With more and more alpine villages linking together to form skiing super-resorts, there is no doubt that the quality of skiing, particularly in Western Europe and North America, is better than ever before. But at what cost? As high-rise developments weave their way down valleys, blurring the lines between one village and the next, many resorts are finding themselves losing their charm. Yes, days on the snow are one big party, with mile after mile of beautifully groomed white piste just waiting to test your skills. But many are finding that once they step off the snow the atmosphere is decidedly lacking.
Thankfully a new wave of resorts is springing up across the continent, offering a completely different ski experience. Once such destination is Turkey. Turkey is already a firm favourite amongst summer sun seekers who appreciate the country’s historic attractions, beautiful coastline, warm climate and the even warmer welcome they receive. But Turkey also boasts some huge mountain ranges, which with the helping hand of recent development efforts, are becoming burgeoning winter sports destinations.
Turkey’s main ski areas are spread right across the country, from Palandoken in the far east in Anatolia to Uludag in the outskirts of Istanbul. And what better way to make the most of your ski trip than to combine it with a city break to one of the most exotic and picturesque urban centres in Europe?
Istanbul is just over a three-hour flight from London and is served by plenty of direct flights every day of the week. The chances of finding the city swathed in snow at this time of year are pretty high, adding a magical edge to an already magical skyline. Take time out to visit the blue mosque, explore the bazaars and take a boat along the Bosphorus (assuming it hasn’t frozen of course!)
Transfer to Uludag takes around two-and-a-half hours from Istanbul and when you get there it feels strangely like an extension to the gleaming metropolis. Whilst it enjoys a relatively remote mountain setting, it has developed extensively in recent years and is assuming something of a reputation as a playground for the rich and famous of its nearby urban neighbour.
Uludag now boasts a number of luxury hotels with huge spa complexes and all mod cons, as well as a series of smaller, boutique establishments to suit a range of budgets. The lift system has struggled to keep pace with the burgeoning hotel scene in Uludag but recent investment has streamlined operations and there is some considerable investment going into new and updated equipment.
Snow conditions in Uludag are often exceptional, and notably more reliable than in many of the resort’s European counterparts. The season runs from October to May and waking up to a morning of fresh powder is almost commonplace here. The pisted system is not extensive but there is plenty to keep intermediates happy for a week of fun and frolics in the snow. Discovering Uludag may be too late for die-hard black-run fanatics but for families and skiers looking for atmosphere, an alternative experience and guaranteed snow, it should definitely feature high on the list.