What do ski/snowboard clubs do when hitting the slopes is unlikely? Well, they travel to “parts unknown”. Recently, I joined a group of Baltimore Ski Club (BSC) members on a week-long trip to Croatia. The club has been running non-ski trips for years in an effort to appeal to a more diverse audience who may not be as interested in skiing or snowboarding but want to travel with friends.
“I have been in the BSC for many years and I have seen members leave as they age and no longer want to ski due to bad knees, hips, etc,” said Christopher Pukalski, organizers of these trips. “In an effort to keep them in the club and involved, I turned to putting together non-ski trips for travel and sightseeing. This has helped to retain members and bring in new ones. Many of them stay now year after year’, he added.
In general, membership in ski/snowboard clubs has declined over the years so reaching out with alternative activities is a smart idea. Overall, the industry saw a decline in new participants this past year, especially among older skiers, and partially due to Covid, according to SnowSports Industries America’s recently released Participation Study. The study also indicated that current participants skied or snowboarded more frequently with the majority of those falling into the $100,000-plus income category.
The Croatia tour included most of the popular tourist sites along the way and a variety of interesting experiences – like a chocolate tasting in Opatia at Milenij Choco World, (See above), a truffles tasting in Motovun and, of course, wine tastings.
The Baltimore Ski Club is not the only ski/snowboard club looking for alternative ways to attract members. The Columbia (MD) Ski Club has its own trip to Croatia scheduled as well as a trip to Sicily, both in 2022. The Ski Club of Washington, DC hosted a recent trip to the Dominican Republic and has a Viking Cruise to Alaska lined up in the Spring. All of these non-ski/snowboard trips typically sell out.
The BSC Croatia trip started in the capitol city of Zagreb – Nikola Tesla was born in a small village in what is now Croatia. He was an ethnic Serb and his portrait is on a “graffiti wall” in Zagreb. A favorite past-time among Zagreb residents is gathering with friends and lingering over coffee at local cafes which are plentiful in the city. The open air market is colorful and busing with activity.
The trip ended in the medieval city of Dubrovnik where we managed to catch a Croatian wedding. Thanks to Game of Thrones, who hasn’t heard of Dubrovnik, in southern Croatia along the Adriatic Sea. Old Town is encircled with massive stone walls completed in the 16th century. Its well-preserved buildings range from baroque St. Blaise Church to Renaissance Sponza Palace and Gothic Rector’s Palace. The pedestrianized Stradun (or Placa) is lined with shops and restaurants.
Travel along the way included a visit to the Istria Peninsula, home of the charming seaside town of Rovinj. Istria is a heart-shaped peninsula that looks and feels a lot like Italy, and was at one time part of the Venetian empire. It is very close to the northeastern tip of Italy and one of the prettiest spots on the Adriatic. The main town is clustered around a hillside leading up to the Church of St. Euphemia and is filled with tiny shops. Its harbor is a perfect spot for a cafe break.
The second Istria stop Motovun featured a truffles tasting. In ancient times, both Celts and Illyrians built their fortresses at the location of present-day Motovun. It is the home of internationally-known race car driver Mario Andretti. This region is known for its truffles. Members of our group were even interviewed for a Croatian TV station.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is an UNESCO Heritage site in central Croatia visited by more than five million people annually that is located in central Croatia. It’s known for a chain of 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls, that extend into a limestone canyon. Walkways and hiking trails wind around and across the water, and an electric boat links the 12 upper and 4 lower lakes.
Diocletian’s Palace is the main attraction in Split, a rather large city that sits on the shores of the Adriatic. The Palace was built for the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD, It was one of the locations for Game of Thrones. The main harbor’s wide boulevard is home to many fine outdoor restaurants.
Trogir is basically a “suburb” of Split but the smallish town has a decidedly low key atmosphere. The old town is located on an island, and is accessible by bridges. This town is quite small and walkable from one end to the other in about five minutes or so. It is loaded with scenic view, and excellent restaurants. The 13th-century Cathedral of St. Lawrence houses the Renaissance Chapel of St. John and offers sweeping views from its bell tower. Our contingent was treated to a performance by an acapella group across the square from the Cathedral. Oh, and if you are wondering about the tie hanging from what actually is an elementary school, know that Croatians invented the necktie.
Ston is not far from Dubrovnik in southern Dalmatia. It is largely known for its very long and well preserved town walls, its salt works, and seafood (especially, oysters and mussels). Stretching more than three miles, the walls are much longer than those of its neighbor, Dubrovnik. It is the longest defensive structure in Europe; and sometimes referred to as the ‘European Walls of China”.
The region around Ston also is famous for its Plavac Mali wines, similar to the Zinfandel. The Edivo winery features Navis Mysterium, a selection that s aged for 1.5 to 2 years in the Adriatic Sea.
Croatia is becoming increasingly popular among U.S. tourists for many reasons. The scenery is spectacular. The country served as locations for Mama Mia – 2, Game of Thrones, Captain America and Star Wars – The Last Jedi, among others. The food is excellent and varied but with a decided influence from Italy.
Venetians ruled the Dalmatian Coast from the 15th to the 18th century. Almost everyone speaks English as the language is taught in elementary schools. The people are incredibly proud of their country and more than happy to provide courtesy and kindness to tourists. Our tour lasted only a week and not nearly enough time to savor what Croatia has to offer.
Get more information about Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast and its islands. Our excellent tour guide was Goran Jokic. He can be reached at email@example.com. He is pictured in this blog wearing sunglasses and a blue shirt.