Monday, 3 October 2022

Croatian Ski Holidays Still Being Booked Despite Inflationary Pressures

October the 3rd, 2022 - Croatian ski holidays are still very much on the radar for many skiers hoping to hit the slopes despite inflationary pressures and rising prices putting a dampener on most other things.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, Croatian ski holidays are at the forefront of the minds of those who ski annually. The skiing season is more or less just around the corner and will now finally not have any coronavirus and demand issues, but a new big challenge has arrived at the doors of European ski resorts, the high cost of energy, which is a significant resource in this segment of tourism.

The result is an average 10 to 20 percent increase in prices for skiing holidays, with certain savings measures that will be applied at many ski resorts across Europe, and those that have invested in sustainable technologies and alternative energy sources in previous years will fare best.

Croatian agencies are already recording a significant increase in bookings for skiing holidays compared to the previous two pandemic-dominated years, and for some, the number of bookings so far has even exceeded those from back in pre-pandemic 2019.

Boris Zgomba from Uniline explained that they have as many as three times more bookings for Croatian ski holidays than they had back during this period in 2019.

"This, of course, doesn't mean that we'll actually manage to achieve three times more traffic, that remains to be seen, but we have noticed that, as was the case with the summer, people are tired of waiting around and procrastinating, and they can't wait to get back to the snow and engage in what they've been creating and enjoying for years now. They're also ready for the fact that there will be higher prices, which have risen even less than, say, the prices of hotel services in Croatia this summer. This desire to return to skiing may have resulted in them booking earlier," says Boris Zgomba.

At the same time, Uniline has an offer at the level of 2019, that is, there are no indications that there are fewer service providers active than before the pandemic, despite challenges with a lack of workers, inflation and continually rising costs.

Dalibor Canaglic from the Palma agency also stated that the interest in Croatian ski holidays is very good, that it is at the level of 2019, with prices higher by an average of 10-20 percent. Families with children mostly opt for the week of January 7-14, when the prices are significantly cheaper than the week before and in February, when all of Croatia's neighbouring countries also have school holidays.

Canaglic noted that ski tickets have become more expensive, and it happens that partners send them ticket price changes due to the increase in energy costs. The price of energy is also a very hot topic in all European ski resorts as it regards everything, from starting ski lifts to producing artificial snow, managing the slopes and heating all of the buildings at sub-zero temperatures, these are all essential items for ski resorts and they all consume enormous amounts of energy.

Therefore, various savings measures are being considered, from limiting snow production, reducing cable car traffic in less busy parts of the day, and limiting the number of gondolas and their working hours. Some have even announced the introduction of only cold water in toilets, lower heating temperatures in closed spaces, and turning off advertising lights and heaters. This will reduce costs, but could also reduce the level of comfort for tourists.

The situation differs somewhat depending on the destination. Although Austrian operators are thinking about appropriate savings measures, their cable cars don't really consume a lot of electricity, and they hardly need gas at all because they have been investing in energy-efficient systems for years. Resorts in Tyrol have revealed to PlanetSki magazine that they will be able to reduce their energy consumption by 10 percent by operating fewer lifts and eliminating night skiing that requires searchlights.

An increase in the price of ski passes is also expected. The example of the ski resort Ski Welt in Tirol is worth noting, as it is the first ski resort whose ski lift has been powered 100 percent by solar energy since back in 2008. While French ski resorts are worried about the rise in electricity prices, there is an example of the Serre Chevalier ski resort in the southern French Alps, which set itself the goal of producing 30 percent of its own energy consumption by 2023 back in 2006. Now that goal has been achieved and it is the first and only ski resort in the world that simultaneously uses three alternative energy sources, hydroelectric power, solar panels and small wind turbines. During the winter and summer season, when the ski resort is open, the generated electricity is consumed immediately, and during the off-season, the surplus is sold back to the national grid.

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Monday, 28 February 2022

Night Skiing on Sljeme is Back With a Special Costumed Edition

February 28th, 2022 - Due to great interest in night skiing on Sljeme, ZET has extended the working hours of the cable car on Tuesdays and Thursdays

Night skiing on Sljeme is back! Last week, the ski resort on Medvednica mountain brought back the popular evening slots on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 PM to 10 PM.

On Tuesday, March 1st, Sljeme will also host a costumed ski night to mark the last day of the carnival season.

A competition for the best costumes will be held, with the ski resort staff tasked with selecting the winners in two categories (children and adults).

