Heli-ski Kyrgyzstan's most remote regions
Lift lines and crowded slopes become a distant memory when you land atop the untamed, snowcapped, 4,500m-high Terskey Ala-Too range in northeastern Kyrgyzstan.
Specialising in mountain expeditions throughout Central Asia, K2 Adventures uses a private helicopter to transport daring skiers and snowboarders to the untouched terrain, limiting trips to a few small groups each year.
The area does not have typical skiing facilities, so the backcountry runs tend to stay unpacked and powdery. On a good weather day (temperatures vary from about -10C to -3C), skiers can expect to make about six trips down the mountain, descending about 800 to 1,200m depending on the route.
“Terskey is paradise for experts, with its high altitudes and wild slopes,” said Igor Fedyaev, managing director of K2 Adventures. “It’s a real no man’s land -- a huge area with very different shapes, eternal snow-covered summits and huge glaciers.”
The normal group size is about 13 skiers or snowboarders, with a maximum of 15 allowed on any trip. K2 Adventures uses Russian Mi-8MTV1 helicopters for the route, known for their ability to take off at altitudes above 5,000m, and pilots must have at least 15 years of flying experience. On the mountain itself, skiers are always accompanied by two guides, with at least one expert in avalanche safety.
In case of bad weather, guides transport the group to Uzbekistan, either to the traditional ski resorts of Chimgan or Beldersay, to Tashkent, one of the biggest cities in Central Asia, or to Samarkand, a city with a mix of ancient mosques and monuments.
For intermediate-level skiers who still want the heli-ski experience, Fedyaev recommended Kyrgyzstan's Ala-Archa and Suusamur ranges, as the descents are more regularly traversed and they are only 150km south of the capital, Bishkek, should any accidents occur, compared to the 350km between Bishkek and the Tersky Ala-Too range to the east.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book. Trips run from January to April, and cost $3,990 per person to ski the intermediate range and $4,790 per to ski the more advanced range. Both trips are seven days long, which includes about eight hours of active helicopter time during the full trip as well as accommodation in Bishkek. Additional helicopter time can be added for $260 per person per hour.
On top of the fee, skiers and boarders must carry at least $20,000 worth of international health or accident insurance coverage, pay the $110 Kyrgyz visa fee if needed and pay for skiing and avalanche-preparedness equipment if they do not have their own.