Skiing in Kazakhstan has not made a name for itself yet. Too bad since there is definitely a lot of potential: just as much for the expat with a family, as for the dedicated splitboarder on a Silk Road skiing mission.
The main ski destination in Kazakhstan is Almaty, with great resorts so close to this glamorous city. But, if you can arrange transport and have an adventurous spirit, untouched powder awaits you in the Altai and Dzhungarian mountains as well. The population swell in Astana has boosted the diversity of options for winter sports in the area, but the scene will always remain somewhat paltry there: the geography is simply not suited to alpine skiing.
Almaty and around
There are about a dozen ski resorts near Almaty. These are mostly very small, either aimed at beginners or only for advanced skiers. Shymbulak is the exception, the most modern ski resort in Central Asia with a range of slopes for skiers of every aptitude. Backcountry and tour skiing possibilities abound in the ring of mountains surrounding Almaty’s south side.
300 km north of Almaty lies Tekeli, the gate to the Dzungarian mountains that form the border with China. The skiing here is mostly intended for the people living in nearby Taldykorgan, but explorers might want to venture there for different vistas, the cultural experience and more virgin pow in empty gorges.
The post-industrial wasteland of Ridder is no longer attracting only disaster tourists. Proximity to the mountains is making it a winter sports hub for the wider region, and more resorts are popping up. Near Ust-Kamenogorsk and on the way to the Chinese Altai lie more slopes for the dedicated pow hunter, or the U-K expat.
On the Russian side of the border, things are more developed. A comparative ski tour of both sides of the Altai is always an option if you just can’t make up your mind.
Living well in Astana is all about not complaining about the winter. You can get out and enjoy the winterscapes around (and even in) the city. Adapt your expectations. Follow our ski guide. Fly to Almaty or Goa every once in a while.
All resorts and main backcountry spots are located on our Central Asia ski map.