Freeskier Yulia Zayko Explores A Path Less Travelled In The Search For Epic Ski Terrain In Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains
We caught up serial life liver Yulia Zayko as she forges her plans for Winter. More than adequately equipped with travel and freeski experience she goes deeper into the mountainous wilderness of Georgia on the hunt for epic lines! This is the tale of her adventure!
So... what's the highest mountain range in Europe? The Alps? No! It is the Caucasus Mountains marking the border between Georgia and Russia. While the highest peak is in Russia, Georgia lays claim to the second highest, Shkara, which at 5,193m beats Mont Blanc by nearly 400m. It’s a common misconception showing the vast extent to which one can explore these peaks.
I was in Georgia two years ago for the first time. I fell in love with everything there; the mountains, the backcountry terrain, all the kind people around me and the food... it exceeds expectations so I keep coming back, exploring deeper each time.
Gudauri is the best-known ski resort in Georgia and I’ve based myself here again and again. For me it’s magnificent because you can spend hours trying to find two identical mountains, but you won’t. All the mountains are so different and beautiful. The top lift station here is at 3,007m on the Sadzele mountain. From here you can see incredible views of Kazbek mountain 5,047m and ski down the whole way to the valley floor.
In my opinion February and March are the best months for skiing here. On crisp mornings, I love to wake up early, take on 2-3 hours of hiking or touring. It all comes together on beautiful bluebird days with fresh snow and fun skiing. There are so many lines to choose from. I love the feeling when you sit on the top of the mountain, drinking hot tea as you prepare for an epic run down again.
This year my favourite route was called “Magic Forest.” Two hours of hiking, amazing views and perfect terrain. This is all I could ever ask for. It’s called “Magic” because here you can always find a lot of snow, even if there haven’t previously been good snow falls.
Georgian cuisine and wine is also ‘a must’ to fully embrace the lifestyle. You have to try khinkali (meat dumplings), khachapuri, chkmeruli chicken, dried fruits and the homemade wine. Everything here is so delicious that it’s hard not to eat too much.
I will keep coming back here whilst it’s still a relatively unknown gem. For likeminded freeskiers looking to go beyond traditional ski resort adventures I couldn’t recommend this area more based on the amazing experiences I’ve been fortunate to enjoy! The scenery, the terrain, culture, value for more and the people – this place has it all. Over and out!