One of the country's most popular ski-resorts, Harrachov, which has only 1730 inhabitants and is just about five minutes away from the Polish border. Situated some 650 metres above sea level in Northern Bohemia, Harrachov's main profit comes from tourism. There are over ten ski lifts and 8 trails in the area and lit slopes make it possible to ski in the evening. Conditions for both downhill and cross-country skiing are favourable and one can even find ski-jumps, where some World Cups take place.
It is therefore no surprise that the town changes completely when the winter arrives. Tourists from mainly the neighbouring countries of Germany, Poland, and Austria have taken a liking to Harrachov and many book their accommodation as early as in October or even September since hotels, hostels, and motels are fully booked by the time the winter arrives. For someone like me, who prefers to visit warm beaches in the winter, visiting Harrachov was like visiting another world as something about its atmosphere made it very special. The air was fresh, the people were friendly, and all that they thought about was the winter sports:
"My name is Peter and I'm from a small town in the Eagle Mountains in the Czech Republic. This place is much better for skiing and there are more tourists and much higher mountains and hills. I came with my friends to ski and to see what Harrachov is like. I have to say it's a very nice place to visit. This is my third time here because my uncle lives here - he rents accommodation to foreigners. I think Harrachov is still less expensive than the Alps in Germany, Austria, Italy, or France. If you want to have dinner, lunch, and ski a lot, it will cost you about 100 Euros per day. That still does not include accommodation so you have to hope to get a good deal."
"My name is Bozena and I come from Amsterdam but I was born in the Czech Republic. I have come here for a business trip as I am a translator for some Dutch people who built a small hotel here two years ago. They were in France, Austria, an in Switzerland but chose Harrachov as they think it's a very nice place. So, sometimes when I'm here on a holiday I come to help. I tried to ski yesterday, after thirty years [laughter] and I cannot walk anymore."
I am currently wrapped up in a snow suit (which means that I'm about a metre seventy tall but two metres wide) because I am freezing in temperatures that are about twelve degrees below zero. There is a beautiful mountain in front of me and children are sliding down the snow-covered mountain and ahead of me is Devil's Mountain. That is where all the experienced skiers go to have fun and spend their winter holidays.
"Hello. My name is Maria and I come from Prague. Well, this is my fourth time in Harrachov because I like the conditions and the weather here. But what I don't like is that lots of people come here and you have to wait for a long time for the ski lifts."
"Twenty minutes to half-an-hour. And then you go up for about fifteen minutes and if you are quite a good skier you get down within four to five minutes. So, it's boring then."
Basically, it's four minutes of fun and about thirty to forty-five minutes of preparation...
Now, how expensive is it to spend the winter holidays - about a week - here?
"If you're a family of four people and want to eat like a human, you're going to spend between 1,000 - 1,500 Czech crowns a day."
And accommodation is about 35 Euros per night or 500 crowns?
"I think it costs more than five hundred."
You've come here with your family so what does your daughter do when you are skiing?
"She is still learning. She started to learn last year for the first time and I hope that she's going to be fine this year."
Would you say that going to the mountains in the winter is one of the Czech people's favourite pass-time, that you find very few Czechs who haven't been to the mountains and haven't skied?
"I don't the people can afford it now."
So it's getting more expensive?
"My name is Eileen."
"My name is Nikola."
Do you like it here in Harrachov?
"Yes. Because there are many children who I can play with here."
Is it not too cold?
What do you like doing the most?
"I like sliding down the mountains."
But it seems that not everyone here in Harrachov is happy when the winter arrives as some of the locals do not like the fact that they are overwhelmed with tourists.
"My name is Lenka and I'm from Harrachov and I really don't like it that Harrachov is so popular among foreigners. Things get more expensive here and we don't get the chance to ski as much as we want."
"...Eskimo - that's what my friends call me. I'm a snow boarder and I snow board a lot here. It's really pretty here but you should see it when the skiers practise their jumps here. If you think it's pretty now, it's really something awesome to look at then."
How often do you come here?
"I used to come here when I lived in Prague. I had some friends here had a cottage here. Now, I come every once in a while because it's obviously a lot cheaper so I come at least once a year top snow board."
I believe you're from the US?
So, how do Czech ski resorts differ from the resorts abroad?
"I've been through Europe and I snow board a lot in the US. The main thing is the price. Here, for example, a lift ticket costs around 15 US dollars. In the US it's about 40 to 60 US dollars, depending on the resort. So, the main thing is the price. Here, you can also drink a lot of beer and it's cheap too."
What about the atmosphere? You're from the States but a lot of the tourists who come here from abroad are mainly from Germany or from Poland. So as an English native speaker, what is it like being in Harrachov?
"The tourists from everywhere really come here to have fun. I come here to have fun. Everybody gets along well. Sometimes you really get a bad feeling from the locals because they are the people who have to deal with everything over and over again and we just come and go. So, you can't really blame them."
Now there are three different slopes. One is for beginners, the other is for the more advanced and the third is for the expert skiers. Is it difficult for snow boarders to get on the slopes?
"It's not really. I've been snowboarding a lot so I for the black slopes. But we go back country around here, that's when we ski off the normal areas - it's illegal but no one ever catches us. It's better because the snow is better. That's actually another difference between the Czech Republic and the US. In the US, if they catch you going back country they really go hard on you, they take your lift ticket or even call the police but here nobody ever does anything about it and that's why we like to do it."
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