Published: February 26th 2012February 25th 2012
This is my first attempt to make a video for my blog. My skiier and snowboarder friends back home always ask me what the skiing is like where I travel. Sometimes it all seems the same: snow is snow. Other times it makes me realize how far I am from home. I really wish I had been able to make a video of my snowboard trip in Morocco. That was the most foreign skiing experience I've ever had. (See my blog Ski Africa from January 2007)
In one of my favorite quirks of the Turkish language, the word 'kayak' means ski. As far as I can tell, canoe means both canoe and kayak. I am still trying to find out when and how 'kayak' was introduced to Turkish, and why the meaning is so different from European languages. If you know the answer please comment on this blog!
Hilary, Mike and I left Istanbul on a 4:30am bus to Kartalkaya. Istanbul is rich in seas and water, but not mountains. It was a four hour bus trip to Kartalkaya. I brought earplugs and an airplane eyemask and slept the first two hours. Half way there we stopped for about ten minutes at a restaurant/market sort of place. I think I slept for another hour after that. There are several bus companies that do day trips for skiiers. We went with RadikalTur, for obvious reasons. For 155 Turkish lira we got breakfast, lunch, lift ticket and a very comfortable bus. Rentals were extra, but the boots and snowboard were in much better condition that what I rented when I was in Uludağ.
I've been told that Uludağ, where I went for New Year's, is for people who want to see and be seen, but that Kartakaya is for people who love the snow. Uludag, with it's wierd system of different lift tickets for each lift felt very foreign. Kartalkaya reminded me of Anthony Lakes, in Oregon. It's a relatively small mountain with only two chairlifts and four T-bars. I hadn't been on a T-bar since 2000, in a small resort in France. As a snowboarder, I always hated them. Actually, I was scared to try it when we first got there in the morning, but the only way to access the trees was by T-bar. After the second time up I wasn't scared of it anymore, but I still hated it. (The balance is awkward and riding up sideways the bar has to go between your legs. It's not supportive enough to sit on, so you have to stand and let it pull you up and sideways. Basically, all my weight was being pulled from the inside of my femur and it felt like my hip was being pulled out of the socket.) But it was worth it.
As you can see in the video, it was foggy and snowing most of the day. Okay, all day. In the morning it was just fog but it started snowing around noon and snow conditions just got better and better. The bus left at 5 and it was still snowing, but by then we were too tired to keep skiing anyway.
Even if we were skiing the same part of the mountain all day, we were the only ones in the trees and it was a big enough area that on every run I was making fresh tracks almost the whole way. Of course, to get to that one area of the mountain we had to take the little chair lift then the long T-bar. There is another T-bar on the back side of the mountain, but it was closed due to conditions. Up at the top it was a complete white-out with fog and very strong winds all day, getting stronger when it started snowing.
I would go back to Uludağ because I know there are several parts of the mountain I haven't seen yet, but comparing what I have skiied at Uludağ, with the skiing at Kartalkaya, I liked Kartalkaya much more. If I got to go skiing on a weekend with lots of fresh snow I'd head back to Kartalkaya. For spring skiing when I know I'm not going to be making tracks anyway, I'd probably go back to Uludağ.
The other ski resort close to Istanbul is Kartepe. It's even smaller than Kartalkaya, but I still want to check it out. It will be a few weeks before I have time to go snowboarding again though. Hopefully by then I'll be better at holding a camera while I board. That's going to take some practice.