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Skier and Snowboarder Journal – the UK’s unique free ski and snowboard journal

If you wish to broaden your ski and snowboard horizons, comply with within the footsteps of Prince Harry and plan a go to to the ‘Heavenly Mountains’ of Kazakhstan. LISA YOUNG offers a pre season style of what one can find while you get there

Most individuals have preconceptions of Kazakhstan… maybe of a weather-beaten man on horseback holding a golden eagle, the desert of the Asian Steppe, or world-famous mosques and mausoleums.

There may be all of that, however you could be shocked to find that it’s a younger, subtle and fashionable nation and it’s a rustic that desires to be taken severely.

On 16 December 2021, Kazakhstan celebrated 30 years of independence from the Soviet Union. In these three many years, the world’s ninth-largest nation has asserted itself as an financial powerhouse, placing youth, schooling, entrepreneurialism and variety on the core of its priorities, aiming to hitch the ranks of essentially the most developed international locations by 2050.

With a inhabitants of simply 18.75 million (in 2020), Kazakhstan sits in the midst of the historic Silk Street, the community of historical commerce routes established through the Han Dynasty of China. Its capital metropolis is Nur-Sultan, the official languages are Kazakh and Russian, the principle faith is Islam, and also you’ll have the ability to do loads with the native foreign money, the Kazakhstani tenge (KZT).

In October I flew into Almaty, it’s largest metropolis, which rivals any western metropolis with fashionable bars, stylish nightclubs, international-style eating places, and high-end purchasing. The already snow-capped peaks of the Tian Shan mountains fashioned a picturesque background, however I used to be just a bit too early to ski. The ski season typically runs from late November to Could.

Kazakhstan might not be the primary vacation spot that involves thoughts while you consider a winter vacation, however the Tian Shan (Heavenly Mountain) – a system of ranges that extends throughout Central Asia and cuts throughout southeast Kazakhstan – provides spectacular snowboarding alternatives.

The mountains listed here are dwelling to the elusive snow leopard. Throughout the coronavirus lockdown, a snow leopard household was noticed on a preferred mountaineering path close to Almaty. The protected massive cats are hardly ever noticed, not to mention close to a metropolis.

From the posh of the Rixos Lodge in bustling Almaty, I drove 15km to the wilderness of the Maloalmatinsky Gorge and Kazakhstan’s largest ski vacation spot, the Shymbulak Mountain Resort, 3,200m above sea degree, with breath-taking surroundings. You may simply attain the resort from any a part of town by bus or taxi.

There are a lot of advantages of snowboarding right here – a protracted ski season, nice pistes, backcountry and heli-skiing, fairly priced worldwide flights (I linked by way of Istanbul), low-cost ski passes, proximity to an enormous metropolis, fabulous eating places, and a special tradition to discover. Plus, with a couple of additional non-ski days throughout your journey, you’ll be able to go to the gorgeous steppes, Charyn Canyon, and Huge Almaty Lake in thee-Alatau Nationwide Park.

I finished to discover Medeu Ice Rink, the best skating rink on earth and a coaching base for a lot of world-class skaters. It was inbuilt 1972 for pace and determine skating, utilizing glacial water from the encompassing mountains.

It has a small museum with mementos of celebrities who’ve visited, together with a visitor ebook with the signature of Russian politician Leonid Brezhnev, former Secretary Common of the communist get together of the Soviet Union, who visited the rink within the 70s.

The rink is a straightforward cable automobile journey from the ski resort for those who need a couple of fun-filled hours away from the slopes. It’s additionally a preferred place for Almaty locals to observe ice speedway racing on weekends.

The mountain street twists increased into the mountains and I drove previous the huge Medeu mudflow safety dam, constructed to guard town from devastating mud slides. In 1973, the dam protected town by holding again some 4.5 million cubic metres of water and particles which poured down the gorge.

Once I reached Shymbulak, I discovered giant, luxurious properties across the base station, some personal and a few rental. For now, the resort is frequented largely by native, Russian and Korean skiers, in addition to winter sports activities lovers from Ukraine and India. I additionally bumped into an American, Mark Ouellette, a vacationer from Pennsylvania on his first go to to Kazakhstan.

“The pure environment are breath-taking and the meals too. I’d suggest this place to anybody, particularly for the landscapes. The locals are pleasant and hospitable, and I’ve had no difficulties in any respect in getting round as a result of a lot of folks communicate English and it’s straightforward to navigate utilizing taxis,” he stated.

The resort has been the placement for worldwide political conferences, and Vladimir Putin has been right here to ski. In 2014, Prince Harry flew in by helicopter for a non-public snowboarding vacation.

Shymbulak’s Doppelmayr gondola is without doubt one of the longest on the planet at 4,050 metres lengthy. Every winter, the gondola, inbuilt 2011, carries round 2,000 folks an hour up the mountain to the slopes.

You may see many of the runs from the bottom station as they’re in a bowl-shaped setting. There are roughly 20km of pistes for each skiers and snowboarders, all named and categorized with the European inexperienced, blue, crimson and black colour-coded system (roughly 4km newbie, 10km intermediate, 6km superior). There’s a ski college with English, Russian, and Kazakh talking instructors, plus guides for backcountry snowboarding and ski touring.

Contained in the chalet restaurant at Shymbulak base station PHOTO: Lisa Younger

The bottom station’s Chalet Restaurant provides an alpine-style eating expertise and also you’d be forgiven for considering you have been within the French Alps. The meals is superb, and dishes embrace hearty mountain meals and plenty of salads, meat dishes… and generally horse meat in numerous guises. That’s an area delicacy.
Typical conventional dishes and drinks would possibly embrace Khachapuri (flatbread with cheese), Baursak (small items of dough fried in oil), Shalapor Mare’s Milk (a bitter or fermented horse milk drink) and Georgian wine.

On Thursdays and Saturdays, the cable automobile and a few lifts keep open late for evening snowboarding. Horse driving by way of the winter snow can be an choice.

Include an open thoughts and able to be amazed by this hidden gem of a rustic.

When you’re fortunate, you could even see a snow leopard!


Attending to Kazakhstan and Almaty:

Direct flights on Air Astana (a Kazakh airline) from London Heathrow to the capitol Nur Sultan function on Saturdays and Wednesdays, with connecting flights to Almaty and different airports throughout the nation and internationally. The flight time is 6 hours 49 minutes (3,479 miles). Air Astana is a contemporary airline with nice hyperlinks round Kazakhstan:

Skating Rink:

Rixos Lodge Almaty:

Shymbulak Mountain Resort:

Shyambulak Mountain Resort ski cross costs 2021/2022 season:

Costs are listed in GBP and KZT (Kazakhstani Tenge).

Grownup weekend day cross: KZT 11,400 (£19.50); weekdays KZT 7,600 (£13).

Ages 11 to 23: weekend day cross KZT 11,400 (£19.50); weekdays KZT 5,300 (£9).

Kids aged 6 to 10: weekend day cross KZT 4,800 (£8.30); weekdays KZT 2,900 (£5).

Ski passes bought on-line obtain 5% low cost.

Ski passes bought on the official ‘Shyambulak’ app obtain a 15% low cost.

Kids from 3 years and up can attend ski college and for snowboarding college it’s from 8 years previous. Private or group classes can be found for teenagers and adults with Kazakh or Russian instructors.

Lisa Younger visited Kazakhstan by invitation from the Nursultan Nazarbayev Basis: page/64


Classes: Resort Information & Reviews

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