In his recent update from Iran, InterNations expat guestblogger Philip talks about winter sports in the country.
As with my previous articles, I am going to break a few complacent assumptions about the Islamic Republic of Iran, this week about skiing!
In a mountainous country with a vast array of mountain tops, it’s only logical that a skiing industry will develop over time, and Iran is no exception to this point. With the Iranian Rial tumbling further and ruffling the feathers of locals, people visiting the country have found themselves (again) the recipients of a bargain holiday destination.
As Iran sits on the cusp of the Northern Hemisphere and is geographically well placed between Central Asia and Europe, one could fly from Dubai or even Delhi for a week of cheap skiing or snowboarding fun.
All the modern winter gear is available for rent or purchase, and if you need assistance, the shops surrounding the ski resorts stock everything from new salopettes to even a replacement iPad (that’s if you happen to lose yours on the gondola going up the mountain).
The modern skiing industry in Iran was established sometime in the mid-20th century, and the jewel in the republic of Iranian ski resorts is the resort of Shemshak, some 2,550 meters above sea level. The weather is almost always crisp and clean, which is far from the smoggy hustle and bustle of Tehran.
One of the most enjoyable treats in the (alcohol-free) resort is the familiarity of the après ski food on offer: You can buy all the usual Western takeaway foods for a fraction of the price in Europe, and if you’re feeling somewhat braver, I would recommend that you really should try the fine stews on offer, from piping hot Chicken Fesenjan on the balcony of your chalet to the juiciest kebab in one of the many restaurants scattered around the resort.
Many of the runs around Shemshak are of the black variety, but for the meeker at heart, like myself, there are a few easier slopes with instructors fluent in many languages, including English. In the evening the slope is kitted out with new halogen lights to assist you if you happen to enjoy the evening skiing sessions, and the lights stay on till around 10 pm.
Kitted out with gondolas and chairlifts fitted by the French in the 1970s, Shemshak has a hint of the Val D’Isère or even one of the places European royals would visit every winter. One of the best advantages of winter sport in Iran is the ease of getting there from the Near East and the Persian Gulf region. And with the currency at an all-time low, you could be guilty of enjoying yourself all too much.
(Photo credit: Ski models 2010 by Wikimedia Commons user Kunstpiste)