Best Freeride and Ski Touring Spots in Russia

Daniel DawsonOctober 01, 2018

Covering more than an eighth of the Earth’s inhabited land area, Russia is an immense and diverse country. It is so massive, to state that its land area is 17.098.246 square kilometers fails to capture its real enormity.

To give you an idea of how big Russia actually is, here are a few more detailed facts. From end to end, Russia stretches across 11 time zones and 16 Köppen climate zones. It is home to 10 percent of the world’s arable land and one-quarter of the world’s fresh water.

Russia boasts Europe’s tallest mountains and longest river. Siberia also has several of Asia’s longest rivers and one of the world’s tallest active volcanoes. There really is a lot of diversity here, both in terms of the climate and physical geography.

You could spend a lifetime exploring Russia and only see a tiny fraction of it. All of these reasons make the storied nation an excellent choice for your next ski touring adventure!

Because no one has enough time to explore them all, we have compiled a list of some of the best ski touring spots that Russia has to offer!

The Caucasus Range

 

Mount Elbrus is one of the Seven Summits, rising 5.642 meters above sea level. Photo courtesy of Tobias Freiberger.

Home to Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest peak, the Caucasus Range boasts immense stretches of virgin powder and excellent views.

Ski mountaineering to the summit of the two-headed volcano is the most popular activity in the range, but many guides also offer various freeride options on Mount Elbrus as well as other peaks.


Here’s our list of the top 5 high-altitude peaks for ski mountaineering (yes, Mt Elbrus is one of them!)


Combined with getting to this remote and acclimatization, most ski touring expeditions to the summit of the mountain take anywhere from a week to 12 days and will include acclimatization ski mountaineering and freeriding days on other mountains, such as Peak Chot-chat, Mount Treugolnik, Mount Kogutay and Mount Cheget.

While the mountaineering portion of the trip is not very technical, a high level of physical fitness and excellent skiing techniques are required for this trip.

If ski mountaineering is not your cup of tea, many guides also offer single-day freeride and multi-day ski touring options in the region that take you around to other, lesser-traveled parts of the Caucasus Range.

Arkhyz and Dombay are among the many peaks in this mountain range that are popular with freeride skiers. They offer exciting runs through exquisite scenery and spectacular views of the eastern Caucasus mountains.

There are also a series of mountain huts connecting the two peaks, which are about 90 kilometers apart. This hut-to-hut trek is a popular option and makes for a nice week-and-a-half trip.

If you do not have the time for a hut-to-hut adventure, enjoy solitary skiing through pine forests and over ancient glaciers. Or take advantage of empty slopes and exciting freerides down the likes of Mount Djailyak into the stunning Baskan Valley. The possibilities are nearly endless!

The average trip to this region hovers around €1.000 to €1.250 per person for a one-week or more trip. Many of these prices include the guide fee, accommodations, meals and permits. However, price always varies depending on the size of the group, length and scope of the trip.

From December to May is generally the best time for ski touring in this region. To get the most out of your time in the Caucasus, you should be an intermediate or advanced skier.

Mamay Valley and Baikal Mountains

 

The isolated and forested mountains surrounding Lake Baikal are equally as remote as they are sublime. Photo courtesy of Ivan Moshnikov.

In south-central Siberia, not far from the Mongolian border, lies Lake Baikal and the Mamay Valley. Here you are far away from the rest of the world and privy to some of the best freeride skiing in the region.

The views of Lake Baikal from the Baikal Mountains are exceptional. This is the wild heart of Siberia, complete with endless forests, steep descents, and of course, Lake Baikal – the deepest and one of the largest fresh-water lakes in the world. There is also plenty of wildlife to spot in the area from timber wolves and brown bears to moose and caribou.

If you see yourself as the adventurous type, then you will find no substitute for the rugged and lonely slopes surrounding the Mamay Valley.

The snow is untouched and perfect for long, thrilling runs. The mountain range forms a natural shield to protect from harsh Arctic blasts, which both keeps the temperature tolerable and the snow stable.

The best time of year to ski here is during November and December, when there is plenty of snow and the temperatures haven’t dropped to their lowest points. However, if you can manage the cold, excellent powder is available through April.


See where Siberia ranks on our list of the best early-season ski touring spots!


Only one mountain hut services the whole area. You will find no supermarkets, cell phone reception or ski lifts here. Electricity is only available from a generator. Irkutsk, the city from which you will arrive and depart is a three hour drive and snowcat ride away. If you like creature comforts, you will not find them here.

However, the meditative peace and quiet as well as days of excellent skiing are all the reason you need to come. Most trips here last longer than a week, allowing you to completely unplug from the daily grind.

You do not need to be an excellent skier in order to have a blast on these slopes, but you should have previous off-piste experience. All told, this trip costs about €1.200 per person and includes the guiding fee, accommodation, meals, transportation and luggage transfers.

