Heliskiing in Turkey: What Are the Best Spots?

Andrew LyleDecember 10, 2018

There is a lot of intrigue surrounding Turkey, the intercontinental country straddling Europe and Asia. It is well-known as a cultural crossroads, blending peoples and communities together for centuries. Istanbul, once Constantinople, is the largest city of this melting pot, which combines more than just history and heritage. One of the most fascinating parts about Turkey is its winter sports following – most notably, its world-class heliskiing along the coast of the Black Sea. Whether it comes as a surprise or not, there are many reasons why Turkey is one of the top ten European countries for heliskiing adventures.

In the northeastern part of the country, heliskiing has become a way of life. The Ayder Highlands are fast becoming the go-to spot for this thrilling sport, providing nearly all of the bells and whistles you could imagine making your dream ski vacation come true. With spa service, hotel helicopter access, and in-lodge chefs, Turkey holds nothing back when wooing adventurers to its coastal communities in the Kackar Mountains.

There are other places to visit within Turkey, too. To the south of the Ayder Highlands, Mt. Palandoken has a ski resort with a couple heliskiing options. While it isn’t as accommodating as the former, it does offer a chance to experience the sport without committing to a more substantial trip.

 

Helicopter access in the Kackars is far reaching. Photo: Alex Grechman.

Just south of Istanbul in the west, near Bursa, is the Uludag ski resort. There is a difficult run from the summit of Zivre that is accessible by helicopter. Again, while not considered a full heliskiing experience, it does boast a challenging line with helicopter access that is within a couple hours of the bustling metropolis of Istanbul.

So why has Turkey become the mecca of heliskiing? Here’s a little more info to check out before booking your next heliskiing adventure in this incredibly captivating country.

Why Is Heliskiing in Turkey So Great?

 

  • The low pressure storms off the Black Sea come into the northeast part of the country and dump high-quality snow along the Pontic Mountains and its subranges. The considerable snowpack in the Kackar Mountains has created alluring runs and lines across the region, with the Ayder region being notoriously hospitable to skiers and tourists.
  • The remote area around the Rize Province is seemingly designed for heliskiing. The Kackar Mountains stretch 130 kilometers along the coast of the Black Sea, providing a wild environment that has nothing but fresh, untouched snow during the winter. No waiting in lines. No difficulty in access. Just heliskiing from hundreds of drop points around the more than 150 summits.

 

Untouched powder occurs daily thanks to the storms across the Black Sea. Photo: Raphael Richard.
  • The best part about heliskiing in this region is the terrain. It is loaded with Alpine bowls and steep open runs. Tree skiing can be found in some areas, too. There are runs anywhere from 500 meters to 1,400 meters, so spending a few weeks in this snowy paradise may not be enough.
  • Depending on what you were planning for your getaway, the country has a wide variety of trips that cater to your particular wants and desires. Some programs offer basic accommodations – usually including food, lodging, and seamless helicopter access with an allotted amount of air time. Others provide personal cooks, massage therapy, thermal baths, and more. Select a guide and program that suit your needs and work with them to get the trip you’ve been waiting for.
  • The mountains themselves are spectacular. The highest peak is Kackar Dagi at 3,937 meters, and the surrounding summits aren’t too much shorter. Characterized by the remote countryside, these crags are peaceful and serene when blanketed with fresh snow. Each one of its charming features helps bolster its position as the premiere location to heliski.
  • Heliskiing in Turkey isn’t just a ski trip – it is an experience. You will most likely spend a week or more immersed in the stunning environment in the north, which means you will get a heavy dose of enchanting Turkish culture and hospitality. It is a great opportunity to really learn about a country while in the midst of a grand adventure.

When Is the Best Time to Go?

 

The best time for a heliskiing adventure is at the beginning of the year, from January to March. Snow during this time is particularly dry, so each day presents a new canvas to explore. Most of the helicopters servicing the region are in operation from January to April, so finding a program outside of this range may prove difficult.

 

A group poses in front of their chopper. Photo: Thierry Gasser.

How Much Does a Heliskiing Trip in Turkey Cost?

 

Heliskiing programs are affordable, particularly when considering the logistics of flying people to various parts of the Kackars. Prices can vary based on what is included, the size of the group, and whether or not it is a private or group program. The cost of a seven-day trip starts at €6,880 and generally includes food, accommodation, and in-trip transportation. A nine-day trip starts at €9,250, also with incentives included in the price.

The isolated location of the Kackar Mountains and the minute-by-minute use of the helicopter means most perks are included in the price. Heliskiing in Uludag and Palandoken will require extensive planning for drops and allow for less wiggle room on the itinerary, but the programs are fewer days and considered affordable compared with other international heliskiing rates.

How to Get There and Where to Stay

 

Though the region seems troublesome to reach, it is a relatively straightforward journey into the Pontic Range. Almost all flights will go through Istanbul – and if you are headed to Uludag, congratulations, you made it – before heading east.

There is an airport in Trabzon about two hours away from the Ayder Highlands. It serves as the gateway into the region with direct flights from Istanbul. Dusseldorf, Germany, also has two direct flights to Trabzon a week. London, Paris, and Berlin connect through Istanbul and get can you to Rize within seven hours.

For anyone traveling to Palandoken, getting there by way of Erzurum is available by flights from both Istanbul and Ankara.

 

Heliskiing on slopes of untouched powder. Photo: Raphael Richard.

Bus service runs to Trabzon as well, though the train is unreliable and the route does not go directly to the region. Taking the train to Ankara would be an option, though you would have to take a bus from there. Bus service directly from Istanbul to Trabzon takes about 18 hours.

Once you have arrived, you will most likely want to get to your lodge and get to the slopes. Most programs will include the lodge with your trip. The hotels and accommodations are spread out through the region. The Ayder Plateau has hotel stays with relaxed and comfortable amenities. It is close to the ski area with both private and group programs.

For a more luxurious stay, Ikizdere Town offers thermal baths and an abundance of spa options. It still has remarkable open terrain available from the air and the same Alpine awe that persists throughout the Kackars.

Certain lodges in Eider come equipped with a bar, sauna, gym, and in-house Turkish chefs to give you a full-on Turkish vacation. The best way to find the best choice for you is to work it out with your guide to suit your entire party.

Peaceful scenery awaits once the helicopter takes off. Photo: Raphael Richard.

What Else Is There to Do While in Turkey?

 

The fun doesn’t have to end once you’ve finished your run from the helicopter. If you have a little more time in your schedule, you can parlay your adventure into other exciting programs as well. Spending a few days in Istanbul either before or after your trip is highly recommended. It is a one of a kind city steeped in history that is sure to inspire your next expedition.

Rock climbing is a popular sport as well. Datca and Geyikbayiri both have amazing ancient rock formations to explore, the former with routes running above the Aegean Sea and the latter within 25 kilometers of Antalya. Look into these great rock climbing programs and see if you want to add one on to your heliskiing expedition.

 

Start making your dreams come true by heliskiing into Turkey’s most beautiful mountains and dropping in to the ski vacation of a lifetime!

 

 

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