Hitting the ski slopesAt the moment, the number of mountain tourists during the ski period is around 150,000 annually, according to the estimations of Traian Badulescu, press counselor at the National Association of Tourism Agencies (ANAT) in Romania. “There are no officials statistics on how many ski slopes there are in Romania, but if we include any type of slope, it is about 60, all told,” says Badulescu. Of course, the comparison between Romania and a country like Austria is not a flattering one. “In Austria, there are almost 1,000 slopes with modern equipment, but there things are done seriously and properly,” he says. However, Romania's ski infrastructure is so deficient that even a comparison with neighboring country Bulgaria leaves it at a disadvantage. Poiana Brasov has 12 kilometers of slopes, while Bansko resort in Bulgaria has 70 kilometers and Borovets 40 kilometers. “Over the last two years, there have not been any considerable investments in ski resorts. At the moment, we can only talk about projects, some in development, others in the process of being proposed,” says Badulescu. He explains that there is a law known as the Law of the Ski Domain, called Superski in the Carpathians, which is a program for the national development of mountain tourism. A program has been started called the Predeal Azuga Ski Domain, which has been applied a little in Predeal, Azuga and Busteni. “Unfortunately, the lack of continuity of the projects each time the political regime changes, irrespective of its color, is still a problem in Romania,” says Badulescu. The most popular slopes in Romania are also the longest ones, in Sinaia, Poiana Brasov and Predeal. “Unfortunately, these are also the most crowded, since there are not enough slopes in Romania. In Predeal, where we have artificial snow and a new slope called Cocosul, we have dealt with the car influx, but not with the problem of parking. This creates chaos in the area around the ski slope and it will not be solved unless the Predeal City Hall solves it,” says Badulescu. But there are several good but less high-profile slopes, which are better known locally, such as the one at Arieseni, which has snow for half a year. There is also a good slope at Vatra Dornei, but which is not very big.
An alternative to hitting the slopes, or good preparation for your ski holiday, is to take up climbing in Bucharest. There are a few places where you can build up your physical endurance and mental strength. Rock-climbing is said to represent 90 percent mental strength and 10 percent physical strength. “It practically poses permanent challenges and places you in a situation where you always have to find quick solutions and surpass your own limits. This is why I think it is a very suitable activity for people who hold management positions, since it offers them numerous challenges, but of a different type than their job,” says Andreea Copaescu, marketing & PR at Vertical Spirit. Rock-climbing clubs provide training sessions for beginners and also the necessary equipment, at an additional, though not prohibitive, rental cost. Children are charged lower prices. If you do not want to rent the equipment, you have the option of purchasing your own, which would be an economical option if rock-climbing is something you will be doing for years. Instructors have solid background in climbing and it takes about six weeks for a beginner to gain some real experience. Galactic Indoor Climbing Gym was opened in 2006 at the Grand Metal plant. Behind it is the experience and know-how of Cornel Sain, who has been a climber for over 20 years. The climbing area in this hall, which was built to Western standards, covers a surface of 450 sqm. Ecran Club, located in the Grozavesti area, belongs to two sports clubs, Alpin Club Carpatic and Sportin Bucharest. It has two climbing walls, of which one has an area of 190 sqm. Access to this club is mainly by membership. The tallest indoor rock-climbing site in Romania was opened by Vertical Spirit on November 21 close to Obor Station. The hall offers 500 sqm of climbing area. The place meets the height standards required by the International Federation of Sport Climbing for organizing international rock-climbing competitions. It is likely to host stages of the National Rock-climbing Championship as well as the Balkans and even European Championship. This is the second rock-climbing hall from Vertical Spirit, the first being located in the gym of School 19 in Bucharest. “It is a very small room compared to the one we opened on November 21 but it functions at ‘maximum capacity.' The number of clients at this hall, which is much smaller, is 70-100 a month.” Vertical Spirit hopes for at least 120 customers in the first two months after the new hall is opened and, after that, around 200. Clients can gain access to the rock-climbing hall both through membership but also by paying per session. The company offers corporate subscriptions for the rock-climbing hall, with or without an instructor. It also offers packages of teambuilding programs which comprise a series of workshops “at a height” that are established by the beneficiaries for a cost of EUR 60-80 per person. “Generally, our customers are highly educated people on average and above average incomes. Many of them are corporate people or small business owners. At the moment, we also have top managers among our clients,” says Copaescu. However, if you have never tried rock-climbing, there is no need to worry, since the Vertical Spirit new room also admits inexperienced climbers who want to learn the ropes with professional instructors.