Luzhba

 

Luzhba receives large amounts of snowfall and, combined with the cold weather, yields perfect conditions for freeride skiing. Photo courtesy of Grigory Mintsev.

Siberia is world renowned for its excellent ski touring. Tourists come from all over the world to take advantage of the pristine and plentiful snow. Perhaps nowhere in this massive region is this better embodied than by Luzhba.

Part of the attraction of Siberia for all these ski tourers is how remote it is. It takes at least two days to get to Luzhba, meaning if you put in the effort to get out here, you reap the benefits of long impeded freeride runs and you will really feel like the only people in this corner of the world.

While the region does not boast many large mountains, Luzhba has many virgin, 30 to 40 degree slopes and vertical descents as long as 200 to 700 meters. Most of these descents take place through the region’s stunning scenery, including evergreen coniferous forests, turquoise blue lakes and endless sky.

Due to its location, the best time to visit Luzhba is from November to January and in March. However, November and March are the best times to visit since winter temperatures can drop to -40ºC!

Wondering how is it really like to go ski touring in Luzhba? Have a look at this video, courtesy of local ACMG guide Grigory Mintsev:

 

 

It is best to allot at least two weeks (including travel time) for this trip as simply getting from Moscow to Luzhba takes two days. Once there you will have plenty of time to ski, while also building in extra days should there by inclement weather.

The average price for this trip costs about €1.800 per person and includes the guiding fee, accommodations, meals and transport during the trip. But the experience is easily well worth the cost.  

Kamchatka

 

Kamchatka is other worldly in terms of its natural beauty, remote location and insane ski touring. Photo courtesy of Matthew Edwards.

Located in the Russian far east, Kamchatka is a 1.250 kilometer long peninsula. It is also the northwestern most section of the Pacific Ring of Fire; its many volcanoes are a UNESCO world heritage site.

Due to its mountainous terrain and spectacular landscapes, Kamchatka has been referred to as the Mecca of freeride skiing. This is the case because of all the diverse landscapes and high-quality powder that falls in abundance.

One of the many things that makes Kamchatka stand out from the rest of Russia are the stunning views. Many guides offer the chance to ski from the top of a volcano or mountain directly to the Pacific Ocean.

Its numerous mountains, volcanoes, fjords and stunning ocean views ensure that every moment that you are out on the skis is an unforgettable one. Due to how far north it is, the best time of year to come and ski here is from March to May when temperatures are a bit higher and the days are lighter.  

Because there is so much to see and do here, not to mention it is quite remote and takes time to get here, most guides offer one to two-week trips. This way you can take your time and see everything that this isolated peninsula has to offer.

The skiing can be quite challenging, so trips to Kamchatka are best suited for intermediate and advanced skiers. Trip costs vary depending on the size of your group and whether things such as transport, accommodation and meals are included. However, you should be ready to pay about €2.000 to €3.000 per person for a week-long trip.

Khibiny Mountains

 

With very little tourist infrastructure, the Khibiny Mountains are ideal for hut-to-hut ski touring. Photo courtesy of Konstantin Zazdravnykh.

Situated well above the Arctic Circle on the Kola Peninsula, this northwestern-most portion of Russia is as remote as it is beautiful.

The plateau-like Khibiny Mountains rise out of a stark arctic landscape and provide intrepid adventurers with excellent intermediate-level skiing opportunities. Due to its lack of infrastructure, hut-to-hut ski touring programs are quite popular for seeing as much of the region as you can.

The Khibiny Mountains are a horseshoe-shaped massif covering roughly 100.000 square kilometers and jut out of the tundra. Complete with glaciers, icefields and snowfields, there are plenty of different terrains to explore.

Due to how far north they lie, the best time of year to visit is generally from February to April when the region is no longer experiencing polar nights. Even in the late winter and spring, the conditions here are brutal with low temperatures and high-speed winds. In spite of its low altitude, the mountains are also quite prone to avalanches.

However, one of the many advantages of coming all the way north to the region is the spectacular views of the aurora borealis, which is generally visible from August until April.

Since it is quite difficult to get here, taking two to three days to arrive from St Petersburg, most guides offer 10 day trips. This way you become well acquainted with the region without having to rush to and from the airport.

These sorts of trips generally cost about €1.000 to €4.000 per person. These prices vary depending on what is included in the trip, how many people are in your group and the kind of accommodations in which you choose to stay.

With all of its diversity and immense size, you could spend a lifetime exploring Russia’s top ski touring spots. Photo courtesy of Dominik Müller.

So what are you waiting for? From the Caucasus Mountains to the Siberian wilderness, Russia boasts a seemingly endless array of ski touring and freeriding activities. The only thing missing is you!

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