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BLOG Skiing Holidays in Turkey

14 February 2017 / Travel


Skiing in Turkey

The European Youth Olympic Winter Festival of 2017 is well under way in Erzurum, a city in eastern Turkey renowned for its winter sports resorts. The six day celebration of winter games has brought Turkey to the forefront of winter tourism all over the world and has solidified the country’s position as a year round holiday destination. Winter sports, often deemed expensive, are found to be more than affordable in Turkey, where visitors can enjoy all of the hospitality and history that Turkey has to offer with a generous dashing of snow and ice on its naturally high terrain. With more than sixteen ski resorts to boast about, Turkey should certainly be a consideration for your next ski holiday.

Turkey offers superb skiing and snowboarding opportunities at high altitudes with excellent snow conditions throughout Anatolia, where enthusiasts will find themselves surrounded by stunning mountain ranges and alpine forests. Turkey’s top winter ski resorts can be found from the slopes of the Black Sea region to the Mediterranean and there is something for every adrenalin seeker. The snowy side of Turkey has made a concerted effort to remain ahead of the pack in winter sports, ensuring that every type of thrill is available. With alpine skiing and cross country expeditions through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, and extreme sports like kite skiing and heliskiing at the top of its highest mountains, Turkey should be your number one winter destination.

Erzurum

Turkey has some of the best ski slopes in Europe and many of these can be found around the city of Erzurum, home to the finest winter sports facilities in Turkey. Erzurum hosted the 2011 ‘Winter Universiade’; an international multi-sport event, organised for university athletes by the International University Sports Federation. The fantastic new facilities built for the Universiade, such as a brand new 3000 capacity ice rink, set the path for Erzurum to welcome the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival in 2017. Six hundred and forty-nine athletes from thirty-four participating nations are currently enjoying the world renowned Turkish hospitality in Erzurum as they compete in events such as alpine skiing and snowboarding at the Palandöken Ski Centre, cross country skiing at the Kandilli Ski Resort, ice hockey at the Erzurum GSIM Ice Arena and ski jumping and the Kiremitlik Ski Jumping Facility.

While the Winter Festival may be attracting thousands of visitors as spectators this week, these facilities are available to all winter sports enthusiasts, professional, amateur and tourists. Erzurum is a haven for those who love the winter, with its mountains covered in thick snow most of the year round as well as historical buildings inherited from various civilisations. Located on the Silk Road, Erzurum holds an important place in the history of the Republic of Turkey as a city were critical decisions were made in advance of the Turkish War of Independence.

The city itself hosts a number of interesting sites that are worth exploring as an escape from the snowy mountain tops. As with any Turkish city, there are a number of exquisite mosques to visit and the 13th century twin tower madrasa is the focal point of the city. The Clock Tower marks the highest point of the city and hosts the oldest Seljuk minaret in Turkey. The Erzurum Bastions were built to defend Erzurum against the enemy during the Ottoman-Russia war between 1877 and 1878 and a spectacular excavation site, Alice Höyük, introduces visitors to Erzurum’s history which dates back to the Bronze Age.

Erzurum is all about the snow in the winter and the region has an extensive season running from November to as late as June. Palandöken Mountain sits on the edge of Erzurum city and is perhaps the most well known with its tectonic mountain reaching the dizzy heights of 3,271 metres. Located just 10km from Erzurum city centre, its world famous ski resort hosts the longest ski trail in Turkey and is most popular with skilled skiers thanks to its fine-grained snow and the steepness of the slopes. The toughest run is on the backside of the mountain known as Büyük Ejder or, ‘The Great Dragon’.

Palandöken Mountain is home to a selection of four and five star hotels, ski house facilities and an array of fantastic restaurants. The nearby resort of Konaklı is the closest to Erzurum city centre, though both resorts can be easily accessed from the city, where a greater selection of accommodations can be found. Konaklı itself boasts 22km of ski slopes with beginner, intermediate and advanced options. In 2016, the Palandöken and Konaklı ski resorts combined to create a premier venue; the Ejder 3200 World Ski Centre. The state of the art centre adds incredible facilities to both the Palandöken and Konaklı centres, including 65km of impressive slopes and more than 1000 metres of altitude drop.

Extreme Sports in Northeastern Turkey

Erzincan’s Ergan Mountain Ski Resort also has one of the longest ski tracks in Turkey but excitingly offers snow rafting as one of its main draws. While its natural tracks, licensed by the International Skiing Federation, attract snowboarding enthusiasts from around the world, they also provide the perfect environment for downhill thrills for groups of up to twelve people. Despite being an uncommon sport in Turkey, snow lovers can also find opportunities to sail the white stuff in Uzungöl of the Trabzon province.

