As 2014 comes to a close, you’re hopefully with the people you love, doing something you love, in a place you love—or at least a place you’ve dreamed of loving all year. For some, this means sipping a fruity cocktail on a Caribbean beach. Others prefer a tasting menu at a critically acclaimed Nordic restaurant. While many will join the crowd to be part of the Times Square ball drop in New York City. What’s your choice this year?
You decide to go skiing. It’s something you definitely love, but don’t do nearly enough. Instead of returning to your favorite mountain though, you’re heading to one of Europe’s hottest ski destinations: Slovakia.
After a train ride from Bratislava, you arrive in the Low Tatras of Central Slovakia. The mountains are gorgeous. There are high peaks, untouched forests, and blankets of snow as far as the eye can see. Chopok, one of the range’s highest peaks, is considered one of the country’s best ski mountains. Underground, there’s an extensive network of caves. The Demänovská Cave of Liberty is the most-visited cave in Slovakia, while the Demänovská Ice Cave is one of the oldest-known caves on the continent.
You spend the next few days skiing at Jasná, the park that covers much of Chopok. You start on the beginner slopes to get used to your new rental skies, but soon move up to the intermediate trails and the tree runs. From the top of the mountain, you take in the amazing views of the High Tatras, Liptov, and the Hron valley. You go ice staking and snowshoeing. Then you relax at a resort at the base of the mountain.
Hotel Grand is a ski-in/ski-out lodge with views of Chopok, the forest, and an icy brook. The lobby bar smells like coffee in the morning and pancakes at lunchtime. Your room has natural colors, clean lines, and a window overlooking the slopes. The spa has plenty of ways for you to loosen your tense muscles: a salt-steam Finnish sauna, a tropical rain shower, Breuss massages, a relaxation pool, an even an outdoor whirlpool. While the terrace near the brook is a fun place to hang out after skiing—the grill is open on sunny days.
As the end of the year draws near, you eat carrot cream soup with ginger and topinambur stew at the Grand Jasná restaurant. You sip a hot apple rum drink by the fireplace in the bar. You stare at the starry sky from the whirlpool. And you decide to take one more run, since the slopes are lit for night skiing. The best way to end the year is doing something you love.