New for 2022! – Yurt Camp based ski touring in Kyrgyzstan, in the heart of Central Asia. The region is famous for it’s unique ‘bottomless’ powder snow pack, so extra wide skis are a must on this trip. The trip begins with a couple of hotel based warm up days, before travelling into a remote Yurt Camp and exploring the Tien Shan mountains on ski. Kyrgyzstan is an exceptionally mountainous country, with peaks up to 7000m and the Kyrgyz people are incredibly warm and welcoming.
Please visit our Covid-19 Ski Information page for Covid FAQs, details of our new participation requirements, travel advice and what to expect on your trip.
Ski Touring in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is the same size as the Uk but incredibly mountainous, with numerous ranges higher than the Alps and summits in the Tien Shan and Pamirs reaching over 7000m. The area where we ski is in the far east of the country, close to China and Kazakhstan and adjacent to Lake Issyk-Kul, which at 180km long is the second highest Alpine Lake in the world. The lake doesn’t freeze in winter, which creates increased snowfall and slightly milder temperatures in the winter than other parts of the country – both of which are good for skiing!
Cold, dry continental conditions between snowfalls create a unique ‘bottomless’ snowpack in this region – so you will need extra wide skis for this trip (see further notes regarding skis: appropriate skis and good powder skiing skills are a requirement for joining the trip; it’s that important!)
The ski touring terrain lies between 2000-3500m and consists of excellent lightly wooded slopes and glades lower down, with more open terrain and accessible ski summits higher up. The upper tree line is at approx 2800m. During the trip we base ourselves in two venues – first we get used to the terrain and local snowpack with a couple of days touring from a comfortable hotel in the main regional town of Karakol, then transfer to a remote Yurt Camp for the rest of the trip.
The Yurt Camp
There are a number of different yurt camps available for skiing in the region, so we’ve chosen the one with the most comfortable facilities and best views and scenery! It’s accessed via an 8km 4WD track up to the trail head, where we are met by skidoos which transport our bags up to the camp whilst we skin the final 4km up to the yurts. The camp itself is very well equipped for such a remote location; with separate dining, cooking and sleeping Yurts. 4 people sleep in each Yurt, so there’s plenty of space, with mattresses and sleeping bags provided. All yurts are equipped with electric lighting (powered by hydro-electric and a generator), power sockets for recharging electricals and a wood burning stove, which will be lit each evening and early morning before breakfast by the camp heating manager. The camp has basic outdoor toilets, a sink and wash basin in the main dining yurt, outdoor seating for apres ski hanging out and a ‘Banya’ Russian sauna next to the river, for anyone brave enough to take the plunge! A bar with draught beer, drinks and vodka (of course) complete the set up.
Bordering Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China – Kyrgyzstan is a country rich in history and full of contrasts. It’s mountainous landscapes offer ever changing vistas and the people are incredibly warm and welcoming. Strong remnants of Central Asian nomadic culture and the more recent Soviet Era make for a fascinating mix of human and natural heritage to discover in this ancient and diverse country.
This is an ‘off the beaten track’ ski trip to a less developed nation, so a flexible mindset and a sense of adventure are prerequisites to enjoy this type of holiday. Expect the unexpected and you’ll have a great time!
To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3 and Tech Level 3-4 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines below). You need at least 3 weeks ski touring experience and good quality powder skiing experience in order to join this trip – as you need to be able to ski the fall line at a good pace, whilst making linked medium and long radius turns in deep powder snow (it really is deep stuff – so to ski it successfully, you need to be able to keep your speed up and not fall over often, as it’s hard work and time consuming getting up again!) If you haven’t skied with us before, then a reference from a guide (or ski tour leader that we know) will be required. The skiing includes 5-6 hour days with generally steady climbs and typically 800-1200m of ascent a day – so you can expect to be skinning for 3-4 hours a day. Type of ascent: we use 100% skinning during the trip – approx 8000m of skinning up, 8000m of skiing down, with day packs and at mid altitude.
Special Kit Requirement – Wide Skis
You need to trust us on this one (ie it’s obligatory!) – we insist that everyone has a pair of extra wide powder skis on this trip. For a typical adult male, this means ~110mm+ underfoot (105+ for lighter skiers and 115+ for heavier skiers). In the local snowpack, on narrower skis the only way to keep moving is to lean back a long way all of the time (which as we all know is difficult, tiring and not much fun) – so for the safety and enjoyment of the whole group, we insist that everyone skis on suitably wide skis.
Recommended ski widths for different weight skiers on this trip:
- 50-60kg – 105mm+ recommended (95mm minimum, if you are very good)
- 60-70kg – 105-108mm+ recommended (100mm minimum, if you are very good)
- 70-80kg – 110mm+ recommended (102-105mm minimum)
- 80-90kg – 110mm+ recommended (105mm minimum)
- 90kg+ – 115mm+ recommended (110mm minimum)
Two IFMGA guides skiing with 7 clients.
