Powder Skiing in Georgia – Exploring the High Caucasus

In summer 2017, I’d spent 3 weeks backpacking around Georgia with my wife and teenage kids – bouncing around in the back of local buses and jeeps, visiting remote areas in the mountains and spending a few days in the capital, Tbilisi.

It was a great trip in it’s own right, but also a reccying mission; checking terrain, sorting logistics and making necessary contacts etc. to ensure everything went smoothly for a future ski trip.

Our first Georgia Ski Touring trip filled up immediately – so, in early January we found ourselves on a flight from London to Western Georgia, ready to start the long drive up into the mountains again, but this time in winter.

After 5 hours we finally reached Mestia and the snow; far more of it than I ever expected(!) –  clearly I was going to be earning my money this week, with a lot of trailbreaking…

Svan Towers in Mestia – Svaneti, Georgia

After checking in at the hotel we headed to a cafe-bar for a late lunch, followed by an afternoon of sightseeing, exploring the back streets and 1000 year old Svan Towers that give the towns and villages in this region their unique architecture.  Cows wandering down the main street certainly added a wild west flavour – about as far away from an Alpine ski resort as you can get!

On our first days skiing we headed to the higher local resort, about 15km from town along heavily snowed up tracks (4x4s are essential around here…) and proceeded to spend the whole day lapping fresh, light powder.  My plan to finish the day skiing down to a remote Svan village all went well until we couldn’t find Koba, our driver – it turned out we’d skied to one end of the village whilst he was waiting at the other end, so it took quite a while to find each other – all part of the adventure!  After that, we both made sure we were super clear about pickup spots and he did an amazing job, getting us up crazy tracks to remote villages and out of the way places.

The following couple of days we went day touring – both big trail breaking missions to enjoy top to bottom powder descents with no one else in sight.  After that we went for a more relaxed day at the local ski hill at the edge of town – except it didn’t turn out like that, as we found more amazing tree skiing and had another massive day, rounded off with coffee then a cha-cha session (the local fire water!) at a cozy bar – wild west skiing with apres ski; not a bad combination.

Powder touring above Mestia
Pretty good snowpack for January..
Playing in the woods above town
Meeting the locals

We got up on our final day to a cloudy but bright morning – ie a likely sign of a could inversion – so headed up top again, breaking through the mist to enjoy 360 views of the famous Caucasus peaks of Ushba and Tetnuldi and yet more fresh powder.  All too soon Koba arrived, to make the long evening drive back out of the mountains and toward home.

Final morning
Skiing above the clouds

We had time though for a great final night enjoying traditional food and local Georgian wine – that went down particularly well with a bunch of hungry skiers…  With late afternoon flights, we had time for a final bit of sightseeng, visiting the local cathedral and markets, before heading home.  Memories of fresh powder, Svan towers, cows, cha-cha, off road driving and the stunning mountains of the Caucasus made it an excellent trip – already I’m planning a return next season to go skiing in Ushguli as well as Mestia, to do some more exploring!