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W.O.W. | Skiing

It snowed over the weekend here in Bishkek, and in recognition of this common winter occurrence, we are producing a “Week of White” series for White Leopard Travel Magazine.

Our first topic focuses on an all-white activitiy: Skiing!

In the mountains near Suu Samyr, at the resort in Karakol, in the European vibes of Chunkurchak… If summertime is the season of trekking, it's winter equal is skiing.  Sometimes referred to as “the Alps of Central Asia”, fresh powder and long rides are abundant in the ranges of the Tien Shan.  Many forms of snow-dependent adventures are to be found here, but downhill skiing remains by far the most popular.  The more extreme ski enthusiasts will spend the better part of a day climbing in order to access well-known, satisfying runs.  For the beginner or less advanced, ski resorts dot the country, offering lifts and instructors for all levels of experience.  

Two winters ago I joined some German volunteers for a day at Chunkurchak, about 45 min south of Bishkek.  A father and his two sons provided the ride, the equipment, and the instruction for the whole day.  Having grown up with some experience hitting the slopes each winter, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I still had to learn - and was able to feel much more confident in my skiing abilities by the end of the day.  The sons had both been competitive snowboarders, but as they recognized fleeting chances at the Olympics (they were getting “too old”), they switched over to ski instruction, which is where the money is at if you’re into snow sports here.  They taught me techniques for keeping my skies straighter, for making tighter turns, and for controlling my balance to increase speed and maneuvering.  After a morning of instruction, they let us face the slopes alone to practice our skills and enjoy the afternoon, gliding through run after run after run.

Even from Chunkurchak, a “small” ski hill, the views were marvelous and it was a brilliant day.  Karakol, Ak Suu, SuuSamyr, and other main ski resorts can boast even more incredible slopes, views, and stories, though they are a further drive from Bishkek and usually require a multi-day commitment.  

Karakol Ski Base, only one of many ski lift operators in the region, is the highest in Central Asia at 3040 m.  It was used to train Olympic athletes during the Soviet times.  Also near Karakol in Jyrgalan Valley, which is better known for its freeride and backcountry skiing.  Most skiers stay at the resort hotel or guesthouses, but some yurt camps maintain “warm yurts” through the winter for visitors that wish to experience the yurt-life while visiting Kyrygzstan.  Advice from the inside is to be sure to check ahead with tour operators or guides to make sure that these warm yurts are available!

Ruby Mitchell

Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.

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