June 7, 2023

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In a Corner of the Former U.S.S.R., There’s Something for Everyone

2 min read

Georgia is trying to carve out a reputation as an alternative to the Alps. It may not be as fancy or well developed — Gudauri, for instance, Georgia’s top skiing spot, has a handful of chairlifts (and often they are not all working), compared with the dozens at, say, Zermatt. But lift tickets are about a fourth of the price, the mountains are as high, and part of the draw is that it’s not the Alps. We met Israelis, Russians, Thais, South Africans, a few Americans, Saudis, Jordanians, Indians and plenty of Europeans.

It’s a two-hour drive from Tbilisi to Gudauri, and as we progressed the road grew curvier and steeper. The scenery was exquisite: ice-crusted rivers, suspension bridges, ancient stone churches clinging to the cliffs and, beyond them, the white peaks of saw-toothed mountains cutting into the sky. By the time we arrived, the clouds were dumping snow.

“We’ve been waiting all season for this snow!” a receptionist at the Gudauri Lodge said. The hotel was a true ski chalet, ski in, ski out. Imagine windows staring at the mountain, an outdoor hot tub big enough for a ski team, and a rental shop and lockers on the ground floor. In the morning, we could trudge a few steps from our room and hit the slopes.

I woke up to the sound of barking dogs. “Dad?” Asa said, standing by our window. “There’s something out there. It looks like a bulldog but much bigger. And it has thicker hair.” I glanced out to see a pack of woolly strays scratching themselves in the middle of a ski run.

Only one lift was working at first — the others were closed because of high winds, we were told by a ski instructor, though it didn’t seem that windy. We waited 20 minutes in the lift line, partly because the guys running it, who had cigarettes hanging off their lips and wore uniforms that said “Police,” sent up chairs with only two or three people, instead of six.

Jeffrey Gettleman

2023-03-30 09:00:29

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