International (Europe/Japan/Southern Hemisphere) Upcoming 2022 Trip Reports - N. Macedonia, Uzbekistan, Georgia

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Mattadvproject

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My wife and I are going to have 1.5 days or so, to explore the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand. Originally the plan was to take a week and explore a couple of places (Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva) but our plans changed and now we only have enough time for a quick jaunt around Samarkand.

Uzbekistan, prior to the Pandemic was quickly emerging as a new hub of international tourism. They had recently completed a high-speed rail network that linked all of the Silk Road cities together, making train travel from Tashkent quick and easy. Here's a look at one of the trains that we will use to get to Samarkand (344km), about a 2hr 15 minute high-speed train ride away. It costs around $12 one-way, for an economy class ticket.





Samarkand looks phenomenal, I can't wait to see it. It's one of the ancient Silk Road cities that's still pretty much intact (most of Tashkent's old city was destroyed in the 1960's during a huge earthquake, so most of that is old Soviet architecture and history, which will be an interesting contrast to Samarkand). It has a ton of history. I will save my fingers from typing and post a couple of video's from Samarkand that best highlight what there is to see.....






Looks awesome to me! I can't wait to see some of the sites and try some of the local food. The kebabs, plov and breads have me watering at the mouth......

- Matt
 
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So we'll have a little time to explore Samarkand and then we have to head back to Tashkent. Then the group convenes and we head up to Amirsoy, about a 2 hour drive from the city in the Tien Shen Mountains. We'll be staying at a complex called "Le Chalet", a group of slopeside (allegedly) 5-star chalets with a large onsite restaurant and spa facility. We should be able to ski to one of the lifts, a high-speed quad on the beginner runs. From there, we can access the gondola which will take us to the top of Amirsoy Mt at 2,290m (7,513ft). There are some other surface lifts for beginners, but that's about it. Vertical drop is 645m or 2,116ft. This is what it looks like......




Now on it's own, that doesn't sound super exciting and not really a reason to travel half-way around the world, but what really excites me, is the access to the sidecountry and the lack of eager powderhounds. This is a new zone for freeriding and I'm keen to get in there early before this place is on the map. Our local guide guided this Russian crew of snowboarders and they found some amazing snow and lines in this next video. Nothing looks crazy steep, but the endless ridgelines and amazing looking snow quality, have me keen to try it for myself..... (this video is in Russian, but it's well worth your time. The action gets good after only 0:25)....




Next up, the ski areas of Chimgan and Beldersay, only 20-minutes drive from Amirsoy.....

- Matt
 
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Next up, Chimgan. This area is smaller than Amirsoy and has 6 surface lifts. It has a lot of sidecountry lines with plenty of tasty looking ridgelines and is perhaps a little steeper than Amirsoy? Snow quality looks like it can be pretty nice. Lift tickets here are around $10! (Amirsoy is $19 mid-week and $23 weekend, I forgot to add that in the previous post)








We can ski here for 3 or 4 days if we like, if conditions warrant it.

- Matt
 
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The last ski area we will have access to in Uzbekistan will be Beldersay. They only have one really old double chair and a t-bar, but again, the access to the sidecountry looks great. This is only 20 minutes from Amirsoy and they look like they have similar terrain, with countless ridgelines leading out from the lift/tow, but with some steeper faces under/near the chairlift.






It all looks like fun and hopefully we can get some nice powder and safe lines. Fingers crossed!

- Matt
 
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Here's our accommodation in Amirsoy, Le Chalet, a new chalet complex next to the beginner area. They say it's 5-star, but we'll see. It does look nice though.....




We finish our stay in Uzbekistan with 2-nights in Tashkent. We have a nice hotel in the heart of the city and we can use the Tashkent metro to get around. The stations themselves are worth seeing as each one has it's own theme and unique decorations. Our closest station tells the story of how Uzbekistan was involved in the Soviet space race, can't wait to see that. The food and cultural sites look really interesting, can't wait to check it all out and report back here.....









That concludes our intro to Uzbekistan, next up, Georgia!

- Matt
 
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The final trip for the season will hopefully be to Georgia. Now this will be a trip I've done (and attempted!) before. I had the first successful trip there back in 2019 when we visited Gudauri and Mestia (you can find that trip report here) and then I tried again to visit in 2020 in March. That was the aborted trip where we made it as far as Munich, Germany and then the US border was going to be shut down the next day, so we had to turn around....

So, to say I'm ready for a return visit to Georgia, is an understatement. This time I'll be running two trips to Gudauri and then a quick little jaunt to Bakuriani, a resort further to the west in the lower Caucasus, to check that area out as well. I'm excited to get a lot more mileage in at Gudauri and really get to know the place. We got a very strong taste in 2019 but in reality, we only had 3 actual ski days there so there is so much still to cover. We'll be working with the same local guides from 2019 and I'm looking forward to exploring more of the terrain.

We are going to be starting our Georgia adventure with a little exploration of our own, to the ski area of Bauriani on the 9th of March. It's about a 3 hour ride from Tbilisi and somewhere completely new for me. We are doing this without local guide assistance (unless we can find a local guide when we get there), so it will be a challenge to find our way around. It looks like it's a decent-sized resort, with 20 lifts (1 funicular, 1 gondola, 9 lifts and 9 surface tows). There are 4 separate base areas (Mitarbi, Kokhta, Tatra, Didveli) and then all the bigger surface tows at the Twenty-Fives and Bakuriani town areas. Vertical is a very respectable 3,480ft and top elevation is 8,864ft.

142winter_map.png

We have a ski in, ski out private 2-bedroom house, next to the Kokhta 6-person chair, for 4 nights, for $256! Lift tickets are around $12 a day, so this will be a short, fun and very inexpensive side-trip. How good the snow will be in early March in the lower Caucasus, could be a bit of a gamble, but we'll give it a go anyway. It's not just the skiing we are going there for, it's the whole adventure.

It looks like the resort gets decent snow, but definitely gets some wind (watch out for windslab!). Looks like decent terrain up on Didveli and plenty of untouched powder to be had. Here's a few video's from Bakuriani that got me interested ......










We get to visit Gori on the way to Bakuriani. That was the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. His childhood home has been turned into a museum there. That should be interesting..... On the 13th March we'll be back in Tbilisi for the night and then on the 14th, we'll be heading to Gudauri for our first session....

- Matt
 
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Next up, Gudauri and Tbilisi. You can read my report from Georgia 2019 and our 4 days in Gudauri here. You'll find plenty of photos and video there, plus a daily roundup of the skiing. It was a fun time and for only $16 a day (lift tickets), with plenty of new gondolas and high-speed, 6-pack lifts. It was a real surprise. I think the following video's are my favorites and really show the potential of the riding here.








I'll be having multiple stops in Tbilisi, both before, between and at the ends of our 2 sessions. I really enjoyed Tbilisi back in 2019 and found so many cool things to see, just by walking around using a tourist map. The people were very friendly, the food is inexpensive and tasty and you can walk everywhere. I hope to keep exploring and find some new places, if possible. Might have to explore the Metro system (haven't done that yet)...... Here's a great video from one of my favorite travel bloggers, Davidsbeenhere -





- Matt
 
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Mattadvproject

Mattadvproject

Love that powder!
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If you haven’t yet been, a few stops on the metro takes you to the central station and main market, in and radiating all directions around Dezerter Bazaar, well worth it.

Enjoy the trips, looks great

Thanks for this @slow-line-fast, haven't been to the Dezerter Bazaar, so might have to take a look. Might be a good place to stock up on Svanetian salt..... I really hope this new Omicron variant doesn't shut us down. Uuugh, so over it all.
 
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