Backcountry Skiing in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan Mountains

Tian Shan Mountains | Kyrgyzstan
Trip Highlights

Top three reasons to go skiing in Kyrgyzstan

  • Trip Highlight

    Perfect ski lines down the 4,000-meter Tian Shan peaks

  • Trip Highlight

    Ak-Suu and Jyrgalan Valley ensure the most challenging terrain

  • Trip Highlight

    Name a better duo than traditional yurts and steaming banyas

Dubbed the Switzerland of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan remains a hidden backcountry haven. Owing its nickname to the hilly terrain making up 80% of the country, Kyrgyz Tian Shan mountains welcome you to an 8-day winter tale. Blend in with the locals by staying in yurts, providing you with unbeatable backcountry access and feeling of harmony with nature. Your guide Pawel knows the language and he’s almost a local in these parts of the world, so you can count on him to take you to the best hidden gems in the area. Acres of powder host terrain which makes even the best question their skill: find rocky drops, smooth lines, steep chutes, and tough couloirs at the dizzying 4,000m/+13,000 ft. When you’ve satisfied your touring appetite for the day, take the ski suit off, put your swimsuit on and end your day with hot banya saunas and a shot or three of vodka. 

Season

December through March

Nearest city

Your tour starts in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Duration

8 days

Skill level

Intermediate to advanced

Itineraries

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Backcountry Skiing Tour in Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan

8 days

Luckily for you, Kyrgyzstan still manages to stay under the radar, despite its awe-inspiring mountains. If your priority is reconnecting with nature while skiing on world-class powder of the Tian Shan mountains, this 8-day backcountry ski tour is for you. Ski epic lines from 4,000-meter summits and tackle the difficult terrain of Ak-Suu and Jyrgalan Valley. Staying in warmly lit yurts and bathing in traditional banyas will make you feel like a local in no time. Add to the equation touring the capital Bishkek and Kyrgyz, and you’ve got yourself a perfect off-piste cultural experience.

Trip Highlights

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival to Kyrgyzstan

Before heading out to the backcountry, spend a day in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek. Having gained its independence from the USSR only 20 years ago, you’ll notice Soviet architecture and monuments wherever you turn. Score some good deals at Bishkek’s bustling bazaars, go for a banya in one of the bathhouses, or find the Kyrgyz’s White House. Enjoy your day in the green space city hemmed in by the snowy mountain peaks. Hit the hay, as tomorrow’s your first day on the snow.

Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

Day 2 and 3: Ak-Suu Valley

A 6-hour drive from Bishkek takes you east to the Ak-Suu Valley, nested in the northern Tian Shan mountains, your base for the next three days. Use snowmobiles to reach your yurts—that’s right, yurts. In order to feel like a local in the mountains and in sync with the surrounding nature, you’ll be happy to hear you’ll be sleeping in traditional yurts! While your yurt camp sits at 2,600m (8,530 ft), the area around it offers nearby day-tours to summits of up to 4,000m (13,123 ft) in heavenly height. Acres of challenging terrain are waiting for you to show off your skills—you’ll find rocky drops, smooth lines, steep chutes, and tough couloirs. After an exhausting day out, use hot banyas to recuperate. As an addition to a yurt adventure on the mountains is the fact that there’s no mobile coverage—consider this your sign to fully unplug.

Valley and yurts.

Day 4: Ak-Suu Valley to Jyrgalan Valley

Change of locations! Next stop: Jyrgalan Valley. After getting a few final turns on the powder of Ak-Suu Valley, pack up and rest during your two-hour drive to the Jyrgalan Valley. Get settled in and prepare for three more pow days ahead! 

Skier and yurts.

Day 5 and 6: Jyrgalan Valley

Situated in the heart of Tian Shan Mountains, Jyrgalan Valley is your perfect winter playground. Just under 3,000m (9,843 ft), the area boasts countless miles of snowy terrain. Skin uphill, cruise downhill—rinse and repeat for the next 3 days. Untouched powder is blanketing seven surrounding peaks of the Jyrgalan Valley, so get ready for some epic lines. Skiing days are guaranteed even if the weather decides to go against you—woodlands of pine trees are an ideal practice spot. In the evenings, retreat back to your lodge, but don’t forget to get warm in a banya.

Backcountry skiing tour in Kyrgyzstan.

Day 7: Jyrgalan Valley to Bishkek

Use the last day in Jyrgalan Valley to shred that last powder of your Kyrgyz adventure. It’s a 7-hour drive to the capital, but you’ll likely sleep through it. Arrive in Bishkek in the evening, and if you’ve got it in you after six days of skiing, feel free to go out for the night!

Skier in Tian Shan mountains.

Day 8: Departure

The backcountry adventure has come to an end, but you still have some time left in this hilly country. This is your last day in the hilly country, but if you’re not ready to leave just yet, you can definitely prolong your stay!

Bazaar in Bishkek.
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Things to know

Things to know

Covid measures in Kyrgyzstan

57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity. 

We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, guides and the communities they’re traveling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in Kyrgyzstan, please refer to Foreign Travel Advice to Kyrgyzstan.

Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!

What’s included?

