Christmas in Turkey: Skiing Erciyes and Uludag

In Turkey

Skiing Adventure #1 – The Mt Erciyes Mistake

Who even knew you could ski in Turkey?  I had no idea you could, but we were after a winter adventure, and the promise of fresh snow, cheap lift tickets, and mountains largely unknown to most travellers seemed like a promising adventure.

We booked into a hotel on Mt Erciyes – a mountain way out into the interior of Turkey (near Kayseri) – and we knew that we were taking a bit of a gamble.  Erciyes (pronounced er-gee-yes) is supposed to be the next big thing in turkish skiing – with huge development slated to take place over the next few years.

However our trip to Erciyes lacked the most important thing – snow.  When you book into an “up and coming” ski resort, where web-pages look like they were made in MS Paint, and nobody speak english, at least be sure there is going to be snow (especially if paying for the full 4 days in advance).  As it was, it was the latest start to the ski season in Turkey for 15 years, and when we arrived at Erciyes, the remnants of snow from a storm 2 weeks earlier where all we had.  One day on the snow-machine serviced kids slope was enough for us.  Even the charmer yet creepy staff at the shining-esque empty hotel we were staying in couldn’t make us stay.  We packed our bags, counted our losses, flew back to Istanbul, hired a car, and drove to Uludag.

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Skiing Adventure #2 – Uludag makes it all worthwhile

Our determination to find snow and to have a proper winter vacation paid of in Uludag.  The resort, a 3-4 hour drive (maybe a bit more) from Istanbul, had plenty of snow and on arrival we felt a mixture of relief and delight.

The lower slopes were packed – thousands and thousands of turks in jeans and leather jackets, who knew nothing of skiing, meant it was general carnage at the bottom of the lower runs and around the chair lifts.  But for the same reason, the higher (and better) runs were pretty empty, and we had a ball.  Living in south-east asia, it has been years since we saw snow.

Because Uludag is closer to Istanbul, there are a lot of day trippers.  People venture to the ski fields to walk around.  On one of the steepest runs on the mountain, I was focussed on keeping my snowboard turns nice and tight without plummeting headfirst down the mountain – when I passed a group of middle aged turking women walking down the slope.  They had caught the lift right to the top of the mountain, and decided to walk all the way down the steepest part.  It must have taken hours.  Later on, while zig-zagging through the throngs on the lower slops, I was even chased by a dog.   I couldn’t help but laugh and laugh, even as the mutt got closer and closer as it nipped at my board.

To top of the Uludag adventure, we found the best meal of our entire trip in turkey about 20 minutes down the mountain.  A small mountain cabin – part butcher, part BBQ – served up the best Sucuk (spicy sausage) and lamb chops, along with massive piles of pickled vegetables, yoghurt and cold efes beer.

Skiing in turkey – once we finally found snow – was a delight.  A fraction of the price of lift tickets and ski hire of Europe, and with way more laughs along the way.  I think we’ll be back.

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