The best costumes in both categories will win three days of free skiing on Sljeme, those who rank second will get two day passes, and the third place will be rewarded with a one day pass. The winners will be announced at 9:45 PM at the top exit from the Trosjed triple chairlift.

Two ski runs are open for night skiing: Crveni (Red) slope with a triple lift, and the Bijela Livada (White meadow) slope equipped with a T-bar ski lift.

Tickets for night skiing cost 70 kuna for adults, 40 kuna for children aged 15 or less, and 50 kuna for persons over the age of 65. Visitors are kindly reminded to adhere to all epidemiological measures that are in effect. 

Given the great interest in night skiing on Sljeme, ZET has adjusted the operating schedule of the Sljeme cable car. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the cable car will be running from 9 AM to 9:30 PM. Along with the bus line 140 (Mihaljevac - Sljeme), citizens will now also have the cable car at their disposal, which can take them from Gračanski dol to the top of Sljeme in about 20 minutes.

Even though the slopes are open until 10 PM for night skiing, the last cable car gondola must depart from the upper station on Sljeme no later than 9:30 PM, in accordance with the work permit.

 

Sljeme Ski Lifts and Slopes Facebook

Monday, 24 January 2022

Looking to Hit the Slopes? Vučići Ski Trail, Passion Project of Ogulin’s Skiing Enthusiasts

A wonderful story comes our way from Ogulin, a town in north-western Croatia where a group of skiing enthusiasts run what’s arguably the most welcoming skiing resort in the country

Located in Vučić Selo, only 1.5 kilometres from the centre of Ogulin, the ski trail Vučići and all its facilities are completely free to use, reports Novi list/Danijela Bauk.

‘Resort’ is a bit of a stretch, actually, as the piste is only 450 metres long with a 100-metre sledding slope nearby. Small in size, perhaps, but larger than life, given the enthusiasm of Ogulin Ski Club members who run the show. 

Eleven years ago, some 50 lovers of skiing formed a ski-club in Ogulin and decided to spruce up a slope where locals were known to ski even back in the mid-20th century. Their call to action was an unfortunate event in 2011: a fire that destroyed the Olympic centre Bjelolasica, a skiing resort where many residents of Ogulin had first learned how to ski.

Wanting to ensure the youngest generations in Ogulin have somewhere to learn skiing or simply have fun sledding while Bjelolasica was undergoing renovation works, they reached an agreement with local landowners to turn parts of their land into a ski run at no cost. In return, the ski club members vouched to maintain the grounds all year round.

Bit by bit, what was supposed to be a little local project turned into a well-equipped facility attracting visitors from all over the country. Members of Ogulin Ski Club gradually upgraded the trail with drag lifts and lighting, and borrowed a snow gun from Vrbovsko in Gorski kotar.

These days, the ski club counts 150 members, about half of which are children. Some 60-70 people are active members and spend their free time volunteering at the Vučići ski run, explained head of Ogulin Ski Club Darko Vučić.

‘Whenever we are open and if the weather conditions allow, the slopes can be used from 5 PM to 9 PM on workdays, and from 10 AM to 9 PM on weekends. There are always at least four members on site, we care for safety, supervise drag lifts, and since the pandemic started, we’ve been checking Covid certificates at the entrance. In the pre-Covid era, there was no one at the entrance, because entry is free, we don’t charge and we never will. That’s what we decided at the beginning, that’s how it’ll always be. We wish for people to come to us, to ski and sled, and if they’re satisfied, to leave a donation, whatever one can afford’, said Vučić.

 

They also run a skiing school for children and adults, but can only accept locals at the moment as the weekend crowds don’t leave space for any additional lessons. They certainly don’t lack interest: there are inquiries from Karlovac, Rijeka, Zagreb, Slavonia, Dalmatia… Owing to the Vučići ski trail, Ogulin is turning into a proper winter destination; there’s been an uptick in accommodation bookings in the area on the days when the trail is open, especially on weekends and during school leave.

According to Vučić, they get about twenty days of skiing a year given the current conditions. ‘We’re not that high, we’re at an altitude of some 300 metres above sea level, but now that we’ve borrowed a snow gun from Vrbovsko, we’re hoping for the season to last a bit longer’, he said, adding that the skiing season in Vučići would likely extend to a full two months if they had another snow gun to maintain the trail.

Novi list also talked to Marko Polić, a skiing instructor from Ogulin and a member of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service.