Heliskiing is an off-trail, downhill skiing or snowboarding activity that is accessed by a helicopter as opposed to a ski lift so that more remote terrain can be discovered. The Ayder Base in Rize is one of the few places in the world where this activity can be performed. About 2 hours from Trabzon airport, Ayder lies at the edge of the Kaçkar mountain range at an altitude of 1100m. Heliskiers are flown up to the peak of the Ayder Highlands, considered the epicentre of heliskiing, where the peak elevates to a staggering 2800m. Guests can stay at the cozy family-run mountain resort hotel which has 50 rooms and a skiable terrain of 4500km squared. The resort includes more than 350 descents over varied Alpine ground that are perfect for heliskiing. The vertical drops in the range run from 500m to 1400m for the ultimate thrill.

Kayseri Erciyes

Mount Erciyes of Kayseri, the highest mountain in central Anatolia, is on the cusp of launching the 2017 Snow Volleyball European Tour which kicks off on the 17th of February. A relatively new sport, snow volleyball attracted the attention of the European Volleyball Federation in 2015 with a European tour established in 2016 covering events in Austria, the Czech Republic and Italy. Turkey is adding two stops to the tour, the first at Erciyes and later on Mount Uludağ near Bursa between the 3rd and 5th of March.

Kayseri Erciyes is one of the most rapidly growing ski resorts in Turkey and organisers have set the ambitious goal of raising its profile and popularity across the winter sports community by hosting a number of major international events. Snow Volleyball is just the icing on the cake of this fantastic resort which has become prominently known as a leading force in the world’s snow-kiting community. This extreme sport is fondly known as “flying while snowboarding” and enthusiasts are tied with ropes while wearing a snow kite. There are currently efforts underway to organise a world championship at the resort while it already hosts the International Snow Kite Festival each year.

Bursa Uludağ

With its close proximity to Istanbul and the city of Bursa, the Uludağ Ski Centre has become a winter tourism centre in Turkey. The area is composed of two separate parts called ‘development zones’. The 1st zone is completed, hosting 16 hotels while the 2nd zone is still being developed with a further 11 hotels to be built on top of the 27 accommodation facilities that already exist alongside state of the art shopping and entertainment centres.

The Uludağ Ski Centre tracks are about 20km long, perfect for Alpine skiing and snowboarding. During the height of winter, snow can reach depths of up to 3m, with powdery snow at the beginning of the season in December and dewy snow towards the end of March. With over 13 ski tracks available and an entertainment area comparative to anywhere in the world, Uludağ is the perfect all inclusive ski holiday resort with everything you need at your door. Being just a short flight or drive from Istanbul, Uludağ is the most popular resort in Turkey and attracts a large number of city dwellers from Istanbul and Bursa who enjoy short breaks in the snow. With its all inclusive mentality and fantastic sporting opportunities, such as the thrilling heliskiing spot, Uludağ is fast becoming the most popular resort in Europe.

Sarıkamış

Just 50km from the city of Kars on the eastern border of Turkey with Georgia and Armenia, the Sarıkamış district is renowned for its ‘crystal snow’ which is rarely seen elsewhere and create the perfect conditions for skiing. The facilities at the Sarıkamış Ski Resort are perfect for any level of enthusiast as the centre is divided into two stages, with the lower stage of one track being suitable for beginners and the second stage of four tracks for the more advanced.

While the ‘crystal snow’ tracks are perfect for both skiers and snowboarders, the real snow treat can be found at the Cıbıltepe Ski Resort which is situated at the lower stage of the Sarıkamış Ski Resort. The scenery around Cıbıltepe is idyllic, with scotch pine forests and a vista of pure white snow which can be enjoyed from the comfort of horse drawn sleighs. These wonderful sleighs have become popular among the local and foreign tourists as an alternative way to discover the picturesque scenes of the area.

Sleighs are given to the guests as well as being used for transportation and freight transport around the resort. While some enjoy their usage as a means to getting around the resort or as an easy way home, the sleighs have become a tourist attraction in their own right. Young locals, often school children, are on hand to give you a guided tour of the area for a pocketful of change and you can sit back, snuggle up, and enjoy the breathtaking mountain scenery. It may not be as thrilling as heliskiing, but the sleighs are a real treat in their own right.

Enjoy a Turkish Winter

Wherever you choose to enjoy the Turkish snow, there is a place for every whim. Whether you prefer to stay on two skis, surf the snow on boards or to try something a little more adrenalin pumped, there is a resort in Turkey waiting for you to take advantage of the country’s vast snowfall. So many people associate Turkey with the brilliant sunshine and warm weather of the summer, it is easy to forget that this wonderful and hospitable country has much to offer in the way of adventure all year round.

With mountain ranges comparable to France and Austria and natural beauty to rival Switzerland, Turkey has it all. Now that winter sports are making a splash and are becoming ever more popular in Turkey, winter resorts are becoming far more favourable. With safety in mind, thrills at the top of the wish list and stunning facilities, the winter resorts are going to be up there in popularity with the summer seaside holiday destinations. Moreover, winter sports in Turkey are far more affordable than anywhere else in the world. Choose Turkey as your next winter destination.

 

 

 

 

 

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