Skiing in the Caucasus, Gudauri Ski Resort, Kazbegi Region, Georgia "Suggestion for Best Winter Trips"
Photograph by Oleg Gritskevich/GUDAURI.TRAVEL
Climbing above 13,000 feet, the jagged snowcapped peaks of the Greater Caucasus form Georgia’s formidable, yet strikingly beautiful, northern border. Set within this dramatic backdrop is Gudauri, a sprawling mountain resort built in a wind-protected basin at the base of 9,862-foot Mount Kudebi. Relatively unknown to North American skiers and boarders, Gudauri is a wide-open winter playground with abundant snowfall and above-the-tree-line slopes. Runs range from beginner to expert, or blaze your own trail through deep, untouched powder on a Heliksir backcountry heli-skiing trip.
When to Go: Ski season is December-April, and heli-skiing typically is available from January to mid-April.
How to Get There: Gudauri is less than two hours from Tbilisi International Airport via the Georgian Military Highway. Taxis and shared mini-buses are available; however, it’s more convenient to prebook airport transfers through your hotel or tour provider.
Where to Stay: Gudauri Marco Polo is a ski-in, ski-out hotel located near Gudauri’s Lift No. 1. Ski down to the lift (and the ticket hut) in the morning, ski back in the afternoon, and store your gear in the hotel’s first floor “ski depot.” Rates include breakfast and dinner, and there’s an indoor heated pool facing the slopes.
Where to Eat: On the ride from the airport, stop at Kotsos Duqani in the village of Pasanauri for regional khinkalis (dumplings) filled with spiced meat (or potatoes, mushrooms, or cheese), herbs, and onions. At the Hotel Gudauri Hut restaurant, sample a variety of traditional (and highly addictive) Georgianpkhalis. These bite-size appetizer balls are made from finely chopped fried or boiled vegetables (eggplants, beans, spinach, beetroot), blended with crushed walnuts, vinegar, herbs, garlic, and spices.
What to Watch Before You Go: Since Otar Left, winner of the 2003 Cannes Film Festival Critics' Week Grand Prize, follows three generations of Georgian women living together in a Tbilisi apartment.
Cultural Tip: While credit cards typically are accepted in more expensive hotels and restaurants, U.S. visitors have reported incidents of credit card fraud and identity theft. Pay in cash (Georgian lari) when possible, and closely monitor your card activity online to spot any fraudulent use.
Fun Fact: The Russian army built (over an ancient route) the Georgian Military Highway in the early 19th century. The spectacular, and in some places treacherous, road snakes its way from Tbilisi over the Caucasus. Due to the closed Georgia-Russia border, the highway no longer leads into Russia, ending instead in Stepantsminda (formerly Kazbegi), about six miles short of the former crossing.