‘You know what makes this ski trail so special? There’s no anger, no aggravation, no stress. When you go to Sljeme or Platak and pay for the ticket, you’re annoyed by every bump on the trail, by the queue for the lift… Those who come here don’t stress over anything, they’re relaxed, they don’t mind the crowd, the mud, or an occasional bump on the trail. Energy is what counts, and there are only positive vibes here. Yes, we’re donation-based, but if you can’t spare [a donation], it’s okay. We’ll treat you to a cup of tea or mulled wine, treat the kids to some biscuits; our faces are smiling and that’s what people are drawn to’, said Polić.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Ski Season on Sljeme Ski Resort Starts January 19, 2021

January 17, 2021 – To the delight of many Zagreb citizens, but also people from other parts of Croatia, the ski season on Sljeme ski resort begins on Tuesday, January 19, 2021.

As reported from Sljeme, recreational skiing will be possible every day from 9 am to 4 pm. The ski season will be organized according to the given epidemiological framework, as follows:

- the maximum number of people allowed on the ski slope is 1,000,

- only daily tickets will be on sale to control and monitor the number of users,

- masks or face covers are obligatory on the ski resort, and it is required to keep the prescribed distance of 1.5 m,

- cable cars and lifts are used according to the instructions of the Ski Resort staff,

- the Sljeme Ski Resort employees will be present at the facility to supervise the implementation of epidemiological measures, and intervention police officers will also be present to implement the rules of conduct at the Sljeme Ski Resort.

More detailed information will be released earlier this week.

Sljeme was closed to the public after the Snow Queen Trophy. Currently, only training of athletes is approved on the Sljeme ski slopes, which have been approved by the Decision of the Civil Protection Headquarters. Since last weekend, it has been allowed to use the bottom of Činovnička meadow for sledding, and many visitors seized that opportunity to enjoy the winter, especially with children.

Two days ago, the situation on Sljeme was clarified for the Jutarnji list by Igor Žiljak, the ski resort manager.

"The slopes are ready. We will use this weekend, during which there will be temperatures below zero, to make additional artificial snow and snow the Red, White, Green, and Blue descent. We've been working hard since October, and we're ready for skiing. But we are waiting for the decision of the Zagreb headquarters. The headquarters in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County allowed Platak and Čelimbaša to ski, we hope that this will happen to us as soon as possible," said Žiljak two days before the news of the opening of Sljeme.

There it is, to the joy of many Zagreb residents but also visitors from other parts of Croatia. From Tuesday, they will be able to enjoy the winter on Sljeme.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Platak Ski Resort With Sea View Opened for Skiers and Sledders

January 6, 2021 – The ski season is finally open. Platak ski resort, a popular excursion and winter site on the Snježnik mountain slopes, has opened its ski and sledding tracks.

This popular ski resort located in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County is only 30 minutes away from Rijeka and about two hours from Zagreb. Also, it is only about ten kilometers away from the sea, so in the winter months, you have the opportunity to ski and sled on Platak on the same day, and then go down to the sea for lunch and a walk.

Platak is the only Croatian ski resort with a sea view, which allows visitors to enjoy two Croatian beauties at the same time – the mountains and the sea.

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Platak on December 14, 2020. The sea can be seen in the background. / Source: Platak Facebook

As National Croatian Tourist Board reports, thanks to the new snowmaking system that the Platak Regional Sports and Recreation Center received last season, the Platak ski resort opened its doors on Saturday, January 2, 2021. Skiers can ski from 9 am to 4 pm on ski slopes Radeševo 1, Turistička staza (tourist track), and on a previously open track along the conveyor belt at the foot of Radeševo. Sledders can sled on one of several sledding tracks.

The ski season is finally open, and skiing and sledding enthusiasts have already occupied Platak. According to reports from the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, a total of 522 tickets were sold yesterday by noon, and a large number of visitors came to enjoy sledding and walking. Also, about 40 centimeters of snow fell last night, so visitors enjoy a real snow idyll.

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Platak ski resort / Source: Platak Facebook

You can also ride ski bikes (snow bikes) and snowmobiles on Platak's trails and forests. In order to ensure skiing for up to 50-60 days a year, a new snowmaking system worth HRK 23 million has been introduced. It includes 14 snow cannons, a new accumulation lake with 50,000 cubic meters of water, an engine room, and cooling towers.

