Skiing in Central Turkey’s Mount Erciyes: Who Knew?
By Max Hartshorne
When I got the invitation to go skiing in central Turkey, I had to pause for a moment. Do they have skiing there?
I glanced at my trusty globe, which provides the world in a relief mode, and indeed, there were some good sized bumps in the middle of Turkey, a country I have never visited before.
I was ready to challenge the mountain, an extinct stratovolcano called Mount Ericiyes, that is 12,851 feet high, the highest mountain for miles around.
Which means that Mount Erciyes could someday erupt and blanket the entire north of the country with ash and lava.
But nobody who promotes the mountain is talking about eruptions, instead, they told us about the millions of euros already spent to turn the mountain into Turkey’s premier winter sports destination.
Most Turks Don’t Ski
But that won’t be easy since most Turks don’t own skis and don’t have lots of spare lire to spend on such a luxury. For this reason, lift tickets at Mt Erciyse are a staggering TEN BUCKS! Full rentals will set you back a mere $9 per day!
We met with Dr. Murat Cahid Cingi, the CEO of Kayseri Erciyes, the company that has spent 450 million euros so far building lifts, trails and bringing in ski instructors in Austria to teach their staff how to run a professional large-scale ski resort.
He said that the lifts offer summer recreation and hiking as well as winter skiing. Part of their effort to learn the biz was to send a load of local journalists to Austria so they could get to know how ski resorts work and the benefits they bring.
“This is the Mount Olympus of Anatolia,” Cingi told us with pride. “And with Cappadocia just an hour drive away, we really have quite a lot to offer tourists in the winter here!”
Cappadocia is perhaps the most beautiful part of Turkey, famous for its strange brown rock formations and one of the world’s most popular sites for balloon excursions.
City Spent the Money
It’s not always an easy sell since most Turks don’t ski and it was the city of Kayseri that made the huge investment to create a resort here. The company and the idea to build a ski area began in 2012, and even though there are some other ski resorts in eastern Turkey, this is a huge new concept here in Cappadocia.
With 18 lifts, and a 4593-foot vertical drop, (Snowmass at Aspen is 4406 feet), and new lifts built in Austria, the mountain is no bunny slope. The fact that there are absolutely no trees anywhere to be found on the entire mountain make skiing safer and the trails wider.
I loved this aspect of skiing there, not having to think about running into trees. The fact that the mountain is groomed so that there are no moguls is another plus for me and my intermediate style of skiing.
There are 34 trails and the main lifts go about two-thirds of the way up, with a smaller lift that is not always open servicing the very top of the big mountain. Wind often shuts this down as it did when we were there.
One tip–take the lift that has the plastic bubble that keeps you warm on the way up. A few of the smaller lifts don’t have this and it can be brutally windy and cold without the bubble.
Summer Rally Races
Part of the hundreds of millions spent on the resort went toward building the four-lane paved road that leads up from the city of Kayseri up the mountain to the resort.
During the summer road rally races are held on this glorious new road and liquid is used to melt snow during the winter.
Cingi told us about the ambitious plans that Kayseri has to create a world-class winter resort. Today there are 1450 hotel room beds in the area.
By 2023, he said, there will be more than 6,000 hotel room beds available, some slopeside and others in Kayseri. Hilton, Radisson, and Ramada are all interested in this developing market and so far the skiers have been about 70 percent Turkish and 30 percent foreign.
What is the skiing like?
As a dedicated intermediate skier, my favorite aspect of the sport is long, un-bumpy rides, that don’t make me afraid, and allow the force of gravity to pull me down the slope.
I am not looking for bumps, or glades full of trees, to me these are hazards that I try to avoid.
Mount Erciyes has this well covered, with no trees and long, wide open trails that turn into even wider slopes as you get closer to the middle of the mountain.
It was fun to use the mosque across the road as our guidepost when barreling down the slope, just head for that minaret and you’re on track for the lodge.
There is active snowmaking all over the slopes and they offer night skiing on the largest beginning and intermediate slopes. We were told that most Turks prefer to go down the mountain’s bunny slope on sleds, no skis needed.
Indeed many prefer to stick to this gentle slope that served by a magic carpet lift, like what you find in an airport.
Four Million Turks in Germany
With four million Turks living in Germany, Cingi said, “Now they can come here and ski instead of going to the Alps!”
With the first of many charter flights from Russia coming in 2019 and a new larger terminal at Kayseri Airport built in 2007, new seasonal flights from Germany and Austria will bring many more skiers to Mount Erciyes.
A bonus for travelers from the U.S. Turkish Airlines will allow passengers who are booked all the way to Kayseri Erkilet International airport will be able to bring their ski equipment at no extra cost. You can bring a bike or skis, and pay no extra fees!
Flotours sponsored this trip, but the opinions are the author’s own. Find out about many small group tours to Turkey, Central Asia, Middle East and Asia this excellent company offers.