Georgia is a former Soviet Republic in the Caucasus region; an ancient country that is known for its history, snow-capped mountains and very friendly locals. The mighty Caucasus Mountain ranges are found in the region between the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Russia, Turkey and Iran, and one of the peaks popular for skiing is found in Georgia. Skiing in Georgia is as popular as surfing in Hawaii or rock climbing in Switzerland.
A foreigner’s first step towards an exhilarating Georgian skiing holiday is in the capital city of Tbilisi, where the international airport and major infrastructures are found. Not far away is the Great Caucasus Mountain range where three of the most challenging and picturesque ski resorts in the world are located. These are the Mestia, Bakuriani and Gadauri resorts.
Located at the northwestern Svaneti region, the tiny town of Mestia is 1,500 meters high. It is a well-known destination for local skiers, mountaineers, alpinists, and adventure lovers. Apart from skiing, Mestia is also popular for its old towers, ancient homes and medieval churches and forts that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The second resort has been nominated by the Olympic Committee of Georgia to host the 2018 Olympic Games. Georgia is almost sure now that the winter games will be held in the country. Found in the district of Borjomi, Bakuriani is a popular skiing resort with an elevation of 1,700 meters. Located about 30 km from downtown Borjomi, the forest-covered ski resort boasts of its highest and most challenging peak, the 2,200-meter-high Mount Kohta.
Bakuriani is surrounded by modern hotels, cable services, ski tracts, service centers, and a youth entertainment center.
Finally, the country’s most important ski resort is Gadauri in the Stephantsminda District. Set on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain range at 2,196 meters high, Gadauri is known to offer quality, spectacular and avalanche-free slopes, runs and paths. While locals love skiing at Bakuriani, international skiers find Gadauri more inviting and attractive. It is more expensive here than in Bakuriani.
Another attraction in the area is the Georgian Military Highway, which leads to the popular ski resort. Building this spectacular highway is almost unimaginable as it traverses through high mountain peaks and takes dangerous curves. It is 208 kilometers long and runs from the capital city of Tbilisi through the ancient town of Mtskheta, the old Gergeti Trinity Church, climb Mount Kazbek (one of the highest peaks in Europe), Terek Valley, Darial Gorge, Jvari Pass (which is more than 2,300 meters high), along the bank of the Mtkvari River, and all the way to Vladikavkaz, Russia.
Gadauri ski resort is just about 120 km on the Georgian Military Highway from the capital city going north. The drive could take about two hours. The best months to come are from December to April although heli-skiing is available anytime of the year.
Heli-skiing does sound like hell-skiing because of the associated danger, but no. Heli is for helicopter, since heli-skiers get onto the most challenging slopes not on a ski lift but a helicopter. They look for off-trail, naturally occurring skiing conditions that could not be replicated in the manicured runs in ski resorts. Heli-skiing is yet another dimension to skiing in Georgia that is attracting more and more professional skiers from around the world.