Ski Touring in Georgia
Ski Touring in Georgia can be great experience. Georgian mountains offer great variety of ski touring options. In the Caucasus mountains where there are many hiking routes in summer, you can discover the best ski slopes, certified ski touring guides, views to snowed 4-5 thousand meter summits.
While Bakuriani ski resort is the best for family vacation and fun, it is not a destination for ski touring. Goderdzi ski resort has very beautiful areas and lots of snow, but slope verticals are not that high for the routes available there, so the best destinations are Gudauri ski resort/Kazbegi area, Racha region (with no ski resorts but high verticals) and Bakhmaro where cat skiing is possible and Svaneti with the best hiking routes in summer has the best ski touring routes too and more affordable accomodation options as there is permanent population in both Svaneti and Racha. So the most ideal choice for ski touring in Georgia is Svaneti.
However, taking into account lots of snow, small cottages of Bakhmaro, no permanent population, snowed forests and breathtaking view, visiting Bakhmaro in summer may be the most beautiful and romantic option.
Kazbegi/Gudauri Ski Resort
Advantage of Kazbegi/Gudauri is its proximity to Tbilisi. Unless you fly, you may need 1 day to get to Mestia. In Gudauri area, you can ascend 1000-1500 vertical meters and more. We have some great routes – Mountains to ski down, like mt miliona 3200 Kobi Pass 3.200 – down to 2000m, 3400m Mt Dedaena – down to 2300m, famous lomisa church area which is destination of piligrimage hiking in summer and snowshoeing in winter, offers us to ski down from 2300-2400m to 1400m elevation and is just 2 hr from Tbilisi. You can always ski down from Gudauri slopes (ascending to the top by cable car) to valley of towers khada gorge, Chaukhi mountains and Juta area is also very popular and may be harder and more exotic too – already considered as ski mountaineering, so from from Georgian dolomittes u can ski down from 3300-3500s to 2200. Anyway, since Kazbegi/Gudauri area is the most developed area u can do all : ski touring, ski mountaineering, freeriding, backcountry skiing, heli-skiing (there are helicopter bases as well) and even do ski mountaineering to Mt Kazbeg above 5000m – the top of Georgia.
Racha Ski Resort
Racha region can be the most unspoiled destination with actual population and affordable accomodation and high verticals as well. There are many routes what you can do, ski down from Notsara (Chiora ridge) can be extremely beautiful in winter. Buba Glacier area can be perfect as well from Shovi, but since most of freeriding guides were based in the last years in Ghebi area, slopes above Laghora huts , Mukhameshi area as well can be great destination. Not quite sure about Udziro lake route in winter, but Chutkharo area from Uravi offers great slopes too (hike between lower Svaneti and Racha).
Svaneti Ski Resort
In the end, more about my favorite choice – Svaneti area. Snowfall is usually more frequent in Western Georgia due to proximity of the Black sea. There are certified local guides in Svaneti which can make ski touring more safe. There are 2 ski resorts – Hatsvali and Tetnuldi , the first one starts from Mestia and the second one is 40-50 min drive. You will find tours offered in Svaneti area but I can do short suggestion for 10 days plan (with extra days for return and departure):
- Day 1: especially if its short day – Skiing in Hatsvali resort (warm up) – This day could be easily replaced by one of the options i listed in Day 2: either ski down to Zhabeshi from tetnuldi resort or to Adishi.
- Day 2: Tetnuldi resort – Skiing – Ski down to Zhabeshi village (going up by cable car to around 3000s); Possible option is to descend to Adishi village side like in Classical summer tour and then drive to Ushguli from Adishi.
- Day 3: Koruldi lakes area (1200-1300m elevation) possible to descend to Chalaadi glacier side; There is cloudbase hut on the way so it could be used to stay and do more ski touring.
- Day 4: Etseri Ski touring to Mazeri area with views of Ushba summit 4710m ascending the Baki pass (1200m elevation gain); instead you could do Guli pass area ski touring (ascent of 1000-1400m) and not to come back in Mestia, but stay in Mazeri and drive to Ushguli from there instead.
- Day 5: Drive to Ushguli and ski touring there – Shkhara mountain (5200 m Georgia’s highest summit) viewpoint- 950 m elevation gain, night in Ushguli.
- Day 6: Again Ushguli – Gorvashi pass, 850 m elevation gain – here we will have views to lower and upper Svaneti, almost all summits and glaciers from 3000m elevation. come back to Mestia
- Day 7: Ski touring near Laila glacier. Homestays are in this village as well, but staying all nights except for Ushguli is more comfortable. However if you prefer this way u can sleep here and depart from here to Zugdidi/Tbilisi/Kutaisi. Laila glacier gives u chance for views even to Mt Elbrus in good weather and perfect slopes, also beautiful forests. 1 hut is also in Alpine zone. Possibility to go up from 1400m to 3400m even is not the easiest but can be the most rewarding experience.
Since tours are better in circular way it is recommended to have a car with driver who can take you to Mazeri area, Laila glacier area, Etseri, and Ushguli which is famous tower village and drive there will take 2-3 hrs (but its must and worth) and driving in winter in mountain roads can be dangerous. So both car with driver and ski touring guide is recommended to have for Svaneti area. There are many accomodation options too in Svaneti. For staying a week which is required for real ski touring experience, you need to know where to stay, who serves food well and will keep you always full and warm. So in total, considering low cost of airlines in winter (likes of wizzair which flies to Kutaisi, half way to Mestia), trip may cost you less then getting the same services in Alps and if u have professional guide, you can be even more safe. Besides, you will have views to famous summits like 2-headed Ushba, snowwhite princess Tetnuldi and Shkhara which is the highest in Georgia and from Laila pass to Elbrus, which is the highest in Europe. So from the perspective of someone who is into summits and mountains, it can make your heart beating. In addition, small churches in Svaneti with beautiful frescoes from middle ages is also treasure and culture of locals which is significant. Fun fact – Did u know that Svaneti is the center for bitcoin mining? It has free electricity.