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Heliskiing in Turkey – Bjørn

Hey, heli-skiing in Turkey? Can you ski there then?

I had never heard of it and I am no exception. It is a well kept secret and not only for that reason very special.

Location, the Kaçkar Mountains. 3900M high, in eastern Turkey, near Georgia, overlooking the Black Sea. A huge unexplored mountain range without ski lifts where only Turkey Heliski operates. So we have the whole mountain range to ourselves.

An additional advantage, no long flights or jet lag. You fly to Trabzon on the Black Sea via Istanbul and then another 2 hours drive into the mountains.

The most important element of heli-skiing is safety. You don’t have to worry about that with this operation. Run by a Swiss team who have years of experience in heli-skiing, 2 helis from Austria, very experienced Swiss mountain heli pilots and maintenance team. They use the very best safety gear (3 unit, avalanche backpack) and the experienced guides come from all over Europe. Most guides have worked as heliski guides all over the world, so plenty of discussion and tips for future trips!

The base is a comfortable hotel in Ayder with a brand new and extensive sauna/wellness complex where you can also eat well. The helicopters are parked next to the hotel so everything is optimized for a relaxed but intensive week!

There are two helicopters. One for the ‘private group’ and the other for the ‘classic group’.

You can book the helicopter for a week with your own group (up to 12 people). Then you as a group can decide for yourself what your day will look like and where you want to ski. Just something more challenging or relaxed or covering a larger area. I had booked last minute and got the last spot of the ‘classic group’. That group consisted of 12 men (max 16) of different nationalities. 2 couples from Switzerland, 2 friends from Austria, 3 Russians, a Kazakh and a Kuwaiti. All super fun ski fanatics.

Depending on the weather, the day starts at 7:30 AM with a voluntary stretching class. 8am breakfast and 9am the first 4 shift can take off. The 3 groups of 4 with their guide are dropped one after the other close to each other on a mountain top. Down below the helicopter is already waiting for the first group and drops them off on a fresh mountain top. That continues throughout the day with a delicious lunch of bread, student oats and figs somewhere in nature.
Around 4 o’clock you will be back at the hotel and you can go to the wellness or pamper your muscles with a massage. At 7.30 you sit at the table with your heli group and the guide of that day (the guides rotate and so does your position in the row of 3 in the heli).

Ok, you may be thinking, I now have a reasonable idea of what it’s like, but what’s the skiing like? How was the snow and the descents?

It was really magnificent! The two Austrian dudes said afterwards that they’ve been heli-skiing together for 20 years and been everywhere and that this week made it into their top 3.

Yes, we were lucky with the weather but that was only part of the story. When we arrived it had just snowed a lot and the first day was immediately a beautiful ‘bluebird day’ with fresh powder and not a cloud in sight. However, despite it getting quite warm (1e week of March) the snow remained perfect. We were able to ski in beautiful powder snow all week despite not really snowing during the week. It was explained to me that it is very dry at night, so that the snow ‘drys out’ as it were and therefore does not become heavy. Anyway, great snow!

The terrain is very extensive and so there is a lot of choice for the helis so that they can look for the best snow and you can always draw a fresh track.

I would describe the terrain as open with beautiful relaxed descents from 3300 meters to 1900 m. With alternating long and shorter descents. Not particularly stylish but certainly not bland. Actually very relaxed skiing in mainly open terrain and on some descents at the end some ‘tree skiing’ between bushes or trees. At our request we also skied some couloirs the last 2 days. They are certainly there, but logistically a bit more difficult to drop 3 or 4 groups there and then ensure that the last group can still make fresh tracks. With a ‘private group’ this is possible because you can indicate yourself what you want to do without having to take other skiers into account.

So I would describe the terrain as very accessible for skiers who don’t have much experience with skiing in deep snow. But it is also a very beautiful area for the very experienced skier!

I can recommend this trip to everyone and will definitely go back!

Bjorn

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