While it may not be the Alps, Turkey surprisingly has several ski resorts – not what one would expect from a country that is famous for its beaches. Some of the best skiing can be found in eastern Anatolia, specifically Erzurum, where the snow falls more regularly and the taller mountains make for longer, steeper runs. The only drawback is its remote location – you have to take some combination of planes, trains and automobiles to get there from Istanbul. However there are three resorts within close proximity of the city that offer fresh powder and upscale facilities. So if you’re in Istanbul and hankering for a few days on the slopes, visit one of these spots and enjoy a quick weekend getaway in powder heaven.
Uludağ National Park
Hop on a ferry in Istanbul, and in a little under two hours you’ll find yourself on the outskirts of Bursa, the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. Nestled into the base of Uludağ Mountain, Bursa is an enchanting spot – its historical silk market, renowned hammams and hot springs, and Iskender kebab restaurants seduce many travellers. But you’re here for the skiing, so hire a private car to shuttle you up to the mountain resorts or catch the cable car that hugs the contours of the mountain as it glides from Bursa to the ski area.
The major draw of Uludağ is quite simple: It is one of the oldest ski areas in Turkey and has the infrastructure to prove it. There are two zones, one for each peak – the two peaks are connected by a piste, but the zones are a 10–15 minute car ride away from one another. The first zone is the central hub for ski and snowboard rentals, restaurants and hotels, while the second zone is home to the newest (and most luxurious) resorts, like the towering Hotel Monte Baia.
Hotel Monte Baia
While the second zone can feel a bit deserted at times, it offers direct access to the chairlifts, and many of the resorts have luxurious spas where you can pamper yourself after a day on the slopes. You won’t find any double black diamond trails on this mountain, but the numerous trails that fan out over both peaks provide a downright pleasant experience, complete with cosy mountain cabins for a spot of tea or homemade kebab mid-run.
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Kaya Palazzo Ski Mountain Resort
Located in Bolu, a two-hour drive outside of Istanbul, this ski resort can’t compare to the hustle and bustle of Uludağ. But what it lacks in amenities is more than made up for with the peaceful, alpine surroundings and the variety of trails. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for a more relaxing and laid-back ski holiday – the only clubbing you’ll be doing here is with woodland animals. The best place to kick back is at the Kaya Palazzo Ski & Mountain Resort, which offers excellent food, a large fireplace to congregate around while drinking Turkish tea and direct access to the slopes.
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Maybe you’re a novice skier, or maybe you’re not even sure you like skiing, but want to give it a go – your best bet is to head to Kartepe (‘Snow Hill’), which is only one hour by car from Istanbul. Smaller than Uludağ and Kartalkaya, Kartepe (formerly known as Kaltepe) is a haven for beginner skiers, yet still has enough runs to keep intermediate skiers interested for a day or two. You could realistically visit Kartepe in a day trip, but if you feel like relaxing after perfecting your ‘snowplow’ or ‘pizza wedge’ technique, The Green Park Kartepe Resort & Spa is your best bet on the mountain. Alternatively, you could spend the night in nearby Sapanca, a lakeside oasis 10 km away.