good snow coverage, great value, wide slopes at the top of the mountain
food, narrow/crowded slopes at the bottom of the mountain
As my first snowboarding holiday I booked Bansko purely on price as I knew nothing about ski resorts. My g'friend had been to Bulgaria previously with friends to Borovets on a couple of oocasions. She is a good skiier, but was trying snowboarding so we were both at the same level.
1st impressions of the resort were worrying as not a single flake of snow was seen until we got up to the base gondola. We stayed in the Lion Hotel, which was v. nice, comfortable, clean and the staff were freindly (friendly in terms of bulgarian service which was generally nil, which wasnt a bad thing just took a little getting used to).
The main downside to the holiday we felt was the snowboarding tuition we received as part of our package. The instructor 'spoke english' (i.e. yes/no/stop/sit down) but mostly in our lessons she just asked us to watch then copy what she did, not really giving us any pointers or individual advice. I have a feeling this may not be the norm as others in our hotel found that there instructors were much more competent.
We made the mistake on day one of setting off from the base camp to travel down the blue run to the gondola station after our lunch. As beginners this took forever, it was mid afternoon, there was loads of traffic and with much of the slope v. narrow, we found it unnerving at some points. This, and the poor lessons, are what led to my g'friend returning to the skiis the next day.
On the 3rd day we decided to be up the mountain early to get the most out of the day as possible and it turned out to be the best idea. The top was much quieter, and wider, than the lower levels but a bit steeper. I think this was the most enjoyable part of the slopes with a lot more options for the better skiiers (most of which of course I never got to see). I think for more experienced skiiers/boarders there would only be enough slopes to keep them entertained for a few days. We did manage up and down the whole mountain twice on the last day and loved every inch of it. There were queues for most lifts across the week we were there but they were never longer than a few minutes, they were all fast lifts as far as I was aware.
The snow coverage was good across the mountain, not a great deal of it was natural tho with only a couple of snow showers while we were there. However, as the slalom world cup was on the weekend we left I can't be sure this is the norm or whether they were going all out to impress! This caused no inconvenience to us as we definitely weren't going down any black runs, especially not the world championship slope.
Options for food is fairly limited on the slopes, but what there was was nice enough and good value. In town the options were much better, and depending where you went could be v.v.v. cheap! Sadly due to my terrible memory I can't remember the names of most of the bar's/restaurant we went to. All I would say is look around, as many of the main bars are 2/3/4 times more expensive than some of the nicer local bars that we visited. The food for me was all a little bit bland in general except for a lovely little Italian restaurant (of course I don't know the name) which if you came off the slopes is pretty much 5mins straight down the road from the gondola station.
The apres ski was great for me, not many bars directly at the bottom of the slope. Well actually theres one as far as I can remember, but it was big and served BIG beers with a great atmosphere. The only bar I can remember by name is 'Bash Bar' which seemed quite difficult to find especially when you've already had a few beverages (no chance of directions now of course with my memory). This place was lovely and small, big fire, friendly atmosphere and again big measures for good prices. My g'friend felt the night-life was quieter than that of Borovets, as was all closer together when compared with Bansko.
All in all a very enjoyable holiday for me. Great range of easy and slightly more challenging slopes for me. I think my g'friend would appreciated a few more varied runs, but she was staying with me so may have got more out of it if she's gone with more experienced skiiers. Night life probably not the greatest if you're going for big nights out, but it's got enough options to keep me entertained (granted I am a lightweight when it comes to these things). Definitely worth a few days I think, especially if you're a early intermediate.