Who has skied in the Caucasus? Europe's highest mountain (the Elbrus) is located there. In 2014 the olympic games will be held there (in Sochy). I am curious to hear experiences.
I'm curious, as well. I bet the Caucasus mountains are amazing, and would probably be much cheaper than Western Europe. However, I'm thinking they don't have their ski industry nearly as built up. I'd love to see a TR from there!
There are a couple of things holding people back.
First, Russia is not known as a tourist-friendly place (I lived in Moscow for a couple of years, so I can understand the reputation). Pretty much anyone not from a former-Soviet country is required to have a visa to go there, even as a tourist. On top of that, very few people speak English, which makes it more difficult to get around if you don't know Russian. The Caucuses are also an area with a lot of tensions (Chechnya, Dagestan, South Ossetia, etc.), so it all adds up to make a trip there a bit daunting for many people.
Second, the resorts there are not really developed or easy to get to. Anyone in Europe looking for a bargain trip would stick to Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, or Croatia. So, the only real attraction is the heli-skiing. Not many people have the money for a heli trip, and the ones that do are often put off by the reasons listed in the paragraph above; they would much rather stick to the Alps or go to Alaska, where they feel safe.
So, it's a hassle to travel in Russia, especially if you don't speak Russian, the Caucuses are the most dangerous part of the country, and there's not much to offer apart from the heli-skiing. That said, I have considered doing a trip there. Then again, I'm a weirdo who used to live in Russia and isn't really put off by dangerous areas.
If I ever do go there, I'll definitely post a TR for you.
I used to ski with Boris. Boris say, Utah nothing: the Cowkusus are reeel mountains. Rockies tiny, America nothing. Boris big man, we are leettle men.... of course, Boris complained all one powder day at Alta that there were no bumps to ski. Last time I ski with Booris...
Put Georgia on the map. Two resorts there - Gudauri (Kazbek Mountain) and Bakuriani with former being the best. Being born in Georgia I missed the opportunity to ski there (wooden ski with leather straps doesn't count)
If you speak Russian - great. English is making its way in but the resort is appr 4h drive from Tbilisi on the SUV (a must - poor road conditions) so not sure how well English-speaking guy will get by. Georgia has very well known hospitality rules embedded deep into the culture so no worries there.
My company is opening a couple of ski hotels in the Sochi area. I doubt they'll get much business after the Olympics, so I might see if I can get a good discount during the 2014/2015 season (before they go out of business).
Whilst accom/lift tickets are amongst the cheaper end of the spectrum the airfare pushes the total holiday cost up towards the St Anton end of the spectrum, if I'm going to pay out that kind of cash I want that kind of experience, having no russian either I'm in no rush to go there.
Skied there as a little kid in the 1980s - 5 yrs in Terskol (Elbrus area) and 5 yrs in Dombai. These were the premier ski resords in the good old USSR. This was a long time ago, but some memories stuck with me:
- Climate is really frigid, definetely the coldest and the windiest mountains I've ever skied in (late Dec / early Jan)
- Base elevation was really high. I remember feeling a real oxigen deprivation attack once I got to the top of the gondola on Elbrus (somewhere about 4200 meters above the sea level). The top of Elbrus is somwhere around 56xx meters.
- Really old lifts / infrastructure back then. Unless they updated / upgraded (which I doubt given the unstable economy / tense political climate there), these are now 25-30 years older and most likely unsafe.
- Lots of snow (good but the roads could be blocked by avalanges)
- No grooming - skiers would dig huge moguls that would be all icy as winds would blow all the snow off the tops / walls
- Hotels really old and spartan
- Hostile locals. This got much worse in the 90s with all the wars in Checnia / terrorist acts in Dagestan. This may have gotten better / safer, but dont know for sure. There is a real danger of getting robbed, if not kidnapped. If you run into trouble, the local aothorities would be no help or try to extort more money.
- Crappy transportation / unsafe roads
- Crappy food / drinks / everything else that is man-made
- God help you if you need medical care
- Beautiful mountains (the views are breathtaking, way more impressive than at Utah or Colorado resorts)
- If you go, this will be a once in a lifetime experience / adventure. You'll definetely bring back some unique memories