The Slovenia Times

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Kranjska Gora, the oldest ski resort in Slovenia, has indeed been a sacred place for Slovenian ski fans for a couple of decades now. In the 80's, when ski mania was at its peak, as many as 40,000 people would turn up to see Bojan Krizaj or Rok Petrovic win or at least make it onto the podium. This year's slalom and giant slalom races (taking place on 26th & 27th February) will mark the 44th running of the Vitranc Trophy, which has, therefore, a much longer tradition than the World Cup itself. It is actually the World Cup races that have made Kranjska Gora such a famous, if not a prestigious, place. It is therefore no surprise that the authorities took seriously the warning from the FIS (International Ski Federation) that Kranjska Gora should improve its facilities if it is to keep the event. After several delays a new ski lift along the World Cup course was finally built last year. On the other hand, some might argue that recreational skiing in Kranjska Gora does not match the hype whipped up by the World Cup events. Not far away is another highly symbolic place - Planica - with its traditional ski jumping events (18th to 20th March this year), which can attract close to 100,000 people over three days. Shortly after the Second World War, when there was a dearth of world class events, it was actually the event of the year and a matter of national pride. With a railway connection directly into Planica, easy access also played an important role. Over 60 world records have been broken at Planica, including the first jump over 100 metres by the Austrian, Sepp Bradl, in 1934 and the first one over 200 metres by Toni Nieminen of Finland, in 1994. The current record holder is Matti Hautam"ki who set the record (231 metres) in 2004.Besides world class events, the area is full of competitive recreational events, not to mention outdoor activities in general. Sailing is probably the only 'serious' one that you can not do in the Upper Sava Valley. One of the most popular recreational events is a cycling race with a 27-year history from Kranjska Gora to Vrsic. This year in June, runners are also scheduled to follow in the cyclists' tracks. A cross-country ski race, called The Race Across Three Countries (Slovenia, Italy, and Austria) used to be immensely popular but it has been cancelled on the last couple of occasions due, in part, to road construction in Italy and to poor snow conditions. However, the event is far from dead and buried. Cross-country skiing in general is very popular in the area. When snow conditions allow it, around 40 kilometres of cross-country tracks will lead you from Kranjska Gora, past the source of the river Sava and the ski jumps at Planica, deep into the Tamar Valley. Just for the fun of it Hiking and trekking should have actually been mentioned first, as mountains are the main feature of the Upper Sava Valley and hiking has become one of the most popular outdoor activities for both Slovenians and foreign tourists. The area offers everything from easy walks for children and families to highly demanding tours for experienced climbers; and everything in-between, of course, including the hike up Triglav, Slovenia's highest peak. When it comes to climbing, one should not overlook another particularly popular activity in Slovenia - climbing frozen waterfalls, using ice picks! The first major waterfall climbed in Slovenia was Lucifer in Gozd Martuljek, between Jesenice and Kranjska Gora. The level of difficulty varies, of course, but it is worth mentioning the Mlacca gorge near Mojstrana, which is suitable for beginners. For further details and advice on this sort of activity it is best to check out the website. For beginners as well as experienced climbers, a climbing wall has been built near the Spik hotel. It is 15 metres high and features adjustable routes. For easy hiking it is probably best to get hold of a hiker's map of the Upper Sava Valley that shows and describes seventeen mountain trails in the area. It can be obtained from tourist information offices, hotels and petrol stations in and around Kranjska Gora. There is also a map of cycling trips available with over 150 kilometres of cycling paths. Hardcore cyclists will probably try the 232-kilometre trip around the Julian Alps from Kranjska Gora via Bled, Bohinj, Tolmin, Kobarid, Bovec and Vrsic back to Kranjska Gora. The 'cool' ones might prefer the adrenaline park in Kranjska Gora, featuring free-riding over jumps, tables and seesaws, a downhill course and a dirt-jump park. Sledding (tobogganing) has been particularly popular for quite some years now, especially night sledding. For some 10 to 15 euros you get a lamp, a torch and a ride to the top of a course. Currently, there are two of them in Gozd Martuljek and Tromeja, both around 2800 metres in length and illuminated with torches. When the road to Vrsic was still closed to traffic during the winter, it was by far the best and longest sledding course in Slovenia. If you are willing to walk, you can, of course, go sledding for free during the day, not just on the courses mentioned above but also on all the other maintained forest roads. The same agency takes care of many other outdoor activities, such as snowmobiling, ski mountaineering, mountain biking and others. It is difficult to cover in any detail every possible outdoor activity and event, be it in summer or winter, in the Upper Sava Valley. The list includes horse riding, a dog sled competition (in January), skating, indoor and outdoor swimming, tennis and fishing. A new golf course is also being built near Kranjska Gora. So far only three holes, a driving range and a putting green are open, but a further nine holes are planned. Due to the highly sporting character of the Upper Sava Valley, it is no surprise that the area is home to several established Slovenian athletes, including the skiers, Jure Kosir and the retired Alenka Dovzan, who both won Olympic medals during their careers.


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