Skip to main content

Topics Winter Adventure Tourism

Tue, 02/23/2021 - 15:37

Kyrgyzstan is full of possibilities for travellers looking for serious winter adventure way beyond the beaten track. From groomed resort pistes and powdery freeride runs to paragliding over the vast expanse of Issyk-Kol lake and even heliskiing deep in the untouched slopes of the Tien Shan backcountry, there's so much to discover for visitors that are willing to get stuck in deep.

Ski resorts abound in the Chuy valley surrounding capital city Bishkek – ZiL and Chunkurchak (both less than an hour from the city) are among the most popular for beginners or for a quick trip out of the city, while high-altitude Too-Ashuu draws a slightly more advanced crowd who don't mind the longer drive from the city and look forward to the untouched snows and slightly longer season that the 3000m altitude can offer.

Karakol ski resort, with the country's best facilities and a beautiful location overlooking Issyk-Kol, is popular among visitors and locals alike both for the diversity of terrain and quality of ski runs and for the international-quality lifts and infrastructure on site – and like everywhere in the country, a full-day lift pass at less than $15 USD makes for a stunningly good value for a day out in the snow! It's also the best spot for commercial paragliding in all of Kyrgyzstan – skiers or casual tourists alike can soar off into the skies from the top of Karakol base's Panorama Lift, with mountain views on every side and the stunning expanse of Issyk-Kol far below.

If groomed runs aren't your goals, then perhaps it's Kyrgyzstan wide-open freeride potential that will catch your attention. The small village and ecotourism hub of Jyrgalan, some 60km from Karakol, is a quickly-growing favourite among freeriders who want all the deep pow and untracked slopes of a backcountry day while still enjoying the full convenience of cozy hotels and snowcat lifts up to the slopes. Rough it just a little, and the nearby backcountry yurt camps at Boz-Uchuk and Jalpak Tash offer even more remote experiences that are more than worth the effort. Further afield, the community of Arslanbob in Southern Kyrgyzstan's Jalalabad oblast organizes an annual Ski Challenge that brings together local guides and enthusiasts with foreign visitors for a weekend of winter fun and competition, as well as limited offerings for guided backcountry trips to terrain that sees just a handful of visitors each year. 

If even that level of fresh powder isn't enough to quench your thirst for adventure, there's always the option of heliski. Touching down to a pristine colour on a bluebird morning, hopping out of the heli and bombing down the first of three faces of the day, day after day across the Tien Shan range – it's the type of addictive adventure that, no matter how many times it's repeated, can never quite be enough!

Winter tourism in Kyrgyzstan

Swiss Sustainable Winter Tourism Development Project