Included in price
- 8 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 2 nights hotel accommodation in Bishkek including breakfast
- 3 nights hotel accommodation in Karakol including breakfast and evening meal
- 5 nights accommodation in Yurt Camp including breakfast, evening meal and packed lunch
- Transport during the trip in Kyrgyzstan
Excluded from price (see factsheet for extra cost estimates)
- Lift Passes
- Lunches and drinks
- Evening Meals in Bishkek
- Flights to Bishkek (this trip travels out on Wednesday and back on Saturday)
- Equipment hire
We stay in good western standard 3 and 4 star hotels in Bishkek and Karakol. Our hotel in Bishkek is decorated in traditional Kyrgyz style and lies right in the city centre next to all the sights. Our hotel in Karakol is likewise well appointed and offers a good base for warm up skiing to get used to the terrain and snowpack. Hotel rooms are provided on a twin sharing basis, but if you wish to book a single room please let us know and we will confirm availability.
The yurt camp is in a remote location, but well equipped (see notes above) – there is no phone signal at the camp itself, but you can get a good signal up on the hill to check messages and emails during the week.
Fly from London to Bishkek, transfer to our hotel in Bishkek.
AM Sightseeing in Bishkek. Our hotel is located right in the centre of the capital, so we’ll have time for some sightseeing in the morning, before heading to Karakol in the afternoon.
PM Travel to Karakol. At midday, we are picked up at our hotel for the transfer to Karakol. This is a long 420km journey, which typically takes 6-7 hours. Along the way we travel through rugged mountain landscapes and the length of 180km long Lake Issyk-Kul (which means ‘warm lake’ in Kyrgyz). The lake lies at 1600m and has no outflow, so as a consequence it is slightly saline – it’s also nearly 600m deep and has a big effect on the local micro climate. Karakol is the regional town at the east end of the lake and the main centre for tourism in this part of Kyrgyzstan, so has a good range of local hotels and services.
Evening Ski Briefing – your guide will run through kit checks and safety routines, before going on to discuss the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our plans. We’ll have maps and information on the area to show you, so if you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up.
Overnight in Karakol.
2 days ski touring based in Karakol.
For the first part of the trip, we tune into the local snowpack with a couple of warm up day tours based from our hotel in Karakol. There are dozens of great touring venues within an hours’ drive of Karakol, including the well known village of Jyrgalan and the local ski station, which has excellent lift assisted day tours and off piste options.
6 days ski touring based in the Yurt Camp.
On Sunday morning, we drive to the trailhead via a rough 4WD track, where we are met by skidoos which will transport our luggage up to the camp. We’ll skin the final 4km to the camp under our own steam, as it’s a lovely valley and the perfect way to start our visit. After lunch, we’ll then head out for a day tour, arriving back at the camp for tea time.
Monday to Thursday are spent enjoying the excellent, varied ski touring available in the area. The camp has been carefully positioned so that it’s surrounded by high quality ski terrain – with open glades and tree skiing in the forests nearby camp and cols and higher alpine summits up to 3500m further up the valley. Because of this, it’s possible to enjoy good skiing in pretty much any weather conditions.
Camp life and the daily routine quickly become established; 8am breakfast, head out skiing, back late afternoon for apres ski snacks and beer, then maybe a sauna before dinner and socialising before bed. The Yurts are equipped with electricity and a wood stove, which is lit each evening, then topped up at bed time and again at around an hour before everyone gets up in the morning (this is all done by the camp manager!) All in all it’s remarkably comfortable for such a remote spot and not unlike alpine hut life.
The food is excellent and plentiful, with fresh fruit and veg each day and special diets well catered for.
On Friday morning we make an early start for our final ski tour of the trip, before heading out to the trailhead at lunchtime and driving back to Bishkek.
Early start to the airport for flights home.
Your meeting point for this trip is London Heathrow Airport, at 5.00am on Wednesday 3rd Feb 2021 or at Bishkek hotel/airport. If you plan to fly to Bishkek via another route, then you must make suitable arrangements to make absolutely sure that you will arrive in Bishkek at the same time as the rest of the group – please inform us of your plans if this is the case.
You need to book the following flights for the trip:
Travel out: You need to book on Turkish Airlines flight TK1988 from London Heathrow to Istanbul and flight TK346 from Istanbul to Bishkek, departing on Wednesday 3rd Feb 2021 at 07.05am (3.40hr flight to Istanbul, 4.40hr stopover, 5.15hr flight to Bishkek, arriving 02.40 local time, +6hrs GMT) – 23kg luggage allowance. For the past several years, Turkish Airlines have been offering free skis on flights in addition to the standard baggage allowance – we anticipate this will continue. In order to take advantage of the offer, you need to contact the airline in advance to add a notification onto your booking – ie don’t turn up with a pair of skis at the airport unannounced and hope it will be Ok!
NB Ski Bags may only contain the following items: skis, poles, boots, helmet – ie do not put any other kit, clothes etc in your ski bag. Therefore you need to bring a regular suitcase/travel bag, plus a separate ski bag – don’t put everything in a double ski bag for this trip!
