While many European resorts suffer from overcrowding, limited fresh snow and unskiable pine forests, Montenegro’s mountains offer deep, light powder, virtually no people and acres of perfectly spaced beech trees.
Europe’s best-kept ski secret lies in the Bjelasica mountains at Jezerine, about 15 minutes by car outside the town of Kolašin, itself an hour and a half’s drive up the stunning Morača Canyon from the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica. Although the range’s highest peak, Crna Glava (Black Head), is only 7,018 ft. (2,139 m), the amount of snowfall and variety of terrain in Jezerine will surprise you. While relatively small compared to many European resorts — there are only five lifts, although a high-speed quad is being built — Jezerine’s tree-skiing, powder and lack of crowds make it truly exceptional. In March, under blue skies with flurries of light, cold snow, it was possible to ski untracked powder all day, on groomed trails and through the trees, with fewer than 10 skiers on the mountain. At only $30 for a ski-lift ticket, with a good restaurant and brand-new rental and locker facilities on-site, this may be the greatest ski bargain in Europe.
While the nightlife does not rival Val D’Isère’s, you can swap Budweiser and burgers (or red wine and raclette) for pear schnapps and kačamak, a delicious fondue-like dish made from boiled potatoes and melted cheese, eaten in traditional straw-roofed restaurants.
If you prefer steeper terrain, then the town of Žabljak, in the mountainous Durmitor region, is well worth a visit. Although there are only four lifts, these access some dramatic chutes and superb powder fields with virtually no competition for your fresh tracks. It’s there that the beautiful Tara River runs through Europe’s longest canyon, and there are 20 peaks over 6,500 ft. (2,000 m), overlooking 18 gorgeous lakes, so it is not surprising that discussions are under way to set up a heli-skiing operation.