...announced the morbidly obese individual that we had managed to persuade to drive us to Gudauri from the airport for a reasonable price.
Cheers 'George from Georgia'! If you could do us a favour and avoid ploughing into any oncoming vehicles while your are simultaneously texting, eating a sandwich and doing your best not to drop bellow 130kph, that would be great!
It was a pretty high speed introduction to Georgia. After getting no sleep on the overnight flight from Geneva there was no way was I about to get any in the following two hours that would take us from Tbilisi, to the ski resort of Gudauri, close to the Russian border. Gudauri is slowly starting to make a name for its self as a free ride and ski touring mecca on 'the path less traveled', and that is exactly why we were there.
To be honest we decided to head to Georgia with very little knowledge of what it would be like. We herd there was skiing, watched a few YouTube clips, and liked the sound of going to somewhere neither of us had been. That was all we needed to book the flights. We only had a week (my half term break), but in that time we managed to get some really good quality skiing.
The ski resort in Gudauri is a lot bigger than I had expected, and it was surprisingly busy. We would also find out in the next few days that unfortunately Heli Skiing is quite popular in the surrounding mountains (more on that later). Luckily we had a huge dump of snow on our first night in Gudauri, which set us up for the whole week. If your are one of those people that don't really like putting in any miles to go off piste skiing, this resort is for you! There are hundreds of great freeride lines to be picked off. Not really my kind of thing, but I was really impressed with the terrain.
We had opted to rent a small apartment in lower Gudauri, and after spending a day skiing around the resort we were ready to start exploring the mountains further a field. We took the tactic of paying for a taxi to take us somewhere in the morning, and just hitching back to town once we had got down off the hill. The hitching was easy, in fact, 80% of the time we got a ride literally as we took our skis off and stepped onto the road. Amazing!
There is a small local ski touring 'guide book' with about 9 different routes in it. This provided some really useful beta, and the routes were a great introduction to what the area has to offer. Each day we ventured further away from the town, and each day we were rewarded with great snow, fantastic views and new ideas for future trips.
We got into the habit of starting fairly early, nothing stupid, we were usually skinning by about 8am. But this seemed a lot earlier than most people, which meant having the mountains to our selves most of the time. One morning we headed up a peak that we had read was popular with Heli Skiers. We got to the summit nice and early, with no one in sight. We knew that a chopper could touch down at any time, so Rob and I decided that it was our duty to make our feelings about the matter well known and preceded to stamp out a giant penis in the snow. Sure enough, 10 mins later, as we were having a drink of tea and taking in the view, in flies the helicopter...I think they knew what we thought of them! It amazes me how people can think that its a good idea to fly to the top of a mountain that takes about 3 hours to walk up? Soulless!
Even a bunch of Heli Nob's couldn't detract that much from the snow that we skied on the descent. Thats how our days went. Wake up - find a relatively sober taxi driver - skin for a few hours - drink tea and eat sandwiches looking at pretty mountains - ski lovely powder. You get the idea...
So if you are fed up of pushing your way through the crowds in the Alps in February half term I can whole heartedly recommend Georgia as a worthwhile alternative. We skied for 6 days and only scratched the surface. The options for great adventures is limitless. And if you fancy something a bit bigger, head over March/April time and give Mount Kezbek a go. A great looking 5000m peak just down the road from Gudauri.
I think this is a place that will only continue to get more and more hype, because it deserves it! Get in there before too many others do!
Enjoy. (P.S. feel free to get in touch if you would like any more info/advise.)