In its unique wooded environment, the Platak Regional Sports and Recreation Center offers a handful of other facilities that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Among those are hiking trails, promenades, bike routes, unexplored paths, barbecues for rent, sports fields such as disc golf courses, bowling alleys, football fields, basketball, beach volleyball, and badminton.

There are also nine bike trails, a bike park with two trails (downhill and flowhill), and the possibility of a panoramic cable car ride.

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Friday, 18 December 2020

Snow Queen Trophy Ski Race to be Held on Schedule but Without Spectators

ZAGREB, Dec 18, 2020 - The FIS international ski federation and National Civil Protection Authority have officially approved the 2021 Snow Queen Trophy, FIS World Cup Ski race on Mount Sljeme in compliance with the most stringent epidemiological measures and without any spectators, FIS announced on Friday.

In accordance with current anti-COVID measures in Croatia, the Sljeme race will be held  on 3 and 6 January without spectators and guests and according to FIS rules for this season there will not be any public draw of starting numbers that was traditionally held in Zagreb's main square.

This will be the first time that the race will be held without audience and in an effort to limit contact between competitors, additional protective mechanisms have been introduced with "balloons" separating teams, the media, organisation teams without mutual mixing between balloons.

All participants have to produce a negative COVID-19 test no older than 72 hours and monitor their health on a daily basis in their FIS COVID-19 passports.

All the competitors and their teams arriving in Zagreb will be previously tested and accommodated in The Westin Zagreb which will closed to other visitors. Hotel staff will also be tested while reporters will be accommodated in another hotel.

This is the 15th edition of the Women's Slalom race with the winner being proclaimed as the Snow Queen. The Women's Slalom race is scheduled for Sunday 3 January 2021 with the 1st run starting at 12.30 pm and the 2nd run starting at 4 pm.

The 12th Men's Slalom on Sljeme will start at 12.15 on Wednesday 6 January and the second run will start at 3.30 pm.

Monday, 30 November 2020

As EU Closes Doors, BiH Skiing Season Opens, Hopes for Croatian Skiers

November the 30th, 2020 - The European Union might be closing down in the face of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, but neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, which isn't a member of the bloc, is hoping for Croatian skiers as their skiing season kicks off.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the ski season opened on Jahorina near Sarajevo on Sunday after the use of the artificial snow system enabled the "Poljice" trail to fall into function, which should be available to skiers for both day and night skiing. Ohher trails will open gradually, depending on the level of snowfall in the area.

The management of the Jahorina Olympic Centre hopes that this year it will manage to attract a large number of winter sport lovers, particularly Croatian skiers, especially after the announcement that popular ski resorts across Europe will remain closed at least until January the 10th, 2021, according to SibenikIN.

"Ski resorts in France have announced that they will be closed. It's the first time that people who have skied so far in France, Italy and Austria are booking their accommodation in Jahorina and that isn't a small number of people. According to the information we have now, booking is better this year than it was last year,'' Sanja Ceremidzic, a spokeswoman for OC Jahorina told Hina.

The company believes that they will be helped to fill all their capacities by offering a "coronavirus guarantee" for purchased tickets for their ski resorts. This means that in case Bosnia and Herzegovina closes its borders or a guest becomes infected with SARS-CoV-2, they will be able to cancel the use of their purchased ski pass and transfer it to the 2021/22 season or get a refund of 80 percent of the amount paid instead.

Otherwise, a daily ski pass on Jahorina for adults in the height of the season is around 200 kuna and 900 kuna for the week.

Authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have decided not to impose additional restrictive measures to control the spread of the pandemic, given that the existing ones are yielding results, so they are counting on popular ski destinations in the country to attract more visitors from neighbouring countries, with Croatian skiers high on the list.

The prices of ski passes on Vlasic in central Bosnia are even lower, and this area was previously an attractive destination for many Croatian skiers and other tourists, especially those from Dalmatia.

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Monday, 9 November 2020

Slovenian Ski Resorts Expect Croatian Tourists Despite Pandemic

ZAGREB, November 9, 2020 - Slovenian ski resorts are preparing for a full season in conditions of the coronavirus pandemic, counting on foreign tourists, including those from Croatia, in the wake of announcements that the epidemiological situation will calm down within a month.

Last week, the association of operators of ski resort transport devices sent epidemiologists a proposal on how to ensure safety for domestic and foreign skiers on ski slopes and in their facilities at a somewhat smaller capacity than in normal seasons.

