When you think of Turkey most people think of the beaches of ‘Bodrum’ or ‘Marmaris’ but at Snoworks Ski Courses we are always looking for new and innovative locations and our NEW 2015 ski adventure course to Turkey certainly did just that.
Whilst most of us keen skiers will take regular jaunts to the Alps, Pyrenees and possibly the US and Canada, you may be somewhat surprised to know how accessible and affordable skiing in Turkey can be.
Following successful adventure courses in far away destinations such as Chile, Argentina, Japan and Kashmir we set out to discover the skiing possibilities in western Asia.
It all started with Linda Wilson from the Snoworks head office going to the “World Travel Market” in London in November of 2010, with a mission to search out new destinations for our Snoworks Adventure programme.
I was then later getting my ski boots adjusted by boot guru Herve in Surefoot in Courchevel 1850 in February 2014. He had a poster on the wall promoting heli-skiing in Turkey! I enquired with vested interest and he tee’d up a meeting for me with a friend of his and ESF guide that had hosted the trip many years before.
From here the Snoworks Turkey adventure was born!
In its inaugural trip, we opted to travel and ski in the two ski areas of Palandöken and Uludag.
Our first stop was Palandöken in the ‘Erzurum’ province; it is just a short internal flight east from Istanbul across to Erzurum and then a really short transfer of only six miles up to the resort hotels.
Palandöken is the biggest ski resort in Turkey, just to put that in perspective it has 1 gondola (which is decommissioned) and 6 chair lifts, 2 of which look like they will never be used again!
However with the impressive 3271m Mt Ejder (Turkish for dragon), and ski touring equipment we had plenty to go at, and plenty more for future trips.
The Turkish locals are fantastic – to watch their enthusiasm to ‘have a go’ is admirable and entertaining. However as we rode the third chair lift up to 3000m it was clear that they don’t ski off piste, we only had to go the side of the piste to ski fresh lines. It was then that the weekend warriors decided what we had started looked fun and that they should have a go. With some success and many a comedy crash later we decided we needed to take things to the next level for our “adventurers”.
Following several forms of checking the snow pack stability levels we donned the skins and took a short tour (approx. 1hr) under the highest lift (now decommissioned) to the summit of Mt Ejder. This gave us 500m of pure powder paradise with the now off piste-attempting Turks watching and photographing us like we were movie celebrities. What a run to finish a day that was.
Due to its location to other potential ski areas and following some local advice we bolted on an impromptu day trip to ski in Sarikamis in the ‘Kars’ province. This was a three-hour drive from our base in Palandöken and has three lifts, of which one is a beginner’s piste! However the two lifts we did use supplied us with some of the best powder tree skiing outside Japan! Wow! Have we found a gem here! Don’t tell anyone else though #Snoworkssecret.
The local bar man, smiling with glee at the joy of seven westerners with Lira, welcomed us in for a Turkish coffee and to try to upsell us his hotel for our next visit. He then came skiing with us!
It was clear from the outset that as kind hearted as he was, this man was not going to ski where we wanted to, as he was another piste warrior. However as we rode the third of four chairs it became very clear that the perfectly soft untracked powder in the perfectly spaced trees just to the right and left of the piste had not been skied.
Following two warm up runs on piste with our new friend and local entrepreneur he then excused himself.
It would seem that chair three and the recently installed chair four would provide more than adequate skiing for our group for the entire day. A sure certainty to become an addition to our 2016 trip.
Following our time in the North East we took our internal flight back to Istanbul and headed south to our final ski resort of Uludag.
Uludag is situated just a 4 hour drive south of Istanbul in the Bursa province and means ‘sublime mountain’ in Turkish, and boy was it sublime.
Our arrival coincided with the worst (or in our case, best) snowstorms to hit Istanbul in 28 years! Powder was plentiful and the slopes empty due to the fact that the main customer base is the Istanbul glitterati, who would I believe prefer sunshine piste skiing.
It was however very cold, with the wind chill and heavy snowstorm, this could of course only be resolved completely by taking lunch. We stepped into the most convenient restaurant on the mountain, with no prior research on the subject. It was clear we had walked into the flashiest, priciest Istanbul glitterati ‘Courchevel-esque’ venue.
That being said we stayed and enjoyed a hearty selection of Koftas, soups, and lamb and warmed our hands and insides with our new found favourite, the Sahlep hot drink all for less than £10 a head.
So, forget your beach holidays and join us on an adventure ski trip in Turkey! All you need is to be keen to go on a skiing adventure and into short ski tours.