Blessed with innumerable beaches, you’d be forgiven for not thinking of Türkiye when you think of skiing, but the country’s geography is exactly what makes it the ideal destination for powder hunters.
“Its coasts in four different seas contain unique snow content with the humid air coming from the mountains and the sea around them, the Taurus mountain chain and the mountain chains stretching from the Black Sea coasts to the Caucasus,” said ski instructor Erdem Kurt. “Crystal snow is located on the northern slopes with the conversion of moisture from the sea to land”.
The country also has a surprisingly long history of winter sports.
“There is a 300-year-old petranboard culture in the Black Sea region, which is assumed to be the ancestor of snowboarding. It is known that petranboards were used to travel between villages, due to heavy snowfall on the Black Sea coast,” said Erdem.
Petranboards, named for the village of Petran in the Kaçkar Mountain region where they were invented, are wooden planks hammered together then waxed to allow them to glide over snow, with a steering rope and a wooden stick for holding to balance.
These days, throw in great value – with lift passes considerably cheaper than in western Europe, at around £10-15 a day – the absence of long queues, modern infrastructure, good snowfall and plenty of off-piste and backcountry action, and Türkiye as a ski destination begins to make a lot of sense. So, where to start?
The Erciyes ski resort, with a total track length of 112 km, represents the country’s biggest investment in the sport, according to Erdem.
It is situated on the 3,916 metre-high Mount Erciyes, an extinct volcano and one of the highest peak in Anatolia, with its highest points covered in snow all year round. The Tekir plateau on the eastern summit has a winter sports centre at an elevation of 2,100-2,900 metres.
Erciyes is easily accessible – it’s a four-hour flight from one-third of the countries in the world, and there are 15 daily scheduled flights from Istanbul to the airport at nearby Kayseri, with a flight time of just an hour, making it popular with the capital’s residents. The resort’s lifts have a capacity of 26,750 people per hour, and there are plenty of hotels both on Mount Erciyes and in the city of Kayseri, 20 minutes away.
The Ovit Highlands of the Black Sea region’s Kaçkar Mountains are blanketed in snow six months of the year. The 30,000 acres with its seven ski runs are accessible by car via the 14 kilometre-long Ovit Tunnel.
But take note that this is not the ideal terrain for beginners, although those at an advanced level will be delighted with the off-piste experience on offer, and the area is well known for wildlife watching as well as skiing and snowboarding. Extreme sports enthusiasts can also get their adrenaline fix through the resort’s heliski programme.
Uludağ is part of a national park and popular in summer for trekking and camping, but its ski facilities are being expanded, with more accommodation a priority.
Its peak, Kara Tepe, stands at 2,543 metres and the resort already offers heli-skiing, ice-skating, and snow biking as well as skiing and snowboarding, with 13 different runs. It can be reached by road or cable car, and is 40 minutes from Bursa – minibuses depart every hour in the winter.
Palandöken ski centre, in eastern Türkiye’s Erzurum province, boasts the longest ski trail in the country, at an altitude of 2,100 metres. This, along with its fine-grained light powder and steep slopes, has given it the reputation of Türkiye’s best mountain among those in the know, and it’s another one best suited to those with existing skills.
Its toughest run is known as the Ejder 3200 – Turkish for dragon – and this is a trail that’s frequently closed due to fog and the risk of avalanches.
The Ejder and Kapıkaya runs are Olympic-sized and suitable for slalom skiing, and runs are illuminated so there’s no need to leave the slopes when darkness falls. There are 22 pistes on a ski area of 460 hectares, and the season can last as long as October to May.
For those who want to branch out from skiing, the resort also offers unique experiences like paragliding and ice climbing.
Conditions at Kartalkaya, sitting at an altitude of 1,850-2,200 metres, allow for alpine skiing, ski touring, and cross-country skiing, with a semi-temperate climate and a season that begins in December and ends in March.
There are 38 runs across its two snow parks, and with daily buses from Istanbul and Ankara and plenty of nightclubs and bars, it has proved popular with a young crowd looking for après-ski action.
And as for Erdem, where is his favourite place to hit the slopes?
“As a backcountry snowboarder, I give first place to Ovit mountain and the Kaçkars,” he said. “I also like Davraz, which is on the Mediterranean coast; Kartalkaya, where there are off-piste routes among pine trees, and Sarıkamış, which is famous for its crystal snow”.