Gudauri is a pretty beautiful place to visit; in fact, it’s a must-see place if you haven’t been there yet – OK, it’s not the most popular place as some of the other vibrant cities in Georgia are, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have what it takes in the tourism world. Gudauri is just a bit smaller than some of the other popular towns. Let’s put it this way, if you are planning on visiting Georgia, then Gudauri should not be overlooked. It is the ideal winter sports destination for all kinds of snow sports from cross-country skiing, speed flying, heli-skiing, and paragliding.
First of all, it’s mountainous, getting snow to meet the demands of the skiing season between December and April. It lies about 2 hours north of Tbilisi, the capital, so lots of people kind of make Gudauri a very convenient getaway to do some skiing over the weekend. It is cozily nestled in the snowy mountains, with the highest point of the resort being 3,300 meters above sea level – that means the weather can sometimes be extreme and chaotic.
GETTING TO GADAURI
Georgia is not short of taxis, marshrutkas, and private cars to hire or chartered buses. A lot of the skiers like to hire a private car to come and go as they please. Others join exciting tour groups on buses. A taxi is about $42 one way, whilst the Marshrutka costs around $4 a person one way. If you decide on a rental car, like a Toyota 4 Runner, for instance, you will probably pay around $64. If you fancy a Landcruiser, prepare to pay about $72, but there are discounts in winter.
WHEN ARE THE BEST TIMES OF THE YEAR FOR GADAURI
Gudauri is very busy in the first 2 weeks of January and then again in the middle of February to the middle of March. If you are more eager to avoid all the tourists, then it would probably be best for you to visit Gudauri outside of the holiday times of the Russia or Dubai tourist season. The first couple of weeks in December are very good because fresh snow has in all likelihood fallen and good, early opportunities will be there to ski on the slopes and pistes. March and April are good times for visiting Gudauri too, but sometimes in April, there is only skiing available up on the upper slopes.
Gudauri doesn’t actually get a whole lot of snowfall but you can count on there being enough snow for a fully functioning ski resort from December to April each year. That’s the winter skiing season. But it is equally gorgeous in the other months as well, make no mistake. The snowfalls vary each year; generally, the slopes are fully covered towards the end of December to the middle of April, with some of the lower slopes starting to melt already in late March.
Gudauri continuously improves on its services to keep up to speed with its increasing popularity. So they have expanded their ski slopes from 57 km to 75 km. Not only that, the ski lifts and slopes get regularly updated and maintained.
THE SKIING RESORT
There are different slopes to ski on in Gudauri and at least seven lifts to get you to the various slopes. Enclosed cable cars take you to the lower slopes but chair lifts will give you a lift to the higher peaks. Remember this is snowy and winter weather so remember to be dressed for the occasion. You won’t like sitting in a chair lift with wind blowing and whipping your clothes and hair all over the place so ensure you are dressed warmly and snugly. There is a shop, for instance, called Gudauri Ski, at the Gudauri Ski Resort where you can rent ski clothing and equipment. Skiing tickets cost around $13 for adults and $8 for children – skiing hours are from 10 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon. During the weekend night skiing is also available. These hours are subject to weather conditions, holiday times and specials for example.
This gorgeous skiing resort also caters to those who want lessons in skiing. Find yourself a qualified agency and guide when you make your booking. There are places for beginners to try out the skiing basics on the bunny hill; it’s located in New Gudauri, just at the base of the gondola. There is another at the top of the Gudaura Gondola/Shino lift. A perfect place for the novice skier is at Snow Park and Pirveli – ideal for first-time skiers and learners.
For the intermediate skiers, there are the Blue runs to show off your skills. You move from the green slopes, for beginners, to the blue slopes. Blue runs are also available at Gudaura gondola, Soliko, and Shino. There are also pistes available for free riders who want to try zigzagging around the mountains.
For the advanced skier
There are three lifts – Sadzele, Kudebi, and Kobi Canyon lifts – these take advanced skiers to the highest, steepest elevations. Advanced skiers aren’t ever disappointed because they are offered drops, rocky chutes, even mild terrain, and steep snow. The advanced skier will know that he or she has to be careful because avalanches have been seen before – that’s why it’s so important to venture out with proper equipment and naturally, to be an advanced skier.
WHERE TO STAY WHILST SKIING IN GUDAURI
There are fabulous hotels that will cater to your every need in Gudauri – one such is the Marco Polo Hotel – another is the Carpe Diem. They are skiing hotels so they can offer a few ski rentals like boards and boots. The Marco Polo Hotel is really a great choice – it will cost you around $125 night – very similar prices apply for the Hotel Carp Diem as well. But there are other options for you to choose should you want to look for other types of accommodation like economy studios for instance. The Marco Polo is a 4-star hotel, truly one of the best, it’s got a mix of Caucasian and European specialties which you will so enjoy n the bars and restaurants. Just staying at the hotel without going to the ski slopes, you are still going to find plenty of recreational things to do – there is an indoor swimming pool, a spa salon, game rooms where you can play table tennis or even tennis. Then on the weekends, never a dull moment, because you will be able to hear live popular music from DJs being performed. Gudauri sees to it that you have a good time when you visit it.
