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Snowboarding in Macedonia through the eyes of our catski freeride operation lead guide

By September 24, 2020 October 7th, 2020 No Comments
Shar Mountain

The winter beauties of Shar Mountain

The magic of winter

I don’t know why and I don’t know how but somehow I always felt different than usual when the winter breeze shivered through my face. The calmness and admiration while looking at the distant mountains covered with huge amounts of snow is something that always makes me enjoy the moment of just being there worshiping the nature. Not trying to understand why I always feel like that only when I’m out there in the deep nature surrounded by all those peaks and playful freeride terrain for snowboarding in Macedonia.

Early stages

From a very young age my mother used to take me and my brother for at least two weeks in the mountains for a winter holiday. Usually it was in the town of Krusevo. It is the highest altitude city in Macedonia. It offers its own private chair lift with few ski pistes which are excellent for beginner skiers. My first contact with a snowboard was when I was 12 years old. A rented Nidecker snowboard from the local rentals. I remember all the suffering trying to control the snowboard under my feet, it was constantly falling and when I got home the next day I was not able to move from my bed. Next year I got my first personal snowboard from my grandmother as a Christmas gift and it was again Nidecker. The next day me and my bros together with some of the parents who were also skiing and snowboarding went to the Mavrovo. Here I started to learn the basics of how to control my snowboard and to understand the movement of the body in order to get a nice transition from toes to heels. Mavrovo is a village in the heart of Bistra mountain in the Mavrovo National Park and the ski resort is perfect for a winter holiday. It has traditional restaurants and a real winter cozy atmosphere. The winters are usually cold and with good amounts of snow falls every week.

As me and my friends got older we really got into snowboarding. Usually we were going to the Mavrovo ski center and in Bulgaria, Bansko or Borovets. At a young age we were all more into freestyle snowboarding. I remember ordering all those snowboarding magazines like Pleasure from abroad and when someone got a video or movie about snowboarding it was going on the TV almost every night followed by conversation of how to do the tricks. We were constantly building kickers usually in the deep powder so we can have a less painful landing for practicing almost everything we were seeing in the magazines or videos. Some of my friends were in the first Macedonian snowboard club Polar where they were also doing snowboard freestyle competitions but I was never into the competition . For me snowboarding was always about fun and having a good time on the snow in the mountains.

 

Discovering new mountains

Until we got our own driving license we were mostly going for snowboarding in Macedonia, to Mavrovo since there was organized transport from one local travel agency from Skopje. For us it was very easy to reach the ski center. One of my friends got his driving license, while we were still on college and had more free time in the winter we started exploring other mountains. As we grew older we were starting to get more into freeride snowboarding in Macedonia. Since Popova Shapka was only one hour drive from Skopje we started spending more time there. Unlike Mavrovo which is on Bistra mountain with altitude not more than 2100m, Popova Sapka ski center is based in the middle of Shar Mountain which is the largest mountain range in this part of the Balkan peninsula. Spreading through Macedonia ,Albania and Kosovo, the scale of the mountain range is 100km long north to south and around 30km east to west. With more than 25 peaks above 2.500m altitude it became our sanctuary for winter freeriding and later for summer outdoor activities. Popova Shapka has the longest and highest chairlift in Macedonia with the top section ending at 2.350m. Once you are there beneath the peak of Ceripasina all the way down to 1.600 meters you have amazing freeride terrain with different exposure and facing. Usually there is 3-4m of snowfall per season and the powder days on the north side of the mountain are quite often. The freeride ski community in Macedonia started to develop quite late and we were some kind of pioneers in this outdoor activity. After exploring the terrains which were easily accessible with the lift we started to go outside the ski resort area in order to snowboard on the untouched terrains out there in the backcountry. Starting to understand the risk we got more into getting safety equipment and we started to make training in order how to use the equipment we were purchasing. Going deeper and deeper into the backcountry we started to understand that there is a really good opportunity for catski freeriding in these mountains. There are a lot of north facing slopes and the quality of the snow is really high. First we started booth packing and then we started to buy equipment for ski-touring and splitboarding in order to get to the secret powder stashes easier and much quicker. It’s in the home mountains where I met Meto and the rest of the Sharoutdoors crew and it’s here where we started discussing the opportunities for business and bringing people from all over the world to this part of the Balkans. People from all over the Europe continent started to explore these mountains and they needed local people ‘’ guides ‘’ to show them the safe and good spots for snowcat freeriding. Since we were already scouting and exploring the places we would often take the foreigners for free and show them the spots. What makes these mountains amazing for snowboarding is the good amount of powder and the natural channels where water flows summer times that in winter are like natural half pipes loaded with powder. On the other hand there are really big wide open faces where you can do those big epic powder turns. Not to forget the playful and easy going forest or tree runs, they are one of those places where everyone has absolute fun in those foggy and snow dumping times. Many professional snowboarders and snowboarding companies visit these mountains, and they find them as a true hidden freeride gem in Europe.

 

The rest of the best for snowboarding in Macedonia

Another great spots for Snowboarding in Macedonia. Especially for ski-touring are the mountain Kozuf and the Baba Mountain above the city of Bitola which is the second biggest city in Macedonia. The Kozuf mountain is in the southern part of Macedonia on the border with Greece. It is perfect because the clash between the moisture from the Mediterranean and the north cold air streams results with huge dumps of fresh snow. Macedonia has the northern part of the mountain and at around 1600m altitude. Here you can find the ski centar Kozuf which is excellent for winter sport activities. Baba Mountain with the National Park Pelister is on other hand another hidden gem for freeriding. The powder sessions between the endemic species of Pine wood offers unforgettably interesting freeride snowboarding. The amazing view from the Pelister peak toward Prespa Lake while snowboarding in Macedonia will result with an unforgettable experience.

Catskiing on Shar Mountain

Magic view toward the highest peak, Tito’s peak on Shar Mountain.

After exploring all these mountains we decided to create Sharoutdoors in order to place our products and promote the freeride skiing and snowboarding in Macedonia. Our main goal is to bring as many passionate freeriders to Macedonia in order to experience and enjoy these mountains in a way we do.

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