Skiing in Bulgaria? The Surprising Lure of the Balkans

“We never really planned on living here long term. We wanted to give it a try for a while. But we can’t live the lifestyle that we live here anywhere else,” Mr. Thompson said. And that goes beyond the cost of living, he explained.

“When I grew up in Australia, kids would go off and play all day, and as long as they were home for dinner that was fine,” he said. “That’s not the case there now, and it’s not the case in most places. Here we’re on the edge of the forest so they can go off and play there or by the river without ever having to worry about it.”

He said the schools are better than expected, with plenty of state-subsidized child care. In the winters, he often takes his children straight from school to the slopes at Borovets for the afternoon.

Most people I spoke to said that in recent years, property is holding its value well in this area, compared with elsewhere in Bulgaria, most likely in no small part thanks to the ski resort that makes it a fairly consistent draw. But things are in flux. “The market’s getting interesting again now,” Ms. Staley said, with a chuckle. “The good apartments, at the moment, I can sell them in three hours.”

The Borovets ski resort is at around 4,500 feet at its base, just north of the national park that covers much of the Rila range. The highest peak towers above at around 10,000 feet, while the highest piste at Borovets reaches about 8,500.

For advanced skiers, Borovets most likely won’t compare to Europe’s best resorts and may feel limited, though there are some more challenging runs among its 36 miles of pistes.

Where it stands out is for families, as well as for beginners or those who approach their skiing more as a casual pastime than as a matter of athletic excellence. Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are among the other winter activities available, and despite mild temperatures that often hover just above freezing, the mountains get quite a bit of snow.