Ski Touring Iran Backcountry — Trip Report


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 8, 2017      

Martin Schøber
All photos by Tore Amby, used by permission

Even if the best mountains roads of Iran

Even though the best mountains roads of Iran are in the valley below, there were practically no other backcountry skiers around. Throughout our four days of ski touring in the Alborz Mountains in the vicinity of the ”famous” Dizin ski resort, we counted only two other groups of backcountry skiers.

“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:

  • Fly into Tehran, sightseeing for a day or two
  • Head north to the Alborz mountains
  • Skitour
  • Drive south through the desert to the Zagroz mountains
  • Skitour
  • Drive back to Tehran
  • Head home
  • 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.

    A massive amount of vertical and the climbing took off straight from

    A massive amount of vertical and the climbing took off straight from the road. It had been a few days since the last snowfall and we did not see a single snowflake throughout our trip. Despite the warm Iranian sun, the north faces held up nicely and we were able to find boot-deep cold winter snow.

    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.

    What more could you wish for?

    What more could you wish for?

    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.

    What the Iranians lack in English skills

    What the Iranians lack in English skills, they fully make up for in hospitality and eagerness to help. Several times during the 30-hour travel with five stops and changes, friendly Iranians helped us make the next connection. We would never have made it to Chelgerd without their assistance and guidance.

    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.

    Heading out early the next day

    Heading out early the next day, we received many strange looks from the locals. I am not sure they were aware that they lived close to great ski lines for a lifetime. After getting our first experience crossing a freeze cold river and a long slog across the plateau we headed up the steeper part. The warming sun made ski touring a struggle with snow sticking to the skins and clothes soaked wet from sweat.

    Luckily a vertical fall line ski run of 1200m

    Luckily a vertical fall line ski run of 1200m (3900ft) made the effort worth it. Both of us were in awe. We had linked big GS turns top to bottom and the slope just kept going. What a run.

    The following days provided equally splendid skiing

    The following days proved equally splendi, with long fall line skiing in the nearby area.

    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.

    A layover, and a visit to a coffeeshop, in the town of Shahrekord got us invited to a local family’s home and their sugar factory, where they were more than keen to share local snacks and tea with two complete strangers. A hospitality which felt very typical for Iran

    A layover, and a visit to a coffeeshop, in the town of Shahrekord got us invited to a local family’s home and their sugar factory, where they were more than keen to share local snacks and tea with two complete strangers. A hospitality which felt very typical for Iran

    (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)



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    Comments

    17 Responses to “Ski Touring Iran Backcountry — Trip Report”

    1. Terrance May 8th, 2017 8:19 am

      I think you meant sosblacksnow.com?

    2. Michael May 8th, 2017 9:40 am

      Awesome!

    3. Frame May 8th, 2017 10:01 am

      Nice trip. Look forward to a future expidition once the ski slope on the building in Copenhagen is built. Poaching uphill laps under a full moon perhaps.

    4. Wayne May 8th, 2017 12:04 pm

      Great TR, thanks for sharing. So many places to visit, so little time.

    5. Lisa Dawson May 8th, 2017 1:47 pm

      Terrance, we were having trouble with the link, but it’s fixed now. Martin’s site is Blacksnow.dk,

    6. Martin May 8th, 2017 1:48 pm

      @Frame – never thought of poaching the new ski slope and it’s 80 meters of vertical in Copenhagen. Will be great for fitness and especially for practicing skimo-style transitions 🙂

    7. Maz May 8th, 2017 5:25 pm

      Great TR!
      Always wanted to go to Iran; Fabian Lentsch’s roadtrip story and this report have only reinforced that.

    8. AndyC May 8th, 2017 6:13 pm

      My wife skied Dizin in 1967! She and her flight crew took a taxi from Tehran to the ski resort. Her first experience skiing! This season she already has more than 50 days backcountry–with more too come.

    9. Martin May 8th, 2017 11:18 pm

      @AndyC – Amazing story, I hope you and your wife get more good days this season.

      The Iranian mountains must draw some attentions from flight crew as we met a norwegian pilot, who had always seen the Zagroz mountains from above and wanted to go there. So he and some friends were attempting a 100 km traverse on “fjeldski” (a type of crosscountry ski made for the backcountry).

    10. Martin May 15th, 2017 9:07 am

      Been to Iran for skitouring in April, and I was blown away by the beautiful mountains there as well. Main goal was Mt. Damavand 5610m, but first we did some tours in the surrounding mountains for acclimatization – best tours of the season for me!

      And yes, our guides kept telling us that Zagroz mountains were the real thing for skitouring: More snowfall & completely unexplored.

      The Alps have 82 peaks above 4000m. Iran has over 800, they said.

    11. Sean October 20th, 2017 11:11 am

      This is awesome. I’ve been wanting to ski in less frequented countries for a while now. Curious how you approached avalanche safety in a country where (I assume) there is no avalanche forecasting service. Did you dig many pits to fill in the gaps in the available local knowledge? Thanks!

    12. Martin October 22nd, 2017 10:58 pm

      Hi Sean

      Thanks for your comment – and I really think you should go for it. There is no avalanche forecasting and the locals were very afraid of avalanches.

      We used the same approach as when being in the mountains in the alps with extensive avalanche forecasting. Looking for the red flags and making a very conscious effort to find the lowest risk line for the approach. And we took a very cautious approach by being quick to choose the more conservative option.

      We didn’t dig any pits, other than maybe a quick pit on a chosen line.

      I think we were very lucky with the avalanche conditions and having very bomber snow.

      I hope this helped, if not I’ll be more than keen on elaborating.
      BR Martin

    13. Willis Richardson April 22nd, 2018 7:01 pm

      Where was the hostel? Is it at the resort. Are there homes where you could stay with a family and pay them? Any hotels at the resort? Thinking of going in 2019 for a month. Thanks. Willis

    14. Martin Schøber April 23rd, 2018 12:36 am

      Hi Willis

      The hostel was located in a smaller village a 10-15 min drive from the ski resort. Driving and pick up service was a part of staying at the hostel.

      I don’t know if there would be any families to stay with. We didn’t find anything, but I’ve read online that couchsurfing is very popular and widespread in Iran. It was a very small village though, so I would doubt it.

      As far as I remember there were one or two hotels directly at the ski resort. I have a recollection of them seeming pretty fancy.

      I can only recommend staying at the hostel.

      Best regards
      Martin

    15. wtofd April 23rd, 2018 12:51 pm

      So great. Glad you posted this.

    16. Willis Richardson April 23rd, 2018 5:14 pm

      Martin,

      Thank you for the information.

    17. Lukas P. May 1st, 2018 10:59 am

      Went to Iran this winter – Country is super safe and locals were really friendly. I strongly recommend eventhgough the resorts aren’t big / modern… Found bunch of info on the website https://skiofpersia.com. And yes, NO AVALANCHE forecasting at all!
      Find few locals to ski – Had some safety gear but lack of knowledge about avalanche risk… Hope it helps 😉
      Cheers





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