Unusual oasis on Śnieżnica
Śnieżnica, also known as Śnieżna Góra (Snowy Mountain) in the past, owes its name to the snow which stays for an exceptionally long time in the hollows of its northern slope. It’s one of the higher peaks of Beskid Wyspowy (1,007 metres amsl), hence the views from it, obviously from places where the forest doesn’t restrict them, are extensive and very picturesque.
This unusual island of greenery has three little distinctive peaks named Na Budaszowie, Nad Stambrukiem and Wierchy. For this reason, locals still sometimes refer to it as Widłak or Widłata Góra (Pitchfork Mountain). In 1968, the Śnieżnica Nature Reserve was established at the Wierchy peak to protect Carpathian beech, rare plant species and animal habitats, such as those of the tawny owl, common buzzard and forest marten.
How to conquer Śnieżnica?
Śnieżnica is easiest to climb from the eastern side, following the green trail from Dobra. Although this is the longest hike and lasts almost three hours, it leads along the smoothest path among all the options.
The shortest route to the peak, the blue marked trail, leads from Gruszowiec and the hike takes about an hour. The approach is pleasant and scenic. For your way back, you can first take the green-blue trail, which descends to the upper cable car station, and then follow the green marked path – past the Śnieżnica Retreat Centre – to return to Gruszowiec.
For those who aren’t afraid of challenges, we suggest to attack the peak along the black trail: from Porąbka-Zagórze. Here, we have to be prepared for a steep trail and, after the rains, one that’s pretty muddy, too. There’s also an option for the wise guys: taking the chairlift and a half-hour walk to the peak along the green-blue trail.
The peak itself is wooded so there are no expansive views from it. However, when we descend to a small clearing below it, we can enjoy views to the north, to Ciecień, Wierzbanowska Góra and Lubomir, among others.
Śnieżnica, which is worth remembering, is located on the Main Beskid Wyspowy Trail ‘Beskid Islands’, which is approximately 320 km long. Every year, it’s also climbed by tourists who take part in the holiday action Discover Beskid Wyspowy.
Kasina Ski & Bike Park
The island is also a great place for recreation, including for enthusiasts of extreme sports, regardless of the season. In spring, summer and autumn the area of Kasina Ski & Bike Park, belonging to the Penguin Group, offers you challenge and fun on four downhill bike trails.
For those who have just started their downhill adventure, we recommend the green Cooler route with a gentle gradient and relatively few obstacles. Intermediates will probably choose the Anaconda, a path that can be tackled without ever going airborne or, with plenty of acceleration, perform a multitude of jumps. The third one: Wild, as the name itself suggests, is wild, full of stones and roots. This trail, created some time ago by local cyclists, was recently renovated. And we still haven’t mention the route for advanced cyclists: DH Cup. On this one, not only enormous skill is needed, but also a large dose of common sense.
The resort has not forgotten about the youngest tourists either. It’s for them that the Young Cyclist’s Arena was laid out, where – on a specially-made obstacle course – they can practise riding over uneven and bumpy terrain. There’s also a train-shaped playground and a mini gym.
And don’t forget that the station in Kasina Wielka, near the lower station of the chairlift, is part of the Galician Transversal Railway. Its 19th-century building, which was used many times in film productions, e.g., Katyn and Schindler’s List, was some time ago adapted into an accommodation facility.
When the winter blanket covers the surrounding peaks, the slopes of Śnieżnica are taken over by skiers. The ski trails, which, by the way, are quite demanding, are illuminated and superbly groomed. Beginners can practice their first descents at the foot of the slope.
Moped Retro – at the top
The upper station of the railway, from July 2023, also provides some space to a remarkable exhibition. Moped Retro Museum, created by two moped enthusiasts, contains almost 400 vintage unicycles from Poland and abroad. The extraordinary collection included models of such well-known brands as Ducati, DKW, Java, Batavus, Honda, Triumph and Garelli, among others. Although they mostly date from their ‘golden age’, the 1950s and 1960s, there’s no shortage of somewhat earlier models. Another unusual attraction is the opportunity to ride vintage mopeds around the Island Beskids: the Moped Tour.
Beskid islands from a bird’s eye view
Śnieżnica is also a mecca for paragliders. There is a take-off on its slopes, which is also a great vantage point for views of the surrounding area. When we take to the air, our eyes will see not only the Snowy Lady, but also the entire archipelago of the Beskid ‘islands’, as well as the Dobczyce Reservoir and Kraków. The official airstrip is located on the meadows below the railway station in Kasina Wielka. Paraglider pilot training also takes place here.
Kasina Wielka and Dobra – centuries enchanted in wood
While we’re visiting this picturesque land, it’s impossible to miss the 17th century wooden church – with a beautiful Baroque interior – in Kasina Wielka, which is dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. Another treasure of the area is the charming Church of St Simon and Jude the Apostles in Dobra, also from the 17th century, which features inside a Rococo altar and late Baroque polychromes. And, what’s also worth mentioning, both these artful gems are included on the Wooden Architecture Route.
We can see that the Snowy Lady tempts not only with hiking trails, unique routes for cyclists and skiers, a museum of extraordinary beauty, fantastic skyward views, but also with magnificent sights. And all of this is basically right here, right before our eyes. It’s impossible not to succumb to its charms.