All photos by Tore Amby, used by permission
“Beep Beep” (standard message tone)
“Have you seen the ridiculous prices for flights to Tehran?”
“No, but if they’re cheap, book it. End of February through the 3rd of March will work for me.”
An hour later:
“Tickets are booked — we’re heading to Iran.”
Our plan was simple:
After gliding through passport control, we obtain our visa (we’re from Denmark and are allowed to get visas upon arrival). We are the only ones with ski luggage in Tehran’s international airport. Heading into the municipality, the chaos of the capital city stands in stark contrast to the solitude we will experience in the mountains.
Just north of Tehran, about a two-hour drive from city center, is Dizin, the most “modern” ski area of Iran. Compared to those in our home mountains, the Alps, this is a bunny hill from the sixties, with badly groomed runs and ancient lifts. The surrounding mountains on the other hand are majestic, snow covered and empty.
While disappointed with the ski resort, we were in awe of the relatively easy mountain access from the road. The road gets you to about 2500m (8,200 feet) and we ski toured to a high point of 12,100 feet.
For Iranian standards, the infrastructure in the Alborz Mountains is good and well developed. This enabled us to be creative in the lines to ski, since we would, in most cases, end up at a mountain road. And when our friendly hostel host, Reza (who BTW is an aspiring ski touring enthusiast) offered full day pick-up service at any point on the road, we were able to ski anywhere in the massive range.
With no competition for fresh tracks, we would look at the mountains in the evening or morning over a cup a tea and decide where to go. Everything that a freeride skier could ever ask for was within sight.
Highlights from our four days of skiing in the Alborz Mountains included a steep couloir visible from our simple, but cozy, hostel. As well as a long traverse to an unscoped north face full of complex and soft lines and short pitches with plenty of boulders to air.
It was time to travel south and head to the entrance of the Zagroz Mountains. We heard that the town of Chelgerd would be the place to be for accessomg the mountains in the south and hopefully provide potential for steep skiing. But getting there was not easy to figure out since 99% of the population doesn’t speak English and we weren’t able to read any signs or schedules.
After spending countless hours looking at the desert we were finally nearing our destination and saw huge mountains with endless lines to be skied. we were confident that our efforts would pay off and we’re beyond psyched about what was in store for us.
We arrived in Chelgerd to unfortunately find a sandy mound and a short mellow snow covered run facing north. Where were all the big mountains we saw on the drive? After locating our lodging, a hotel at a way lower standard than our hostel, we hitchhiked to the bottom of the hill and were able to skin to the top. What awaited us here was a proper view of the entrance to the Zagroz. Huge peaks, vast plateaus and ski lines from left to right. The level of stoke was right back to normal.
These incredible descents marked the end of our trip to Iran. We definitely want to go back and next time we will be bringing a tent.
Exploring Iran was an eye opening experience. The mountains blew our minds with the possibilities for big descents and the people welcomed us with ever-present hospitality. We will return and I sincerely hope that more people will visit Iran to experience the culture, the nature and the people.
(Guest blogger Martin Schøber is a Danish skier, residing in St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria in winter — since Denmark is flat as a pancake. Martin was a competitive freeskier, but now spends his time exploring mountains around the world when he’s not chasing powder and steep lines in the Alps. Martin supports his backcountry adventures through Blacksnow.com, his e-commerce website for folks in the Scandinavian countries. Instagram: @Schober5)