BURSA: The skiing season has officially begun here in Turkey, but before you rush off to enjoy the snow, check out these top tips on what to know and where to go
I bet you didn’t know that Turkey has nearly a dozen ski resort towns scattered throughout the country, each of which could serve as the perfect winter getaway. Each skiing destination in Turkey varies for the reasons they stand out and they also come with their own drawbacks. But from a layman’s point of view, and an expat at that, here is a general guide of where to go and what you should know before you hit the snowy slopes.
Uludağ in Bursa is the best for parties!
Any discussion of Turkey’s most popular ski resort towns inevitably begins with Uludağ. Located in Bursa, Uludağ has been Turkey’s best-known ski resort town for decades. In fact, the resort has grown so big that a second region was developed, dividing the resort into two areas referred to as District 1 and District 2.
The hotels and the skiing zone in District 1 operate like a well-oiled machine, with teleskis (platter lifts) and chairlifts that skiers must wait in line and pay for on their own accord. Plus, there can be long waiting times when the resort is crowded. District 1 houses older hotels, such as Beceren and Grand Yazıcı; however, due to Uludağ’s popularity, despite being old they are still quite pricey. Skiing is not a cheap pastime anywhere and certainly not in Turkey and you should expect to pay at least around $200 (TL 2,728) a day to enjoy the whole stay. Keep in mind that in February, Uludağ will host an annual Winter Wonderland Festival, which draws young people and usually comes with concerts and parties.
District 2 in Uludağ houses the region’s most spectacular luxury hotels, especially with the additions of mega-developer Ağaoğlu’s upscale My Mountain and the much-loved and more reasonable Monte Baia. Now, while the ski runs are not as established as District 1 (which is preferred by skiers in light snow) the hotels in this area tend to have their own private pistes, making for an easier and smoother overall experience. There are also teleskis set up between the two districts, so skiers and snowboarders (although admittedly more challenging) can easily access both districts and truly skilled skiers can even navigate between the two on their own. Altogether, there are around 20 pistes in Uludağ.
Yet another factor to consider when you go to Uludağ is its access. Located in Bursa, it is still a 1 1/2 hour drive from the Bursa Airport and a three-hour drive from Istanbul.
Kartalkaya in Bolu is the best setting
The skiing pistes in Kartalkaya are preferred by many Turks looking for a more relaxing skiing adventure in the spectacular setting of the Black Sea’s mountains. Kartalkaya has breathtaking views and better-quality snow than Uludağ, yet it only has 13 pistes. That said, this destination is a favorite one for many and it also houses the most exclusive hotels for the top luxury skiing experience. Hotels like Kaya Palazzo offer full-service suites and even have stunning private chalets for bigger parties of guests, but it’s priced accordingly at around $5,000 a day.
Kartalkaya also offers more affordable accommodation, don’t get me wrong, and you can get a room at any of the other hotels such as Hotel Kartal, for approximately $300. While Kartalkaya is a special destination on its own, it takes even longer to get to than Uludağ. Kartalkaya is located just 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Black Sea town of Bolu, however, the most easily accessible airport is in Ankara, which is a 2 1/2-hour drive away. It takes approximately 4 hours to drive to Kartalkaya from Istanbul. Hotels such as the Kaya Palazzo also offer transfer bus services to and from Istanbul to their guests.
Palandöken in Erzurum is the best for skiing and snowboarding
Hands down, Erzurum’s Palandöken is the best Alpine skiing and snowboarding in Turkey as it was developed for the 2011 Winter Universiade. There are 22 different pistes, five chairlifts and a gondola lift. The “Ejder” and “Kapıkaya” are the longest runs and they are Olympic-sized and suitable for slalom skiing. In total, there are 28 kilometers of runs, with the longest at 12 kilometers. Another highlight of a skiing adventure in Palandöken is that the runs are illuminated at night. Palandöken also has the longest skiing season of the top three.
Palandöken is popular with serious skiers and wealthy Russian tourists and it is the easiest destination in Turkey to get you on the slopes as soon as possible. This is because Palandöken is simply a 25-minute car ride from the Erzurum Airport. There are admittedly fewer hotels in the region, but for those on a budget, there is also the option of staying in the town of Erzurum itself.
Otherwise, the Dedeman Hotel is the most established in the region and is usually booked up. Not to fret, as there are plenty of hotels nearby that serve as excellent and affordable options with nightly accommodation costing less than $100 on average. Of those, there is the Polat Hotel, but I prefer Sway Hotel, which is, of course, quadruple the price, but it also has a wellness center and a spa and lights up their own piste, which is accessible directly from the hotel.
These are just the top three recommendations for an easy skiing adventure, but if you want to delve deeper, in terms of snowfall and a unique experience, you might want to mark Sarıkamış in Kars for a later trip. It’s a great spot for snowboarders and has over 21 kilometers of slopes. After that, there is Erciyes in Kayseri, Ovit Mountain in Rize, Ilgaz Mountain in Kastamonu, Davraz in Isparta and last, but not least, Kocaeli’s Kartepe is great for its close proximity to Istanbul at just 100 kilometers.