Kazakhstan has become increasingly popular and accessible to tourists, and one of the many attractions the country has to offer is its choice of great ski resorts. Better value for money than a lot of European locations and with more reasonably priced flights from Europe now available, Kazakhstan provides not only skiing on a budget throughout its December to April ski season, but beautiful scenery entirely different to that of Alpine ski resorts of Europe. Snowy mountains look out over endless flat steppe, the perfect visuals as you glide down the slopes. So here is a collection of 5 ski resorts to provide some Kazakh inspiration for your next trip.
Located in the Medeu Valley of the Zailiyskiy Alatau mountain range, the northernmost section of Central Asia’s Tian Shan mountain system, Shymbulak resort is the largest and most modern ski resort in Central Asia. It is a ten-minute bus ride from the country’s former capital and largest city, Almaty, and the gondola up to the resort is the third largest in the world. Although Shymbulak is smaller compared with well known skiing destinations in Europe and the US, it has plenty to offer the visitor. Ideal for both resort and backcountry skiing, there are eight pistes stretching 15km (9 miles), with ski runs descending from 3200 metres from the summit, and English-speaking ski instructors for people looking to learn.
The wide empty slopes are also perfect for beginners, as well as skiers who enjoy a more leisurely ski. Shymbulak boasts all the necessary modern facilities such as rental shops, terraced bars, restaurants, Alpine chalets, novice areas, a snow park, and artificial snow machines, and you can enjoy Night skiing twice a week from 7-11pm. Kazakhstan’s southern mountains face the open steppe ensuring prolonged sunshine and providing a mild year round climate at Shymbulak, so you can ski with the sun on your back, admiring the views as you go.
Tabagan resort, built in 2005 in the Shibinsai (Zailisky Alatau) ravine, is only 17 km from the city of Almaty making it easy to access. The resort is great for beginners and experienced skiers alike, and as well as the long cable car, there is a toboggan run open year-round, a tennis court, a football field, and a volleyball court to keep you entertained on and off the snow.
The resort covers a total of 55 hectares, with 11 ski slopes summing a total length of 37 km, and reaches a height of 1,650m at the upper point. Tracks of different levels of complexity provide fun for experienced skiers, those who want to ride the virgin snow, and beginners to the sport, and the mountain slopes and spruce groves offer stunning views. The resort has everything you need in a beautiful location, making it surely one of the best winter holiday destinations.
Nurtau resort is located 8 km from the village of Bobrovka and 35 km from the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk, the capital of Eastern Kazakhstan. The main advantages of the resort are its favourable climate and the wide range of services it offers. It is a popular ski resort in Kazakhstan and is relatively young so still expanding. Today it receives around 35,000 plus visitors each year.
Transport accessibility and well-developed infrastructure make Nurtau a wonderful skiing location, and the picturesque valley which it sits in, nestled among mountains and firs that surround it on all sides, gives it a special charm. Ski slopes are located at the top of the resort, and within walking distance from the lifts you can find equipment rental and ‘Knyazhyi Gory’ café. There is also the ‘Namedni’ Russian cuisine restaurant and a real Russian wooded sauna for relaxing. The resort is great for novice skiers and those more experienced, and is also a good family friendly location.
4. Ak Bulak
A modern and diversified resort located at the foot of the Zailiysky Alatau mountains in the Soldiers Gorge, Ak Bulak has an altitude of 1,600 meters above sea level. At 35 km from the city of Almaty, it has good access and offers a plentitude of facilities, from hotels to sports grounds, like the ice-skating arena, to its year-round ice and concert complex, as well as pools, saunas and spa treatments to help you relax after a long and exciting day on the slopes.
With professional instructors for skiing and snowboarding, and equipment rental, repair and improvement, the resort has everything you need to have a great skiing holiday. You’ll find European and Asian cuisine in the restaurant ‘Alatau’, and when out on the slopes, the crystal clear air and the majestic beauty of the mountain peaks which surround you is truly amazing.
5. Medeu ice skating rink
Medeu ice skating rink stands at an altitude of 1,691.2m above sea level and is known world-wide. Erected in 1972, the ice surface occupies 10,500 sq.m which enables it to host several competitions in hockey and figure skating, as well as others. The soft climate in the gorge where it is located means it gets a good level of sunshine, low atmospheric pressure, a gentle breeze and clean glacial water, all of which combine to make the place a popular high-mountain skating rink.
More than 120 world records have been established here by famous sportspeople and over recent years the skating rink has been increasingly improved, making it a good additional visit whilst out exploring the wonders of Kazakhstan’s winter sport scenery.