Besides the standard recommendations, they suggest increasing the speed of ski lifts and cable cars in order to avoid crowds and lines which would increase the risk of infection. They also plan to ensure a sufficient distance between visitors inside their facilities and on terraces.

The gondola lift at Kranjska Gora can transport 2,400 persons to the top of the ski slopes in one hour at 3.4 metres per second, and if the number of passengers allowed per gondola is halved and the speed increased to 5 m/s, we would still be profitable, Blaz Veber of the Kranjska Gora ski resort has told Slovenian Television.

He is counting on Croatian tourists as usual. "We hope that, by adhering to all the recommendations, our winter season can start in mid-December. We are counting firstly on our domestic guests and skiers from Croatia."

Due to the situation in the UK, this year Kranjska Gora cannot count on UK tourists, who have been among the more numerous visitors, or on skiers from many European countries which have many coronavirus cases and are therefore warning against risky travel abroad.

However, Slovenian ski resorts are confident the strict lockdown in Slovenia will be lifted in about a month and that they will be open, although barely at a profit and with far fewer tourists, notably from abroad.

"Until now, Croats have been the third most numerous visitors during the winter season and thanks to them we have always been full from Christmas to January 10. If the health situation develops as we expect, I believe they will remain faithful, like Slovenians were faithful to Croatian destinations on the Adriatic this summer," Veber said.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Meet HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

August 19, 2020 – All weather, all terrain, all year round – meet HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service, amazing volunteers who will never let you down

They're never far from the news. For the last two weeks, members of HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service have yet again been on the TV news every night. They're leading the search for a summertime visitor, a Polish hiker missing on Biokovo mountain.

But, watch again this winter and, for sure, they'll be in the headlines once more. Whether, they're scaling mountain ranges in the unbearable heat of high summer, searching underwater caves, flooded rivers or the sea, breaking through wild forest or trudging through metres of snow, they undertake their search and rescue missions over every terrain, in every weather condition, in every month of the year, all across Croatia. And, they all volunteers.

Marc Rowlands meets the head of service for HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service and three of its volunteers to find out who they are and what makes them do what they do.

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Josip Granić, head of service for HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

My name is Josip Granić. I'm the Head Of Service for HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service. We've had an extremely busy couple of weeks. Being head of service for an organisation like this under such circumstances means you're always on the phone; co-ordinating, talking to outside organisations, members of the press. Communication. It's a 24/7 job, 365 days a year. If people need help, you can't take a holiday. Not at this level of the organisation.

We have around 1000 members. There are 11 paid positions in the main organisation and 25 people we pay to run the administration in each of the teams or stations we have. All of the members who perform the search and rescue are volunteers. We have pilots, surgeons, nurses, students, professors, every part of society.

I'm originally from Kaštela, but my home station is in Karlovac. I've been there for 15 years. I've been Head Of Service for two. Since I assumed the position, I've spent most of my time in the car. I travel all over Croatia.

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HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service missions can be hampered by extreme weather conditions © HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

To get a certified position as a mountain rescuer in Croatia you all do the same training. It doesn't matter if you come from Slavonia, Dalmatia or Istria, you must have the knowledge and ability to deal with circumstances in any terrain; caves, pits, mountains, on snow, underwater.

Depending on where your station is, the type of call-outs you get could be very different. In Slavonia, 90% are for missing persons - searching forests, rivers, and in floods. We've had a big search on Biokovo mountain for the past 16 days. The stations from Split, Makarska, and Dubrovnik were at first involved, then teams from all over Croatia. It's not the same as Slavonia. The terrain is very different, so you have to be good at a particular set of skills. But, the largest percentage of call-outs is still missing persons. It's 70% of our work nationwide. The other 30% are rescues.

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HGSS volunteers are educated to use a wide range of technical equipment. They are trained to operate in all the different kinds of terrain found across Croatia © HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

There are usually 800 – 1000 missions a year across the country. We get roughly the same amount of calls in colder months as in warmer months. Only, winter months can be busier. The terrain is more difficult. There are some villages in Croatia – usually where the front line of the fighting was, around Karlovac, Kordun, Lika – and when it snows, it can be almost impossible to reach those places. But, some older people still live there. It can take days to reach them on snowmobiles, then skis, to deliver food or medecine. The other busiest places in winter are the ski resorts - Platak, behind Rijeka, and in Zagreb, on Sljeme. There are teams stationed in those places throughout the snow season.