What you get in this adventure:

    • An experienced, certified ski guide with extensive knowledge of the area
    • Six days of backcountry ski touring and two days for arrival and departure
    • Accommodation 
      • 2 nights in Bishkek
      • 2 nights in Ak-Suu Valley
      • 3 nights in Jyrgalan Valley
    • Meals during the tour and hot drinks
    • Backcountry permits

What’s not included:

    • Technical backcountry ski touring equipment (best to bring your own, not many rental options)
    • Transportation to Kyrgyzstan 
    • Anything not mentioned in the itinerary

How fit do I need to be?

To enjoy the backcountry skiing tour in Kyrgyzstan, you need to have at least a moderate fitness level. The Kyrgyzstan adventure offers intermediate to expert level of difficulty, meaning that previous backcountry skiing experience is required. If you’re an intermediate backcountry skier, your expert guide will help you improve your skills and coach when things get a bit more difficult. Don’t worry if you’re on an advanced to expert level, the terrain is challenging so you’ll still have lots of objectives to tackle! For the latter level, you’ll need to be in excellent physical shape.

What if I’ve never backcountry skied before?

To participate in this tour, you need to have previous backcountry skiing experience. You will be skiing, touring, and summiting on glaciated terrain every day. Your guide will take care of the planning, oversee your technique, and teach you how to better manage the terrain. They also have the experience and avalanche training necessary to keep you safe.

What equipment do I need to bring?

Clothing list

    • Wool or synthetic socks and liner socks
    • Long underwear top — synthetic or wool
    • Light fleece or wool sweater
    • Wind shell — nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type jacket
    • Waterproof breathable jacket
    • Warm insulated jacket — down or synthetic
    • Long underwear bottoms — synthetic or wool
    • Multipurpose stretch nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type pants
    • Waterproof breathable pants
    • Warm hat — wool or synthetic
    • Brimmed cap for sun protection
    • Face warmer — scarf, neck tube or balaclava (optional)
    • Light gloves — wool, synthetic or leather
    • Insulated gloves or mitts with waterproof outer shell
    • Spare gloves or mitts

Gear

    • Ski helmet
    • Skis or split board — wider, powder skis, minimum width 108mm are recommended
    • Lightweight, touring bindings (Dynafit or ATK are best)
    • Ski strap
    • Ski or snowboard boots and ski crampons
    • Poles
    • Climbing skins
    • Skin wax (or a candle)
    • Binding repair kit to fix your personal travel setup

Snow Safety Equipment

    • Avalanche beacon with good batteries (and spares)
    • Shovel
    • Probe (2.4m or longer preferred)

Personal Equipment

    • Durable duffel bag, preferably just one (approx. 60L)
    • Sunglasses (both orange and dark lenses help a lot for travel in all conditions)
    • Goggles (orange lenses)
    • Sunscreen and lip cream (SPF 30+)
    • Head lamp with good batteries
    • Insulated water bottle or thermos (1-2 L)
    • Lunch bag or container
    • Personal blister kit (i.e: Leukotape-P and Compeed/Second Skin blister pads)
    • Pocket knife — optional
    • Camera — optional

If you have any questions regarding the equipment list, feel free to contact us prior to booking.

Can I rent equipment?

As you won’t be based in one single place for the duration of your adventure, we recommend bringing your own equipment for backcountry skiing. Other than that, areas to which you are going to do not have rental shops.

Group sizes and age requirements

Group sizes and pricing:

    • For this backcountry skiing adventure in Kyrgyzstan, the max client-to-guide ratio is 5:1. 
    • If joining alone, you’ll be placed with peers that share a similar level of experience.
    • Cost is per person and it doesn’t decrease as the group grows.

Ski touring in Kyrgyzstan can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

Min. age requirements:

    • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
    • Minors may be permitted to join private tours on a case-by-case basis.

If your group has skiers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

Deposits and cancellation policy

A 30% deposit to secure your place is due upon booking. The remaining amount is paid 3 months (90 days) prior to departure. Once the trip is confirmed by the guide, the cancellation policy stated below applies. 

    • If Client cancels the Booking anytime prior to one hundred twenty (120) calendar days in advance of the trip contemplated by the booking, Client is entitled to a full refund. 
    • For cancellations ninety (90) to one hundred nineteen(119)  calendar days in advance, Client is entitled to a refund in the amount of fifty percent (50%) of the total amount paid when Booking. 
    • For cancellations seventy five (75) to eighty nine (89)  calendar days in advance, Client is entitled to a refund in the amount of twenty-five percent (25%) of the total amount paid when Booking. 
    • After that deadline, Client is not entitled to any refund. Any reimbursable expenses arising out of the Booking incurred by Guide prior to the date of cancellation (including but not limited to plane tickets, car rental payments, and lodging or transportation fees) are non refundable as soon as they are incurred by the Guide.

Getting there and meeting location

To get to your backcountry skiing adventure in Kyrgyzstan, most people fly into Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek, i.e., into the Manas International Airport. Turkish Airlines is recommended, as they’ll take your ski gear for free. There’s a regular connection between Istanbul and Bishkek.

Once you and your guide agree on the details of your itinerary, your guide will suggest the best place to meet. There’s even a possibility of meeting at Istanbul airport.

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