Boasting over 17km of totally linked runs and some all-new hi-tech lifts to boot, remains the home of the largest single ski centre in all of Poland. It’s set just to the north of the precipitous rises of the High Tatras and the so-called ‘Winter Capital’ of Zakopane, within easy reach of both Krakow and Katowice.
Skiing in Bialka Tatrzanska
Strictly speaking, Bialka Tatrzanska is comprised of three individual resorts: Kotelnica; small and beginner-friendly Bania, and Kaniowka just to the south (all accessible on the same ski pass and due to be completely interlinked by 2016).
Together, this triumvirate of ski fields brings a fantastic range of well-groomed pistes, going from flat and easy green runs through to lengthy blues and short, challenging reds. More generally speaking, the resort is best suited for novice to intermediate skiers, while experts may find themselves pining for something a little more daring before the day is through.
Complete beginners here enjoy access to arguably one of the best places to learn to ski in all of Eastern Europe, with countless private ski schools based all around; in Zakopane, Krakow and Białka Tatrzańska itself. What’s more, given the gradual graduation from small green to long and shallow blue runs that’s afforded by the lift set-up, this one is simply great for confidence building!
There is a single cross-country track on offer at the top of the Kotelnica end of the resort for Nordic skiers, while off-piste is distinctly lacking. In an effort to make up for that, there is a rather good terrain park on offer here, complete with a series of pipes and rails and a dedicated drag lift – usually open by the second month of the season.
Białka Tatrzańska’s season typically runs from just before Christmas to the end of April, with piste closures occurring anytime between March 31st and April 30th. Elevation is a modest 910 metres, which makes the fantastically reliable snow-making system now installed here all the more important. The entire resort is floodlit by night and in-the-dark skiing runs throughout the high season until 10pm.
Unquestionably the most coveted accommodation option in Kotelnica Białczańska (the official name of the resort) is Hotel Bania: a charming new-build which boasts ski-in, ski-out rooms, balconies overlooking the main blue runs of the resort, a four-star rating and its own adjoining thermal spa facility (fantastic if you don’t fancy donning your salopettes and hitting the slopes!).
For something a little more affordable, consider bedding down some streets away from the resort’s entrance, where oodles of small hotels and guest houses sit between the lanes of pretty Bialka Tatrzanska village. Of these, Pensjonat Toporow is certainly worth a mention for its inordinately excellent pool (if somewhat dated restaurant and rooms), while friendly Willa Nad Białką has some great deals on bed and breakfast stays.
Like in most all of Poland’s southern mountain resorts, it’s the gorale (highland) cuisine that dominates. That means oodles of pierogi dumplings packed with creamy cheese and topped with deep-fried onions, boiling pots of zurek (a sour broth made with boiled eggs and sausage), the ubiquitous blood-red borscht and platter upon platter of a certain smoked sheep’s cheese called oscypek.
The town of Białka Tatrzanska offers a range of restaurants and eateries, going from the ad hoc hole-in-the-wall kebaby to the fully-fledged Polish diner. For some of the best cuisine in town, head for timber-clad Litworowy Staw, a hearty, homely place which oozes smoky fragrances and a family-friendly vibe right throughout the season. The restaurant at the Hotel Carlina is also a great choice and also comes done out in classic Polish highland styles.
Closer to the resort itself and on the mountain, visitors will find a smattering of canteens and cafés, all serving up the usual Polish staples alongside zapiekanki pizza breads, chips, hot chocolates and—of course—frothy Slavic beer. There’s also a great little joint beside the Hotel Bania with its own roaring log fire.
Après wise there’s really not much to Kotelnica Bialczanska aside from a smattering of small and family-friendly Polish karczmas (traditional mountain restaurants) and a few pubs that close early at the base of the mountain. In fact, Bialka Tatrzanska is little more than a village strewn out along the main road heading south towards Slovakia, meaning anyone seeking hedonism after riding the runs would do well to bed down and party in nearby Zakopane, while some will even head back to Krakow, where the nightlife is nothing short of legendary.