Success! It is dumping in Poland!
After many cross-border adventures, I arrived in a rain-soaked Zakopane, the gateway to the Polish side of the Tatra Mountains and an ideal base for exploring the region. Kasprowy Wierch is the highest ski area in the country, and according to reports – snowing like crazy. It took about 25 minutes to walk from the town center to the tram, which then zips me up into a foggy introduction to the mountain.
It’s completely socked in up here with a heavy layer of fog. There seems to be one run with one lift and almost no visibility. I can’t explain how surreal it is to spend hours riding blind in a ski area you’ve never seen before. There are no trees up here and nothing to orient with other than a few other riders and the rope line. I am riding in a world of vertigo.
Then there’s a moment when the fog breaks and I finally get to see the mountains.
And then I find a map and…
…realize that there’s a whole frontside to the mountain that’s completely clear.
What follows is a few hours of whooping and panting and riding through about half a foot of fresh snow. There’s nothing too challenging up here, but there is a large bowl on the frontside with plenty of untracked spots as long as you avoid the tiny trees.
The lodge offers up some delicious comfort food, although if you didn’t grow up with a Polish grandmother, you may disagree on that point.
Notes on the Area
Zakopane is a well-developed tourist town so there should be no issues finding lodging. I’ve stayed at both hostels ($10 USD/night) and apartments ($30 USD/night) right near the busy city center. The walk to the tram can take some time, so if you’re in ski boots, grab a cab, mini-bus, or city bus up to the ski hill.
This is a small ski area with older lifts, so you may find yourself getting bored after a day or two — unless it’s been a month since you’ve seen snow up past your boots, in which case, three days may seem sufficient. There’s a bunch of other ski areas around here, but they are at lower altitude with no chance of riding.