Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I love Georgia and Georgia loves me so much it don't want me to leave!

We left our wonderful host, Nazi, in Kazbegi to head back towards Gudauri.

It was (again…) pissing rain!
The new rain added on an already loaded snowpack triggered some avalanche that closes the road across Jvari pass and back to Gudauri. We were stuck in Kobi for about an hour before then open back the road.

We’ve been told that in springtime, they usually close the road from noon until 18h00 to let the natural avalanche cycle go. This time, it seems that they weren’t really worried for the cars safety since they open it straight after they were done cleaning the debris.

When they finally open the road; people went crazy. It was the car equivalent of a Chinese downhill where cars were driving on both side of the road in both directions and passing others by honking their way around!
Surprisingly, we ‘’won’’ the race as we made it to Gudauri ahead of everyone in our Lada Niva which our driver was handling like a pro passing multiple huge Mercedes and Lexus SUV in 15in deep water puddles!
It wasn’t really snowing in Gudauri though…. Even after gaining about 1500m from Kobi, the precipitation was still in its wet form….
We had dinner overlooking the depressing weather….but….

Yep! It happened!
Rain turned into snow at night and was falling at a surprisingly high rate!
We rushed the following morning to catch some freshies, but the visibility rather sucked…. We were also quite worry to ski some kind of dust on crust.

The least I can say is that it was quite a weird day. First, it wasn’t some dust-on-crust conditions. The snow was certainly wet and , but what lay underneath was really even and nice. At every turn, it looked like a water geyser could come out of our tracks since the deeper we went, the wetter it was!
It was some kind of blind and mellow skiing were we just had to believe that the conditions at every turns would be good!
And they were!

I’ve skied in whiteout conditions but certainly never had such a great day for this kind of visibility!

Stoked to have the winter back on our side, we skied non-stop from 10h00 (usual opening hour for Gudauri ski resort…) to 16h00.
We were really looking forward for the following day as they were forecasting some sunny windless day! And the best part is that they never open the top lifts on our blind-ski day, which offers the best terrain.

We had some debates about how the conditions were going to be with the temperature cooling the occurred overnight.

One thing we all agreed was that wherever it was tracked from the previous day, it was going to be horrible since all the exposed water would have freeze overnight. We were just hoping that the snow would have dryed out during the night to leave us a nice top-down snow.
We head straight to the top lift to get inline for some fresh turns. We managed to get on the 3rd chair with only 4 slowboarders in the first 2 chairs.

As we got out of the chairlift, they were still busy strapping…. I rushed down and carved the very first tracks of the day straight under the chairlift. There was probably about 6-8in of nicely settled snow. The snow was nice and steady and I made some nice high-speed turns getting as much pow as I was able to!!
That was, for me, one of the best run of the trip!!
The best part was that our day of work was just starting!! We had a few good laps on this chair before moving to the highest chairlift that usually open shortly after the one we were riding.
As we were going up, some fellows were skiing the groomed run as everything was totally untracked!!! There was some clouds hanging around and spotted a really nice 700m long run lookers left of the chairlift.
I guess a bunch of the skiers were worried about the avy conditions since they always left the untouched slopes untracked but were eagerly jumping on those same slopes once there were tracks! 
I was then our pleasure to show them the stability of the various slopes that were available, as we almost never skied across other skier’s track for the rest of the day!

As the day went on, there weren’t many good possibilities to ride some untracked slopes. We then made the short 20minutes hike up Mt Chrdili to get another lap of fresh untracked run!
Actually, the run was so good that we lapped it once more just as the lift were closing. We eventually rolled back to our hotel around 17h15 after a great 7 hours of non-stop skiing. That was the best day we had during our trip in Gudauri.
With the weather warming up, we figured our best shot would be to drop on the slackcountry of the resort, which is north facing. With a transfer back to Tbilissi in the afternoon, we didn’t waste much time around and went straight to the top to get a last slackcountry run.

As expected, the snow was really nice.
I’m pretty sure that if someone gets lucky with a ride back to the resort it’s quite possible to do two of those 1300-1500m vertical run!