What's the greatest danger of the job? Almost everything. Nothing in this job is easy. The greatest dangers we face are the same facing those that we rescue - underestimating the environment, nature, the conditions. That's where our training comes in.

In mountain rescue, we separate dangers into subjective, objective and technical. Subjective is the stuff you're guilty of - lack of preparedness, knowledge or equipment. Objective dangers are the ones you can't control, like sudden changes in weather, or avalanche. If you're sensible and informed, there should be no objective danger.

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HGSS on a mission, clinging to a steep incline in Paklenica © HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service "People need to be aware at all times on the mountains. By the time most people think they may be in trouble, they've usually been in trouble for five or ten minutes already" Josip Granić.

80 – 85% of the people we rescue are Croatian. Only 15 – 20% are guests. People from Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, (Austria and Slovenia too) tend to enjoy nature more. They like hiking. That's the reason there are typically more rescues for those nationalities than there are for British, Belgian, French, Italian, America, Canadian or Australian guests. I don't remember the specific year, but sometime between 15 and 20 years ago we had a season where 5 or 6 Czech nationals were being searched for or, sadly, turned up dead. The media covered it and ever since there's been this myth that all the people who get into difficulty are Czech.

The question about expensive helicopter rides - why don't you charge the people you rescue - has been here forever. It's like this - if you're a tourist and you have a car accident in Croatia, the fire service, police and an ambulance will come. You won't get charged. We are a tourist country. According to international agreements, we are obliged to make everything safe for residents and guests alike. We are here, just like the fire service and police, to do our part. The Croatian air force is responsible for the helicopter rides and I have to give credit to them - they are crazy good pilots. Amazing. Even if we did charge everyone we saved - and most of the 85% of Croatians we save would struggle to pay - it still wouldn't be anywhere near the money required to run this service.

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The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service used specially trained dogs on their searches © HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

In 2007, I got a new search dog. It came from the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue service in North Wales. We cooperate a lot. We were sent out on a job to look for a three-year-old male child who had gone missing near Požega at the beginning of January, wintertime. His grandma was watching him and they were in a house on the edge of the woods. Early in the morning, he was playing with a dog. It suddenly ran into the forest and the boy chased after him. The grandmother didn't see it happen. I found him using my new dog, just after 8 o'clock the next morning. He'd been alone in the freezing forest for almost 20 hours.

Time is really moving fast on a job like that, because it's a kid and because it's so cold. Survival rates in such conditions are not good after 24 hours. When I found him, saw that he was alive, those big eyes looking up at me, it's a crazy feeling. You can't describe it. You can't compare it. A lot of positive emotions.

Every mission is special. We meet them all with the same level of determination and professionalism. But, it's the ones where you know you've really saved someone that stand out in the memory. Not the broken leg, where you transported someone – sure, that's an excellent job. But, when you know you've saved someone's life, that they definitely wouldn't be here now if it weren't for you, that's what makes it all worthwhile.

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Jana Mijailović, volunteer for HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

My name is Jana Mijailović, I'm 48 years old and I'm from Zadar. I finished school to be a teacher, but I never did it. My husband and I run a company that does plastic and aluminium windows for houses.

I started to go into the mountains when I was at high school. I never had the ambition to be part of mountain rescue services – people just noticed me on the mountains. They said I'd be good at it and asked me to join. I met my husband on the mountains. We are both volunteers for HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service. I've been doing it for 16 years.

I was a member of the first and second all-female Croatian expeditions to the Himalayas. We first climbed Cho Oyu in 2007, then Mount Everest in 2009. Croatia is the only country in the world that has only one successful male climber of Mount Everest, but four successful female climbers. I sometimes work as a guide too. I guess you could say I'm all about the mountains.

Being a climber, an Alpinist, I know that if I get into trouble, it's only my HGSS colleagues who can help. I feel this instinctively. I cannot be in the house, safe and warm, knowing that maybe someone needs help that only I can provide.

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HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service members entering Paklenica under foreboding skies © HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

I've really been on so many expeditions with HGSS. My station are on duty in the season at National Park Paklenica and I'm now the coordinator. Climbers from all around the world come and so there are many interventions. None of them are easy because the terrain is incredibly difficult. You really have to be in shape and know the techniques inside out.

I'm very proud of my statistics. Everyone I've rescued, who was alive when I reached them, is still living today. Unfortunately, not everyone we reach is alive when we arrive.

