Why is Jahorina our preferred Bosnian mountain?

We are very aware that Jahorina is not the only Olympic mountain near Sarajevo. During the 1984 Olympics there were 4 main mountains:
Jahorina: Women’s alpine skiing
Bjelasnica: Men’s alpine skiing
Igman: cross-country skiing, Nordic skiing, ski-jump
Trebevic: Bobsleigh, luge
However, out of these 4, we only offer Jahorina as the main mountain and resort, in combination with Sarajevo city. Why is that?

The 1990s
In a word: facilities. But there is much more to it than that.
Bosnians are, quite rightly, sick of articles that focus on the 90s war, as the country has moved on since then and the younger generations of Sarajevo have no direct recollection of the events of that period (even if the consequences take many years to fade). Yet, it is impossible to talk about Sarajevo’s Olympic venues without mentioning the impact of the war, so let’s get it out of the way!

Throughout the conflict of 1992 to 95,  while Jahorina remained under Bosnian Serb control, Bjelasnica and Igman saw intense hostilities between the involved sides and the area was eventually declared a demilitarised zone by the UN. The fighting around Bjelasnica/Igman meant that much of the Olympic infrastructure such as hotels, chalets, ski-jumps, equipment etc was destroyed. 

Jahorina escaped such widespread destruction. This meant that when it came to reopening for visitors, Jahorina had a headstart and was able to use its 1980s ski-lift infrastructure to carry skiers in the 2000s as the visitors started to return.
However, since that period, the 2 main mountains have had completely divergent developmental stories.

Development since the 2010s
Since the 90s, Bosnia has existed as 2 main entities joined together: the Bosnian Serb republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation. We do not want to go into how complicated this is with revolving presidencies with multiple parliaments, and the fact that these entities are also divided into their own cantons (Swiss-style) as this would give you a headache (imagine how locals feel!). Most visitors to Bosnia are unaware what entity or canton they are in when they are travelling around, as there are no hard borders to indicate which “zone” you are in, and for tourists it is not really important. However, it is useful to know that the mountain of Jahorina ended up in the Bosnian Serb republic and most of the city of Sarajevo and Bjelasnica/Igman ended up in the Federation.

Unfortunately, the Federation has not managed the development of Bjelasnica very well, with little investment and a lack of vision in the development of accommodation, lift networks, artificial snow, visitor facilities etc.
Conversely, the Bosnian Serb republic has done an excellent job with Jahorina. The past 10-12 years has seen big developments: the installation of 3 new six-seater lifts, an excellent gondola lift, new anchor lifts, more routes and slopes, better signage, more hotels, new chalets and apartments, more bars and big concert events (Bryan Ferry opened the season a couple of years ago). At Ski Sarajevo we also love the addition of new kindergartens and family/beginner ski zones, with the extra bonus of rubber ring slides.  Finally, Jahorina invested in an efficient artificial snow cannon network.

This has resulted in no-brainer situation for Ski Sarajevo. We would love to offer both Jahorina and Bjelasnica in a combined Olympic mountain region with Sarajevo city, but until Bjelasnica is able to get close to Jahorina’s impressive facilities then we will continue to only offer a Jahorina + Sarajevo city package for the foreseeable future.

The icon of Sarajevo: Sebilj fountain in the main square in the Old Town

The future

Even though Bjelasnica’s development is lagging behind Jahorina’s speedy improvement, there are some other excellent additions to Sarajevo’s winter scene that bring more promise:

(1) As mentioned above, the small mountain of Trebevic (directly above Sarajevo) was the site for the bobsleigh during the Olympics. Even though this area was adversely affected in the 90s conflict, a new cable-car that connects the centre of the city with the peak of this mountain has recently opened. This has proven to be hugely popular with both locals and tourists alike.

(2) Another mini-resort with lifts/gondolas, a lovely restaurant and bar has opened up between Sarajevo and Jahorina, called Ravna Planina. There is talk of this mini-resort connecting up to Jahorina’s network of runs and lifts to create a much larger resort that would cut out the need to drive up to Jahorina (45 mins) as visitors would be able to catch a gondola from Ravna Planina instead (only 20 mins drive from Sarajevo city).

With all of these new projects having been completed over the past decade and with new investment pouring into the winter sports scene around Sarajevo every year, needless to say we are very excited for the future of winter tourism in Bosnia. Come and see it all for yourself with Ski Sarajevo!

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