High Tatra Mountains - Štrbské Pleso, Slovakia
The Tatra Mountains are in one of the great mountain ranges in Europe and can be accessed from either Poland or Slovakia. I first visited the Tatra Mountains from the northern side while staying in Poland, but more on that trip later. On this trip I visited the southern side in Slovakia at the highest village in the High Tatras, Štrbské Pleso.
I think most would consider visiting this region in the summer, and I’d like to do that someday, but I also got a unique experience running there in the winter. I stayed right on the edge of the Štrbské Pleso ski area at the Penzión Pleso hotel. The ski village itself was nice with a large lake that had a path around it and paths across the ice. It was great fun running across the frozen lake too. The town also had plenty of places to eat. But, the main reason I was there was to run in the mountains.
There were a few really well-defined tracks in the resort that also doubled as ski tracks. That being said, I saw few skiers on these runs. In my two days there I covered about 24 miles (30k) and 6000 feet (1800m) of elevation gain. I was lucky for the excellent weather and hard pack snow that was decent for running. While I didn’t get in 50k of running on this weekend, what made this an ultra destination was:
The cold temperatures, it was so cold my water bottles froze while I was running
The elevation since the village is at 4400 feet (1350 m)
The track was 100% snow and ice
High winds at the upper elevations
All my runs topped out at points where the snow just got too deep to keep going. Most of the tracks were decent for running or a fast hike. However, once you got very far up into the mountains, the number of footprints dwindled and were replaced by ski tracks. There wasn’t too much ice, but was good to have my Solomon Speedcross shoes on that have a very aggressive tread. I had to question myself a few times since I came across hikers in crampons!
I’ll definitely be back to tour this area in the summer months. It really has everything you need for a great ultra weekend with some long tracks accessible right from the village.
I flew into the Kosice Airport via a tight connection in Vienna. However, depending on the time of the year you can find some good flights into the Kosice Airport that make it accessible for just a weekend. I rented a car and drove from the airport to my hotel in a little under 2 hours. The highway was absolutely fantastic, one of the nicest I’ve driven on in any country. You travel through a couple large tunnels that also looked to be new and in great shape. On the final climb into the resort area go slowly as I saw a car that had hit some ice and turned completely over!