Turkey is a popular, affordable beach destination for Brits, but many are not aware it has great skiing (that’s equally affordable!) too.
In fact, more than half of the country is classed as mountainous, and they’re big mountains too, the highest Mount Ağrı (Ararat) 5,137m … that’s over 300m higher than Mont Blanc.
Global ski-area tracker skiResort.info reports that Turkey is now home to more than 40 ski resorts, around half of which have been created in just the past 20 years, with the country’s government a key supporter of their development.
Package holidays were actually organised to some of them in the 1980s and 90s from the UK, with the resort of Uludağ, about three hours south of Istanbul, the destination of choice for a ski and city break. The country’s main ski area last century, it remains a weekend ski and party hotspot for well-heeled Turks, but bigger, more modern ski areas have emerged in most distant parts of the country.
These newer areas tend to be close to the border with countries like Syria, Iran and Iraq and are popular with Arabs and Russians but less so with Western Europeans, despite their marketing efforts to correct that.
Palandöken, with 43km of runs and more than a dozen modern lifts, has been largely developed since the late 1990s above the 6,000 year old city of Erzurum. In 2011, the city was host to the 25th Winter Universiade, a kind of Winter Olympics for the world’s skiers, with the freestyle skiing and snowboarding competitions taking place there.
With now 55km of slopes served by 14 lifts, Erciyes currently claims to have the biggest ski area in Turkey. With the highest lifts in the country reaching to 3,346m, it is also one of the easiest to reach, just a 30-minute drive from the local Kayseri airport, and has the greatest uplift capacity from its lift network, some 26,000 skiers per hour.
Elsewhere, Turkey has plenty of smaller, quirky ski centres well worth a visit. Salda, for example, has only five runs but stunning views out over the vast Lake Burdur with its 250km2 surface area below, or Merga Bütan in Hakkari, which claims one of the country’s longest seasons, from November to May.
If it’s sea and snow you’re after, Saklıkent, about 50km from the beach resort of Antalya, is a good choice. There are four runs here operating from mid-December to the beginning of April.
So, for your next winter holiday, why not give skiing in Turkey a go?!
For more resort inspiration check out our Resort Guide