3 resorts close-ish to Astana are Elikti near Kokshetau and Nurtau and Akzhelken near Shchuchinsk. None of these are spectacular for alpine skiing since, well, there are no big mountains around Astana as you might have noticed. Small snowparks are built in Astana itself, and once out of the city limits, cross-country skiing and snowkiting is a natural fit. Read all about it below.
Located 330 km north of Astana, Elikti Park has 1 drag lift. Due to creative planning, the main hill has been divvied up into 5 slopes of varying difficulty, with the longest one 1,2 km long, with a vertical drop of around 200 metres. You can get an idea of the place on Youtube: here, here and here. There is a bit of opportunity for tree slaloms but no backcountry to speak of. Elikti also has a small snow park with kickers, rails and a snow pillow for jumps.
Ski rental, lessons for beginners and accommodation are available. All info on the quality of any of these is welcome. The Facebook group Astana Adventure Association organises transport to Elikti on weekends. If you are going by yourself, check the location on our map.
A bit closer than Elikti at 260 km north of Astana, near Shchuchinsk and Lake Borovoye (Burabay), is Nurtau ski resort. Check out a drone video and an action video to get an impression of the place. It’s similar in possibilities to Elikti, with a few rails and a bit of forest next to the main slope.
Good for beginners and those who just want to have a fun run. Advanced skiers might get bored quickly. It’s a quiet place, though, and it’s nice to breathe in the fresh air, look out over the endless white steppe, and, with the absence of any other sound, hear the blood rushing through your ears.
Prices are a bit lower than in Elikti, except for ski rental, which you are better off getting in advance in Astana.
Close to Borovoye, this is not really a ski slope. There is a tow rope and a 30m drop, but the slope is so narrow and there is no place for a roll-out. It’s actually run by people who had never skied before themselves! Only in Kazakhstan. IF you get excited over this, go and have a look – it’s on the map.
There was another resort close to Temirtau but it burnt down in 2015 and I have not been able to find traces of its revival yet.
People ski inside Astana. From December until March, artificial slopes and kickers are formed by enthusiasts. We know of 2 snowspots near the Ishim river. They are called Grani and Highvill, you can find the location of both on our Central Asian ski spot map. Once again, the Astana Adventure Association are the people to talk to if you are keen to find out more.
Cross-country skiing & snowkiting
Cross-country skiing is the natural winter sport for the northern regions. You can start in the Central Park for some practice and move on to places outside of the city to sniff that wonderful winter atmosphere and enjoy rather than curse it. A bevy of Youtube videos (here’s one) shows Stepnogorsk to have an active community, and there is a track in Sinegorye, but there is no need to drive 200 km to get some fresh air. Little lakes and villages abound around Astana.
If you do want to go a bit further afield and explore, why not combine a day of cross-country skiing with a ghost town adventure?
Snowkiting is the more extreme form of cross-country skiing. If you are interested, I once again refer you to the Astana Adventure Association. The main kite spot seems to be on and around Borovoye.