This is not a trick. Not some sort of silly, limited numbers, impossible to grab special offer. And last January, I walked up to the ticket window at Palandoken, Turkey’s biggest and best known (not that hard, we know) resort, and bought a day pass for… £7.
Yes, you read that right. And even appreciating Turkey’s currency has tanked (even against the pound) over the last 18 months, it does slightly mess with your head.
“Surely that can’t be right?” I said to pal Mike as we each handed over a couple of hundred lira, thinking we must have the exchange rate wrong. Because 30-odd runs, with gondola and high-speeds, well, it really shouldn’t be less than the price of a large beer in the French Alps, should it? But it is!
And the crackers cost (even less if you don’t want night skiing) includes wonderful Moroccan-style winter light, North Africa echoing snow-covered terraces, and best of all, beautifully maintained pistes.
Sure, nothing is too challenging in ski terms, but there’s enough (43km of slopes), with just over a third of the 28 runs classified black (plus some sidecountry to nibble at below the 3180m summit). While if you’re an intermediate (especially one on a budget), or have family in tow you’ll be close to heaven, with carving and cruising for miles and days.
As to numbers on the hill, I did a quick count one afternoon, and top to bottom, failed to reach two dozen skiers. While in terms of the gondola, even at peak start-your-day times, the wait was well under five minutes. The sort of stats I’d like to take with me to all mountains.
Food, beers, ski hire, on-slope accommodation, taxis into town, you name it – the good news continues with enticing prices across the board, because well, Turkey wants your foreign currency.
So if you’re feeling the price pinch that’s coming across Europe this season (due to the weak pound) or simply looking for a change/explore, you’d be an idiot not to consider it for a weekend; or if you want a week teamed with Konakli (17km away and part of Ejder 3200, who also run Palandoken) and two-hours by car and also very decent (with good trees and infrastructure) Sarikamis.
Yes, you need two flights (London or Manchester via Istanbul) but I spent so little, and enjoyed myself so much – the former definitely helps the latter – that it’s likely I’ll be back this season. And if you’d told me that before last winter’s trip, well, I’m not sure I’d have believed you.
STAY Try Hotel Palan in Palandoken (not as swish as some, but perfectly fine and three-star-ish, and two-minute walk to the lifts) and the Kayi Resort in Sarikamis (new, plush, spa/lots of facilities and ski-in ski-out).
TRAVEL Fly Manchester (or London) to Erzurum (via Istanbul). With a night in the now-trendy capital on the way back working best with the schedules. See Turkish Airlines or Pegasus and expect to pay from £200 return.
See Ski Turkish website for more info on both, and booking if you want someone to do the heavy lifting/planning for you on a multi-spot schedule.
For the full story on skiing in Turkey, you’ll have to check out Issue 184 of the Fall Line magazine, out now. Click below