So that was it for the skiing part of this Georgian odyssey. Since the weather was supposed to warmed up, we figure we could use the 2 days we had left in Georgia to a different use than making right-left-right-left turns.
Since Georgia claimed to have invented the wine about 7000 years ago to taste for ourselves if that pretention can be true. After a quick stop in Tbilissi, we made the move towards the town of Telavi, which was supposed to make a really good base for exploring the nearby vineyards. 
We lost no time and after dropping our gear to head straight to the small town of Tsinandali. To make a long story short, the wine tasting that is offered is not that extensive and left both vineyards we visited pretty disappointed.
As we were walking back to our guesthouse in Telavi bitching about the cost/amount of wine we got served, a group of older dude that were sitting in a park waved us to come talked to them.

There were 6 of them. We quickly realized that they were speaking only Russian and Georgian but the fact that we weren’t speaking any of those languages didn’t made a difference for them.

Some chitchatting went on between all of them and 4 of them left in various direction.

One quickly came back with a table a few more chairs, and another one with 2.5liters of red wine and a few glasses. We then thought that would compensate for the lack of wine we had in the afternoon.

Things got even better when another one showed up with some pickles, one with some bread and deli and the last one with what should be a gallon of white wine!
With some help from our Georgian/English dictionary, we were able to fairly understand each other but, as usual, getting closer to the bottom of the jugs, we got much more understandable to each others!  

Things get a bit blurred near the end of the evening… but since they only made us drink good home-made wine made naturally from years long tradition, the hangover was livable…
We went back to the local market and catch a bumpy marshtruka run back to Tbilissi for Babiche last night in Georgia.
Still a bit bummed from the past night, we played it gently since Babiche ride out of the country was at 3h45.
We didn’t really woke up to tell him goodbye and woke up late in the morning to go hang around town.

We found, near the main train station, a really big market where you can buy all the necessary requirement for the daily life.  

As we were walking back to hour guesthouse, we were able to get a taste of what Tbilissi new town is heading to.
If all the changes the city is overgoing happen in the past 8 years, there is certainly a great future for this booming city!
The trip out of should have been story less since we had 3 flights/2 connections to make it back to Canada.

But after we got to the airport, something was missing on the boarding board: our flight! A major snow in Kiev (our first connection) had our all trip fucked up…

Since about only 20 flights left the country that day (there isn’t that many flights out), we weren’t able to leave anywhere…

After spending 7 hours trying to get another trip back to Canada with the really unhelpful staff from Ukrainian Airlines (our cancelling fly operator), we headed back to Tbilissi since the only thing they were able to do to help us was to give us the address of their main office and go there following day…

That sounds like an horrible plan and just a perfect way to spend more time in Georgia. Instead, we headed back to the guesthouse, Meidan Guesthouse, we had stayed for all our stayed in Tbilissi to first find a place to stayed since it looked like we had to spend more time in Georgia than expected…

It is the least to say that Ekaterina, our host from Meidani Guesthouse was really surprised when she saw us back. Even if she didn’t had a room for us, she welcomed us back and greated us as we were family.

After she found for me the phone number I should call and another hour or so on the phone, we were finally set to leave the following day! Instead of the impossible trip Tbilissi-Kiev-Amsterdam-Montréal, we were now set for Tbilissi-Istanbul-Geneva-Montreal leaving the following morning!

Once that was set, she offered us dinner, tea, cha-cha, organized a taxi and a set up a bed inside her own office to help us crash overnight (or until 3AM when we had to leave).
I am now seated in my last connection landing in Montreal in a few hours after what had been one of my best ski-traveling experience of the past years.

After those 3 weeks, I can only highly recommend to visit this country. Any of the following reason are by themselves a reason good enough to visit the country. Add them together and you can only wonder why this is not your next destination: friendly people with a real true full warm welcomed, the ease to travel, cheap cost of living, drinking and skiing, the close distance of Gudauri from the capital (with enhanced the ski-time), the simply awesome skiing with terrific backcountry, stable snowpack, great weather, the safeness of the country despite the disputed area of South Ossetia and Abkazia, the nice capital in which one can visit a bit and have a bit of the Near East taste.

All in all, you’ll probably spend less by going for Georgia for a ski trip than for visiting any ski resorts on a ski trip of a few weeks.

Hope you liked following this too much under destination and wished I made you wished you were skiing in Georgia!

…. Not back to the cubicle….


demony granger said...

This is very good information.i think it's useful advice. really nice blog. keep it up!!!

snow conditions

Morroi said...

Great reading!!
You definitely put Georgia in my list of places to go and ski before my knees give up. Thanks


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