Winter wonderland offers myriad options

Turkey … growing winter destination

WITH 60 per cent of the country surrounded by majestic mountains and more than a hundred peaks over 3,000 m, Turkey has many winter holiday destinations. Most of Turkey’s ski resorts are nestled within forested mountains, providing a stunning setting and breathtaking views. The winter sports facilities located along these mountain ranges include pistes for all levels of experience – ideal for downhill skiing, snowboarding and year-round glacier skiing, with many of the resorts also offering cross-country and heli-skiing from December through to April.

The Palandoken Winter Sports Centre in Palandoken, Erzurum, the north-east of Turkey has some of the longest and steepest ski pistes in the world. The centre’s four- and five-star hotels, ski lodges and restaurants are easily accessible from the mountain, with the centre providing transportation from the city centre throughout December to May. The Palandoken Ski Centre is accessible by daily flights from Ankara and Istanbul. In April, the resort features the popular Palandoken Ski Cup.

Turkey’s most popular winter sports and tourism centre is situated 60 minutes from Istanbul International Airport on Mount Uludag, one of western Anatolia’s highest peaks. The skiing season lasts from December to April, with a normal snow depth of around 3 m. The centre’s 27 hotels can accommodate 3,000 guests, with numerous restaurants and shops complementing a day on the slopes.

In addition to the usual skiing activities, skating and snow biking are also available. Uludag is Turkey’s largest ski holiday centre with the festivals, contests and concerts making it Turkey’s liveliest winter spot. Every March, Uludag hosts both the International Youth Cup and the International Endurance Cup.

Easily accessible from both Istanbul and Ankara, the Kartalkaya Skiing Centre in Bolu dominates the winter sports scene of northern Turkey’s central Anatolian and Black Sea region, and is one of Turkey’s most popular skiing centres. Set amid a landscape of luscious pine forests, and with an unusually long winter sports season, Kartalkaya offers 20km worth of pistes, and 12 runs offering up to 12 miles of continuous skiing. The centre also features two three-star hotels that can accommodate more than 1,000 guests in total.

Ilgaz Winter Sports Centre is located in the Mount Ilgaz National Park of Kastamonu in the western Black Sea region. Bordered in the north by the Kure Mountains and to the south by Mount Ilgaz, the region receives plenty of snow in the winter months. With skiing pistes at heights of 1,700 to 2,000 m, the winter snowfall is usually between 100 cm and 200 cm.

Set in the Lake District region of the Turkish Mediterranean close to the town of Isparta is Davraz Winter Sports Centre. With its 8 km worth of pistes and a snow depth of 50 cm to 250 cm, there is the usual array of skiing-related activities with the surrounding hotels having Olympic-sized swimming pools, fitness centres and many other facilities.

Forty miles to the west of the Mediterranean resort of Antalya, the Taurus mountains are covered in snow December onwards. The Saklikent Winter Sports Centre on the peaks of the Beydaglari (Bey Mountains) in Antalya is popular with beginners as well as mid-level skiers.

The region’s special late ski season in March and April allows for vigorous skiing in the morning, followed by an afternoon swim in the warm Mediterranean Sea. The area will soon be home to the Mediterranean’s longest cable car line (4,350 m).

Mount Erciyes, 40 minutes from Kayseri Airport, is an extinct volcano with a winter sports centre on its northern slopes. It offers year-round glacier skiing at heights of 2,100 to 2,900 m at snow depths of two metres. As the highest peak in central Anatolia, Erciyes is also a prime destination for heli-skiiers and serious mountaineers. Accommodation includes four guesthouses and the 60-room Dedeman Erciyes hotel, though development plans are underway to increase the facilities available.