I remember one time, my husband and I were having dinner. We were arguing about the techniques and knots for moving a stretcher down a vertical climb. The training is so intense, you really have to know it well, and I guess that's just the kind of people that we are, that we would be arguing about it in our free time. Ha! He told me, "Why do you care? You'll never have to do that," because usually, it's really strong guys who do that specific job. If you're on a 400-metre-high section of rock, it really takes a lot of muscle.

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Ascending from a valley floor or descending from a mountain peak with a stretcher is a technically difficult operation, often hindered by darkness and adverse weather conditions. It requires a lot of training and a lot of muscle © HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

In the evening, just two days later, we were called out to rescue an Italian guy who broke his leg on Anića Kuk. It's a really mighty part of the stone. And the leader of the expedition asked me to go on the stretcher. They pull you down on the ropes and you have to push very hard to keep the stretcher, the person you're carrying and yourself away from the rock, while balancing the weight of all three. It was dark, raining and with lots of Bura, the incredibly strong wind that sometimes hits us. That's probably my most memorable rescue.

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Petar Prpić, firefighter and volunteer for HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

My name is Petar Prpić, I'm 25 years old and I'm from Hrvatska Kostajnica, just on the Croatian-Bosnian border. My station is in Novska. In my full-time job I'm a professional firefighter. I guess I have two dangerous jobs. Well, one job and one hobby.

I've always been interested in the outdoors – mountaineering, hiking, canoeing. But, that's not why I joined HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service. I just wanted to help people. I don't know, I guess it's just something in me.

We have a lot of rivers in our area. During the times of flood, we get a lot of call-outs. Our part of the country has a high percentage of elderly people in the population. A lot of them live in small villages, on the edge of the forest. We get a lot of call-outs for searches. Especially in the autumn when people go out looking for chestnuts or mushrooms. But, like all the stations in Croatia, we are here year-round if there are any actions in other parts of the country that need us.

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In some areas, HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service are frequently called out in response to flooding. This picture shows HGSS members on operation during the 2014 floods. In that year, flooding across the whole region was so bad that HGSS members operated not only in Croatia, but also donated their services to neighbouring Bosnia and Serbia © HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

I was just on the search in Biokovo. The head of service called me and asked me to go. I first had to get some free days from my job. I called my boss, Zvonimir Ljubičić, chief of the fire department. He's great, very understanding, and he gave me permission. Two years ago I was called to Rab. Very hard operation, very difficult terrain.

Late last summer, we were called out to look for an older man near Glina. It was around 11 o'clock in the evening. He'd gone to look for mushrooms in the afternoon and never came back. Police were there and they sent for us.

The man had a cell phone on him, but there was no signal. There was no location given off the phone. We were a team of four, split into two teams. We went up into the woods above Glina and concentrated our search on areas where we could see there was no telephone signal on our phones. We were yelling in the dark. After an hour of search, someone answered. He'd been missing since 2pm. We found him at 2am. He was just lying there, uninjured but unwell, unable to move.

The reason it sticks in my mind is that the next day, in the morning, his daughter called me. She was so thankful, so emotional. For sure we saved his life. None of the other emergency services who were present could find him. It was down to us. We finished the operation at about 6am and then all four of us had to go immediately to our regular jobs.

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Mario Franolić, physician, ex-commando and volunteer for HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

My name is Mario Franolić and I'm 60 years old. I'm the chief of the mountain rescue service in Istria. I travel throughout Croatia because I'm also an instructor for the medical commission of HGSS. I was born on island Krk. I'm based in Pula although I work in Rijeka. I travel a lot between the two. I've been with HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service for 18 years.

In my day job, I'm a physician. I am a senior mentor at the Institute for Underwater and Hyperbaric Medecine in the Clinical Hospital Rijeka. I'm an expert in my field of emergency medecine. I've been doing it for almost 30 years.

When I was young, I trained to be a physician in Belgrade. It was then the best medical faculty in Yugoslavia. At the same time, I also started spelunking (cave exploration). I've been doing it since 1978. Later, I was a physician in the military underwater commando unit. I lived in Austria for five years, but when I came to Pula, they were just starting the HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service station here. They asked me for help because they didn't have any medical professional on the team. I accepted. It would be a waste not to use all these skills I have.