The Carpe Diem is also spectacular and is ideally named for those who stay there – it means “Live the present”. It’s also well located at the resort, situated between the 1st and 2nd stages of the ski lifts. The rooms have balconies so you can benefit from the panoramic vistas. You will never be bored here; they’ve got a nightclub, a cinema, ski rentals, sauna and terraces where you can just relax and take in unforgettable views, so soothing for the heart and soul.
Remember, that you can’t drink and “drive” so to speak when it comes to skiing. You can pretty much injure yourself if you are intoxicated and even put other people at risk. There will be plenty of time for partying as well, but keep it for after your day on the slopes. The snow can get pretty deep to, up to as much as 5 ft. deep (1.5 m). The skiing trails are all well maintained. There are trails suited for everybody from the beginner to the advanced. You get slaloms, snowboarding, and free-riding. All the trials are FIS certified. FIS certified? That’s the Fédération Internationale de Ski – in English it means the International Ski Federation – it is the world’s highest governing body when it comes to international winter sports. Gudauri has 75 km of skiing trails to offer, some are easy trails, some are intermediate, and some are difficult.
WINING AND DINING
You will find a fantastic restaurant called the Marco Polo Gudauri Restaurant. But there’s also a supermarket called The Smart & Gudsmart that you will love because they offer delicious prepared foods. So if you are hiring in an apartment or any other type of accommodation that has a kitchen, you can stock up with these delicious meals when you are on the go all the time. Since 2007, Drunk Cherry (Mtvrali Alubali) has been providing good meals and service at good prices – they are to be found at the bottom of the second ski lift. Don’t be surprised if there is even some live music there and some promotional shows, and a whole lot of fun going on there over weekends.
PEACE OF MIND WHILE SKIING
There is a special unit called the Gudauri Emergency Medical Unit. They have trained professionals and equipment with them on the slopes. This means visitors can just have a whole lot of fun on the slopes leaving the worrying to the professionals. They man a First Aid and Rescue station and nearby is the Tbilisi Hospital which serves as the main source of primary care – you will dial 112 if you are ever in an emergency.
IT DOESN’T END THERE
Not only is Gudauri the perfect winter skiing destination, but it’s got plenty to offer those who aren’t skiers. Activities such as rafting, bird-watching, trekking, kayaking, and horse riding are all available apart from the skiing activities. Paragliding is highly popular and the best way to enjoy the exquisite views of Gudauri and the Caucasus Mountains. You will find tandem pilots available at the top of the Pirveli lift if you want to go paragliding. Beginners will simply love it, that’s all one can say, but of course, there are the other thrills like heli-skiing and snowboarding.
Let a helicopter whisk you away to great heights
Helicopters in Gudauri are used a lot for heli-skiing or heli-boarding. The helicopter will take you up to pure untouched snow above, and then you ski down, being the only one to do that – it doesn’t come cheap as you can imagine, because the petrol for just one minute of flying in a helicopter is over 50 Euros. Naturally, if you’ve got the cash, it’s there for the taking. There are also recreational tours by helicopter. With heli-skiing, you get access to the best of the best powder-snow in the Caucasus. The helicopters have just about unrestricted access to the local mountains which means skiers get dropped off on the top of the mountains or glaciers – they are also in the hands of very experienced guides. Try it! Contact Info@heliksir.com for more information.
Snowmobiles in Gudauri
You can rent these near the gondola base – negotiate the best price for yourself before venturing out.
Snow tubing in Gudauri
There is a snow tubing hill at New Gudauri. It’s just a whole lot of fun and great if you have kids because they enjoy gliding down the gentle slopes on inflated rubber tubs. You don’t need any skills to do snow tubing or any training – just sit and hold on and enjoy the ride!
Fun without even skiing
If you don’t fancy skiing, that’s no problem – you can walk around or drive around and view the majestic Caucasus Mountains! Even going up the ski lifts with your weekly ski pass, without snowboard or skis, is fun! The views get more majestic as you go higher and higher. You can also go down with the lifts too, without any payment, stopping by at the little bars and cafes to be found at the different levels. The highest point is 3,300 meters above sea levels, so you can imagine the view! Just maybe you might even catch a glimpse of Georgia’s third-highest mountain, the Kazbek Mountain.
A trip to Kazbegi
Fancy a trip to enjoy an outing to Kazbegi (Stepansminda), only 30 km away. You will not be able to avoid stopping at the top of Jvari Pass to stand in awe at the amazing views from up there, all 2,379 meters above sea level!
That’s Gudauri for you – “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do!” – W. Miller