Here is how:
- Fly into Tiblisi or Kutaisi
- Rent a car with good ground clearance and 4 wheel drive (we rented through www.cars4rent.ge , they have great used cars and great customer service!)
- Find yourself an accommodation (The less you are in Gudauri, the emptier it gets, www.booking.com or www.airbnb.com)
- Consider going with a local guide (we used svanetioutdoor) (We dont get comission or anything here, we just liked the car rental and the guide)
- Hope for good weather! (Most snowfall between mid January and mid February)
- Enjoy a wild adventure of skiing in a place that is yet to be discovered by all the other skiiers.
- Go because you want to travel and have a cultural experience, skiing is really good but nothing that you could no find in the alpes. (well except for few people.)
- Get a simcard for your phone at the airport to get you internet coverage anywhere you go. (These are quite cheap at around 10usd for 5gb of data)
- Bring skins so you can go touring in the fantastic backcountry (Not a must, but we certainly found it helpful)
- Consider a day of two for the capitol Tbilisi – its great! Do a freewalking tour!
Where to go skiing?
Georgia has multiple locations to go skiing. By far the most popular and biggest destination is Gudauri located about 2.5h drive from Tbilisi. Since we have not visited the other locations the following information is gathered from the internet and some locals talking about it. But not first hand.
- Gudauri – Gudauri is easy to reach and has good infrastructure. Can be crowded and prices for places to stay are higher than elsewhere.
- Goderzi – 2 Lifts and terrain is not very steep. Lots of powder and not many people.
- Bakurani – Rather tiny resort with beginner friendly slopes. Not as much snowfall as in the other places.
- Mestia – Well, thats where we went, down below you will see why.
Gudauri is a popular weekend destination for many georgians and also suitable for skiers of any skill level. Due to its size and easy access its by far the most crowded resort in Georgia. We decided against going to Gudauri to avoid the masses and have more of an adventurous experience – which we certainly got.
Mestia is the biggest town in the svaneti region (With about 2000 people living there) and about 10hrs drive by car from Tbilisi. Mestia itself is located next to a small Ski resort called Hatsvali. The next bigger Skiresort is called Tetnuldi which offers (as of 2019) 4 ski lifts as well as great backcountry- and sidecountry skiing. So why not just stay in Tetnuli closer to all that powder fun? You can surely do that too, for us we decided we wanted to be a little closer to some restaurants and bars to be able to go out to eat at night. Also its nice to be around the corner of Hatsvali which offers great tree runs and if there is any fresh snow you can have plenty of fun right there.
So why go to Georgia to go skiing? Georgia does not come with the ridiculous amount of snow that Japan has to offer, nor does it come with the infrastructure that the Alpes can offer. What it offers is an adventure and a travel experience that is unique like no other. Traveling Georgia felt authentic and honest. A great plus is also the lack of tourists. Sure you’ll find other likeminded people but its nothing like in the big famous skiing places. No more going home at 9:27am since everything is tracked out, no more standing in line with 400 other fully equipped powder junkies and no more fistfighting for the first line.
Prices! Prices might also be a good reason to travel to Georgia: (As of 2019)
- A day skipass for 10.- usd
- a night in a bed an breakfast for 10 – 20.- usd
- a large beer for 1.- usd
- Eating out including drinks for around 10.- usd
The drive to Mestia is long but fun – especially if its your first time in Georgia. There is lots of food to try on the side of the road and there is plenty to see (Like lots and lots and lots of wildlife on the road including horses, cows, chickens, sheep, goats, dogs, cats and plenty pigs). The road in the valley to Mestia is in good shape except for a few stones or small boulders laying on the street here and there. Depending on temperatures and snowfall it might be necessary to mount snowchains to your vehilce. Other than that you should be fine if you bring a 4×4.
Arriving in Mestia we felt like we are set back in time by about 30 years. While the place offers plenty of restaurants and convenience stores, globalism has not really arrived with its burgers and heinekens – yet. Most of the food is locally made and very good (and very fresh too!). The breakfast in our guesthouse was outstanding and freshly made every day. The bread, the dumplings, the pots with beans, the eggplant thing, all of it was just great!
From Mestia its roughly a 30min drive to the Tetnuldi ski resort. Even tough Georgia is not as crowded as other skiing places, you will still find a few locals and then a few other international tourist that come here to ski these mountains. Tetnuldi offers great backcountry skiing (Get a guide!) and also great sidecountry skiing. After a snowfall you can still find fluffy runs a few days later within the ski resort.
While Georgia does not offer an official avalanche report online, there is a billboard in Tetnuldi which indicates the current avalanche situation.
Tetnuldi ski resort just opened a few years ago and the chair lifts are modern and fairly quick. When arriving at the top of the mountain you may decide to hike up a few meters to get to some better freeride possibilies. From here you can find a long strech of relatively steep and even terrain which is great for speedy long powder turns. Make sure you are willing to take the risk skiing here as there are parts of the terrain that are steep enough to trigger large avalanches. The terrain in Tetnuldi is mostly open with few obstacles. Around the top of the mountain the terrain can be very very steep and there are some narrow lines to be found. A little lower you will find wide open spaces with just a few bushes here and there. Trees only start at the lower part of the resort. So for the most part we have been skiing above the tree line where you can go surfing in ways that just make you giddy.
The surrounding mountains offer great backcountry skiing. Unless you have the necessary experience to plan and execute a ski tour in unknown terrain yourself I highly recommend a guide to show you where to go. We had an overall great time with our local ski guide and i can just point you in their direction: svanetioutdoor With them we were able to experience lots of different areas around Mestia. Skiing down the mountain and then arriving in a sleepy medieval village followed by a 1.5h car ride (Driven by a friend of a friend of the guide ofc.) over ridiculously snowy roads was surely a highlight.
There is one offer for heliskiing around Mestia but it was fully booked at the time we were there( https://www.flory-kern.de/heliskiing/swanetien). At the time of writing there is no cat skiing in mestia. If you want heli skiing there are some possibilities in Gudauri and cat skiing can be found in Bakhmaro through www.powderproject.ch .
Well what a place. As I pointed out before: dont just go for the skiing – dont get me wrong, the skiing is fantastic but great snow can be found in many parts of the world. Georgia offered us a glimpse of its culture. Getting to know some locals and their way of life was making a great trip perfect. I can only recommend visiting this beautiful country with its great people.