Travel home: You need to book on Turkish Airlines flight TK347 from Bishkek to Istanbul and flight TK1989 from Istanbul to London Heathrow, departing on Saturday 13th Feb 2021 at 03.50am (6hr flight to Istanbul, 5hr stopover, 4hr flight to London, arriving 14.10 local time).
NB Stopover times – various shorter flight time options are available for this journey on flight comparision sites and the Turkish Airlines website – but these options all have short transfer times in Istanbul, so we don’t recommend them. Eg on the return journey there is an earlier flight back to Heathrow, if you are feeling lucky..
Further information and travel links can be found on our Travel Planning page.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 3/4, and Ski Tech Level 3/4:
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours cv training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hr hillwalk, 50ml cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. On foot: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted. On skis: you can skin uphill at 300m/hr for 3-4 hrs a day (ie 8-1200m of ascent each day)
Fitness Level 4
You do 4+ hours CV training/sport per week. A 70+ mile cycle ride, or 20+ mile hillwalk on a weekend would hold no fears. If so inclined, you might be the kind of person who has done longer road sportives/challenge rides, a ~3.30hr marathon or other similar endurance events. Keen hillwalkers who happily knock off 3-4+ munros in a day also have this kind of fitness and endurance. On skis: you can skin at 400m/hr or could handle 4-6hrs skinning a day. (ie 1000-1400m+ of ascent each day).
Tech Level 3
Confirmed Off Piste Skier. You can put down a reasonable set of tracks in powder, but difficult snow types – eg heavy wet snow, crusts, poor visibility or 40dg slopes – can all cause problems (though you can cope with them safely, if not elegantly!) *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Purple – Advanced*
Likely to say: ‘I’d like to handle difficult snow/steep slopes more confidently in better style’
Our Advice: Off piste coaching still useful. Intermediate off piste weeks are at your level too. If you want to get into ski touring, try a touring course or intro level ski tour. If you’re an established ski mountaineer, then intermediate level tours are generally suitable.
Tech Level 4
Advanced Off Piste Skier. You can put turns in through heavier snow and on icy 40dg slopes, but difficult breakable crusts and skiing a fresh track off piste in zero visibility are still somewhat challenging! *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Gold – Expert*
Likely to say: I’ve been skiing ten/twenty years – I’d like to do your ‘……’ tour.
Our Advice: You will enjoy our advanced level trips. If you are new to touring – then you could do a Haute Route with two or three days of skills training beforehand (but don’t overlook the physical fitness needed as well). Mileage is the best way to improve your ability level.
To view all of our Ski Fitness Levels and Off Piste Technical Levels, please visit our Ski Ability page.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our Ski Touring Training Advice page.
Day Touring/BC Ski Course Equipment List
Just remember, every extra kilo on your back knocks 10% off your enjoyment on the descents – so try and keep the weight down!
- Waterproof Jacket – preferably lightweight and breathable
- Overtrousers/ski pants – preferably with side zips
- Fleece mid layer or equivalent
- Spare fleece or lightweight insulated duvet jacket
- Socks – specialist ski socks or a warm loop lined pair of mountain socks
- Wicking thermal top – not cotton please…
- Thermal leggings or ski pants
- Thin inner gloves
- Warm ski gloves or mittens, if you suffer from cold hands
- Warm hat
- Water container – at least 1 litre
- Personal medications and blister kit – regular meds, zinc oxide tape, compeed and painkillers etc
- Ski goggles
- Sun glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Wallet, passport and insurance docs
- Rucsac 25/35l – try and avoid ones covered in too many features, just ski and ice axe attachments required
- Freeride boots or ski mountaineering boots – check detailed factsheet kit list for preferred boots
- Skis with touring bindings – check detailed factsheet kit list for preferred skis and bindings
- Velcro ski strap – to keep skis together on your rucksack if we need to carry them
- Ski poles – with good size 5cm+ baskets (telescopic poles are not needed)
- Climbing skins – they come with the skis if you hire your kit
- Harscheisen (ski crampons) – they come with the skis if you hire your kit
- Metal snow shovel – must be a full metal shovel (plastic blades don’t work in real avalanche debris!)
- Avalanche probe
- Avalanche transceiver – must be a modern digital model (older analogue models are now obsolete)
- Harness, with 120cm sling and locking karabiner
- Crampons – bring them if you have them
- Ice Axe – bring if you have one
Your guide will have all other safety kit, first aid and survival equipment.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website, where we publish an annual review of the years best new skis, boots and touring equipment, plus a range of other interesting tips and recommendations. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Ilkley offer an excellent ski boot fitting service, one of the best ranges of ski mountaineering equipment in the UK and top notch advice.
Please visit our Equipment Hire page for recommended hire shops in your resort, and Alpine Guides hire equipment price list.
For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for off piste skiing and ski touring, as outlined in the trip itinerary. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury. Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Please note this trip is outside European Territorial Limits for most insurance providers, so you need to purchase worldwide cover.
Further details can be found on our insurance info page.