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Specialist teams from HGSS are trained in underwater rescue from caves. Such caves exist all over Croatia in the karst rock, and also on some islands © HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

Sometimes, our status as volunteers can give us problems. Although we have official duties, we are more like an NGO than something like the police. There can be legal implications. I remember one situation, very acute because a paraglider fell from the sky. None of his colleagues saw him fall. Paragliders go into the air together, but then they each branch off to do their own thing.

We had no idea about the location. We started from the last point of sighting, knowing that it could be very far from the place where he actually fell. But, we had to start somewhere. We had one mobile phone signal direction. But, you need three in order to locate someone. We only had a line on the map.

In the past, HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service sometimes had difficulties because the telephone companies wouldn't give us the information we needed in order to triangulate the position of a missing person. They would only give it to the police. But, it's a race against time. We searched for this man all day and all night. In the morning, some Croatian paragliders made private contact with a guy from the phone company. They begged him to release the information we needed. Although he could lose his job, giving such information to private citizens, he did it.

We found the man about 150 metres from where we were. Sadly, he was already dead. It was very small comfort to see that he had died instantly, on impact. It's unbearable when you reach someone you could have saved if only you had got there quicker, especially in an instance such as this, where we were hindered by a lack of information that was available. I think it moves more quickly now, but still we have to go through the police.

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© HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

One of the most emotional operations I went on was around five years ago, the rescue of a young girl - maybe two and a half to three years old – who got lost in the woods in a small place in central Istria. She chased into the forest after some dogs around 10 or 11 in the morning. The family saw immediately that she had disappeared and started to search. About two hours later, we were called out. It was impossible for the family to find her.

About 300 people came – my station, the Rijeka station, hunters, firemen, police and volunteers. In such an operation, the police are the lead service. But, 99% of the time they leave the organisation of the search to HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service. We are the only organisation who is very well educated in organising searches. When other people do searches, they use intuition. But, people all have different intuition. It can be chaotic. We are highly trained for this. There are procedures, recognised internationally, that we follow. We found her early in the morning, at around 7 o'clock. The dogs were lying on each side of her, giving her warmth.

All photos courtesy volunteers and HGSS The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

Friday, 30 November 2018

Ski Race On A Dalmatian Island Takes A Step Towards Tradition

November 30, 2018 — How’d you like to strap on a pair of skis and careen past old houses on a Dalmatian island? Then cap off the night with a stiff drink? Iž will once again host its “Iška Kraljica”, the only ski race on a Dalmatian island, on Dec. 22.

The goofy idea of hosting a ski event on a damn-near abandoned, and balmy island off the coast of Zadar was met with its fair share skeptics last year.

The first-ever Iška Kraljica’s popularity exceeded anyone’s expectations, especially the organizers who came up with the idea as a goofy joke. The rest of the world took it seriously.

This year’s version is already livening up a the island, which spends most of winter in deep hibernation, according to Zadarski List.

[Full disclosure: The author of this piece lives on Iž. He looked out the window and can confirm he saw no human activity. At least nothing resembling this:]

The usual mix of food and beverages will be available, with the addition of a live concert and special guests.

The island’s only hotel, Korinjak, will open its doors as well, the first time in 15 years its been active for the winter.

It’s already fully booked, according to the game of broken telephone common to almost all small Dalmatian islands.

The popularity of last year’s inaugural ski race on a Dalmatian island took many by surprise.

Organizers from the island’s community board gathered sponsorships, Advent houses and the odds and ends to pull off the event, sure. They even got dump trucks from Lika to deliver tons of snow for the event.

Yet they didn’t expect the sizable crowd of over one thousand, with skiers showing up from all around Europe and giggling their way down the Dalmatian version of a bunny slope which cut through one of the less-crowded portions of the village.

The island itself wasn't prepared either; food joints were emptied before midnight and the booze ran dry as well.

In the end, it was the most talked-about event in Zadar’s entire Advent program, and drew the most media attention, according to Ante Galić of the Zadar Tourism Board.

The genesis of “Iška Kraljica” has become a part of local lore; the result of a few bored island residents shooting the breeze and playing off Zagreb’s “Snow Queen” ski race, laying out the dumb idea of hosting their own version. They even swiped the royal monicker (“Iška Kraljica” translate’s to “Iž’s Queen”.)

The “race” formally starts at 7 p.m., although last year the arrival of the snow and day-long build-up proved as eventful as the skiing itself.

There should be enough food and booze to last the night this time.

Keep up for more information on this ski race on a Dalmatian island, and if you'd like more on travel in Croatia, check out our dedicated page.

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