Our first Georgia Ski Touring trip to this amazing area lived up to all expectations – an excellent adventure, mixing lift served powder skiing and day touring in the Svaneti region of Georgia.
I’d reccied the area the previous summer (checking terrain, sorting logistics and making necessary contacts etc) to ensure everything went smoothly – so flying direct from Luton to Kutaisi made for an easy start, then a long drive up into the mountains finally reaching Mestia and the snow – lots of it… Clearly this was going to be a strenuous weeks guiding, breaking trail through deep deep powder all week!
After checking in at our hotel in Mestia, we went to a café for lunch and then headed out for a bit of sightseeing, exploring back alleys amongst the Svan Towers. Mestia has plenty of nice cafes and bars which are busy in the summer, but very quiet in the winter – it isn’t your typical Alpine ski resort though; cows wandering down the main street add a definite wild west flavour
We started off with a day up at Tetnuldi, which although only 15km from Mestia, takes 40 mins to drive in 4×4 vehicle up very snowy tracks up to 2200m – we arrived just as the lifts were opening and spent the day skiing lap after lap of fresh, light powder – finally finishing off with an adventurous descent down to a remote Svan village where Koba our driver was waiting to pick us up – unfortunately we arrived at one end of the village and he was parked at the other, so it took quite a while to locate each other – all just part of the adventure! After that, we made sure pickup were a bit clearer and Koba did an amazing job, getting us up rough 4×4 tracks to tiny mountain villages and remote locations.
The following two days we went day touring in Etseri and above Mestia – both days putting skinning tracks in to enjoy long fresh powder descents with absolutely no one around. On day 4 we visited Hatsvali ski station at the edge of town, where we discovered some amazing tree skiing and made a big final schuss right back down to Mestia and a cosy bar for drinks and coffees.
Our final morning dawned cloudy, but bright – a good sign of a cloud inversion – so we headed back up to Tetnuldi, to enjoy superb views and powder above the clouds, before our mid afternoon pickup for the long drive back down to Kutaisi. The day finished with nice walk through the old city to a local restaurant serving traditional Georgian dishes, which went down very well with a bunch of hungry skiers…
With late afternoon return flights we had time for a final morning’s sightseeing around Kutaisi, visiting the famous markets, the old city and UNESCO listed Bagrati Cathedral before heading back to the airport and home. All in all a great trip, with memories of Svan Towers, fresh powder, cows, dogs, cha-cha drinking, 4×4 driving and stunning views of the high Caucasus – I can’t wait to get back here next season and do some more exploring!