 7, classified as a black track, which it is in the first half of the track, later becomes very flat, so flat actually that you need to push a bit to get going. That track will have its role next year when it will serve as a connection with new tracks. It will lead the way from Kolašin 1.600 towards the connection with Kolašin 1.450 and the K-7 Lift.
There are then Track number 3 which is just a reduced version of track number 1 with only one serious downhill, and Track number 6 which is an interesting short blue track that connects tracks 5 and 2.
There is also a small ski lift for kids and beginners in the bottom part of the resort. The daily ski pass is EUR 15, which is not much.
The ski resort currently has two brand new Pisten Bully 400 and 450 snowmobiles, with cables and winches. At the moment they are sufficient to arrange the tracks and the workers who operate the snowmobiles deserve to be praised since the tracks are very well flattened every morning, so that their efforts and signatures are quite visible. They make the tracks perfect. Let us not forget that only natural snow is available here.
The Troglava restaurant is excellent, people are very warm and welcoming at the parking, at the tracks and at the restaurant, absolutely brilliant.
WOW effect of a real mountain
To summarize, Kolašin 1.600 at the moment has 11 km of ready tracks, and another 12-15 km of tracks in preparation, which will add up to around 24km for the next year. This resort will be connected with the lower resort and its 25km of tracks with the construction of a K-7 ski lift, which has already been purchased, and which would have been in operation this year if it wasn’t for the Covid situation. Next season, the joint resort will have around 50km of tracks, which is respectable, with a tendency for enlargement from the Mojkovac side and from the east as well, towards Andrijevica.
This is all relative, and up to individual tastes, but as of today, if I was to choose between skiing in Jahorina, with declared 45km of tracks and a huge leap forward, and skiing in Kolašin 1.600, I would choose Kolašin as it simply has that wow effect and a more diverse configuration. Kolašin has the looks of a real mountain surrounded with even bigger mountains, a higher difference in altitude, and an impressive view from the top, just like in the Alps.
A few years ago, when I was reading abo ut 100 or more km of tracks to be available at Bjelasica, it appeared to me as some kind of science fiction or political marketing, but now I see that it is actually realistic and possible.
I am still under the impression of the snow covered hills, with a lot of snow and wind at the beginning and blue sky and a wonderful skiing experience on perfect snow. That deserves 10/10. Before the trip we were wandering whether to go to Switzerland or to Montenegro. We chose the right option. Sincere regards to Kolašin and its people.