After winning the “Salad Bowl”, the Serbian Davis Cup team shaved off their hair and became known as the famous "tennis baldheads". Yet, they were not the first ones to come up with this idea. During the 14th Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo in 1984, the Slovenian Tone Vogrinec, representative of the Yugoslav team, lost a bet and with it his hair.
The “executor” was his countryman Jure Franko, winner of the silver medal in the giant slalom (and the only medal won by the Yugoslav team) who, after this feat, shaved off his boss’s hair. The procedure was transmitted live by TV Sarajevo.
Franko and Vogrinec recently reminisced over those events on the Olympic mountain of Jahorina (Bosnia and Herzegovina) where they were staying as guests of Bojan Križaj.
Križaj was once the most successful skier of the former Yugoslavia and Slovenia. Now he often visits Jahorina as a businessman. Once the greatest (albeit unsuccessful) hope of winning the Olympic medal, Križaj believes that Jahorina could regain its former Olympic glory. However, that would involve great investments. The region certainly has a lot of potential.
Winter tourism is growing in all parts of the Western Balkans. Almost all ski centres now have FIS certified ski trails, artificial snow facilities, mountain rescue services, and Nordic and night ski trails. The night life and good food go without saying – that, at least, is guaranteed in the Balkans.
Below offers a short presentation of the best-known skiing resorts in the Balkans.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Skiing became a tradition in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but the available locations and the natural resources have not been properly taken advantage of. The Winter Olympics in 1984 were considered the moment of glory for Sarajevo and for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Games were supposed to kick-start winter tourism but a lot of it was destroyed during the war in 1992 – 1995.
Jahorina and Bjelašnica (both located less than 30 kilometres from Sarajevo) are the two main ski centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina and are still called “Olympic”. It will take a few years for the investments currently being made and those planned for the future to bring these two mountains shoulder to shoulder with other famous ski destinations.
Jahorina, with its altitude of 1908 metres is known as the “snow beauty”. There are 20 kilometres of ski trails, eight ski lifts and chairlifts with a capacity for transporting 7,500 skiers per hour. Two new six-seater chairlifts were built last year and these are expected to improve current capacity by almost 50 percent.
The mountain of Bjelašnica stands next to mount Igman where most of the competitions in Alpine and Nordic skiing as well as ski jumps during the 1984 Olympics took place. The mountain is 2067 metres high but can only claim around 10 kilometres of wide ski trails and six ski lifts.
Montenegro boasts two beautiful mountains – Durmitor and Bjelasica but the infrastructure is not fully up to date with the requirements of modern skiers. Durmitor is covered in snow for around 120 days per year but there are only two chairlifts and two ski lifts whereas on Bjelasica there is only one chairlift and three ski lifts.
The majority of ski centres in Croatia (with a couple of ski trails and chairlifts) are located in the mountainous region of Gorski Kotar which slopes towards the Adriatic Sea. The main centre for winter tourism is located on the mountain of Blelolasica (at an altitude of 1,534 metres), where five chairlifts and six kilometres of ski trails have been built.
Very close to Zagreb lies Sljeme (1,033 metres), the most famous holiday resort for the people of Zagreb which in the winter months becomes a ski trail.