Yoga and Snowboarding Holiday in the Carpathian Mountains [Own Experience]
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Any person in this world most probably has a favorite place. I have visited around 20+ countries in my life and around 40+ different cities.
Each place has its own charm but to me, there is no better and more beautiful place on the entire planet than the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains. Especially because visits there I can easily combine with my other two passions and make it a perfect yoga and snowboarding vacation.
Bukovel Ski Resort, Ukraine
Bukovel. Photo credit Anna Ivanova
If it is your first visit to the beautiful Ukraine and it is winter, and you are looking for ski resort at the Carpathian Mountains then you should definitely go for Bukovel Ski and SPA Resort. First of all, Bukovel is the largest and the most modern ski resort in Ukraine. The resort features 60 kilometers total of slopes with 16 modern ski lifts. Secondly, it is suitable for any level, whether you are a beginner or experienced snowboarder / skier. And last but not least, Bukovel offers a lot of other cool activities apart from skiing or snowboarding which makes it perfect for a family holiday.
We go for snowboarding to Bukovel every season since 2014. It went through a lot of changes and noticeable improvements however it also reflected on the prices which really gone up for the past few years. I will give you some ideas about the place, my personal experience and will share some thoughts on improving your snowboarding skills with yoga (especially if you are a beginner like me) so you could plan your trip wisely and hopefully will save some money.
Time to visit
Season in the Carpathians starts from the end of November and usually ends at beginning of March. Sometimes it stays until the middle or even end of March like happened this year. Not a surprise, that the peak season is New Year Holidays and Christmas (which is on 7th January as per Orthodox religion) and it is school holidays in Ukraine. If you really want to enjoy your riding without crowd and lines to the ski lifts then I do not recommend going during winter holidays period. Plus prices for accommodation are double or even triple than normally. We tend to visit at the end of February - beginning of March when it is more peaceful there. We call it “Velvet Season”.
How to get there
Ivano-Frankivsk Rynok Square. Photo credit: Anna Ivanova
If you are traveling from the capital of Ukraine Kyiv then the best thing would be take a train or flight to Ivano-Frankivsk. Going by train is a cheaper option but also takes more time. You need to decide to save your time or money. We opt for saving money. I suggest to book your train tickets on the official Ukrainian Railways website at least one week prior to get better places at the cabin. From Ivano-Frankivsk you need to take a bus or taxi from the main train station and it will take you approximately 2-2,5 hours to reach Bukovel resort.
But if you are not in rush, I suggest you spend some time in the city (or at least on the way back), leave your luggage in the storage room at the train station and have a walk through the cute streets of Ivano-Frankivsk, have a nice meal in some of the cozy cafes or restaurants at the city center. We usually have our lunch at Fabbrica restaurant close to the Rynok Square. “Italian specialties – Ukrainian ingredients” and they have nice choices of vegetarian dishes as well.
Bukovel. Photo credit: Anna Ivanova
“Bukovel” is the name of the resort but the name of the town where it is located called Polyanitsa. Don’t get lost when you will be booking your accommodation, it is the same place. Bukovel Resort grown drastically for the past few years, there are a lot of modern hotels and guesthouses. The most popular hotels with perfect location are Radisson Blu and Hotel Bukovel which are connected right to the ski slopes. However, it is also pretty expensive to stay there.
If you are not traveling by car, I still suggest booking your accommodation as much closer to the center as possible, it will save you a lot of time every day and walk to the ski lifts in your ski shoes or snowboard boots won’t be so annoying. Distance from the center 500- 900 meters is manageable. You can find a huge selection on any booking service but we always prefer to book at least 2-1 week prior and secure the best spot. Accommodation prices way cheaper at the end of February and beginning of March.
Ski-pass and ski equipment
Ski Pass. Photo credit: Anna Ivanova
Most of the hotels provide ski equipment (most of them don’t have snowboards but skis) for the additional payment. But if you are not satisfied with the quality you can always explore the range at ski rentals and they are many in Bukovel. I suggest checking ski rentals first at the place called "Parking 1". And don’t forget to protect your knees and if possible rent or buy a protection. You can also buy your ski-passes there at the counter or buy it online if you are going for at least 3 days.
Food and Things to do
Voda Club. Photo Credit: Bukovel.com
As I mentioned before there are a lot of other fun activities in Bukovel apart from skiing. You can try skating, carting or even roller coaster zipline, you can do snow tubing, visit winter fair, and much more. But the best thing you can do is to dedicate one day for relaxation and visit Voda Club SPA and warm up in the outdoor pool and jacuzzi. They also have a fancy Italian restaurant there but why would you look for Italian food when there are so many choices of local delicious Ukrainian cuisine.
Most of hotels serve breakfasts which are included in the room price, you can have a nice lunch at any kolyba (this is how restaurants called in the Carpathians region and it looks like wooden house with the fireplace inside) but for the dinner at least once you should visit Mushroom House restaurant. Best thing would be to call in the morning and book your table for the dinner because this restaurant is always fully booked in the evenings.
Yoga For Snowboarders
I must say that snowboarding was always challenging for me, maybe because I was a skier in my younger age and switched to snowboarding only in 2014. My first attempts were horrible, I couldn't stop falling again and again. I got bruises all over my legs. My body didn’t want to listen to me and I couldn’t handle the balance.
I was even crying, this is how desperate I was. But I never gave up. Maybe because I'm stubborn person or because my husband is an experienced snowboarder and I wanted to prove myself in front of him. Since then I was looking for different tactics to improve my skills.
Two years ago I came back to yoga practice and I can say that I could connect positive improvements between my two passions. As my yoga teacher said: “...it will be ideal to combine regular yoga and snowboarding, since yoga prepares the body during the year for the loads that a person receives while snowboarding, creates a sense of balance and strengthens the whole body”.
Before going on my winter vacation to Bukovel this year I have consulted with her for the yoga asanas that will be the best to use and feasible for any level. She said that the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) sequence in the morning is already the best for this purpose and “we don’t need to reinvent the wheel”.
I would usually do sequence this way:
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Ardha Uttanasana (Half Standing Forward Bend)
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) (stay at least 5 deep breaths)
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
I would repeat this sequence at least 5-7 times. Each asana of this sequence warms, strengthens, and aligns the entire body, boosts energy, which is perfect start of your day especially if you are going on snowboarding or skiing for entire day.
I also must say that yoga helped me to understand and feel my body, yoga taught me how to relax but stay in tone at the same time which is a very crucial part when you learn snowboarding. It is very easy for me now to keep the balance while snowboarding. Plus regular practice and stretching in asanas has reduced muscle pain and kept me energized during the day.
Want to experience this feeling of yoga serenity in a winter landscape for yourself? Book a stay in a yoga and ski resort and get to live this first hand.