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10 Best Freeride & Skitour Spots in Russia

Freeride in Russia  — more than just freeride. Generally Russian ski resorts come short in the comparison with the other countries, but skitour and heliski possibilities there a good deal more; and in completely untouched playground.

Because of the difference between Rouble/Euro/Dollar exchange, the cost of such trips is quite affordable (especially in contrast with heliski in other countries). Flight time will take approximately the same duration, but you’ll get a lot more impression for sure. One of the main things while planning the trip to Russia  — contact with the most appropriate mountain guide, and Mountain Planet specialists are ready to help.

Meet the review of 10 best skiing and snowboarding places of Russia and find all interesting facts direct from experienced professionals.   

This rating has been composed following the exploration survey, developed by Alexandr Kuzmitskiy, certified ski guide of Russian Mountain Guides Association*.

1. Elbrus Region

Elbrus is the highest point of Europe (5642 m), the slopes of this sleeping two-headed volcano saw the world's best freeriders. According to the altitude, the snow cover is quite stable here, and one always can find the virgin powder.

There are lack of developed pistes on Elbrus, but freeride and skitour are the options in different beautiful ravines, there are hundreds of kilometers of fresh snow during all winter (and spring) season.

Minus: possible acclimatization problems because of the altitude.

Plus: guaranteed snowboarding/skiing capabilities and a long season.

Arrival: Mineralnye Vody MRV

Transfer: 3 hours

Heliski: 5 descents for $900

Skitour: $350 per week

Elevation: 4800 – 3200 m

Season: December/May

2. Mamay (Baikal Lake Region)

Photo: Travelextreme.ru

To see the most deep lake in the world and to open the season among the first: these two tasks you can accomplish by the one trip to Mamay, known freeride site near Baikal lake.

This playground will steal the heart of wild nature lovers: there are no lifts, no hotels, no supermarkets (or any markets), and you can stay only in the forest huts there. Mobile telephony works only on the heights, and the electricity available by generator unit.

Instead you will experience complete union with the wildlife, and visit the place, where only the most violent freerides skiing.

Minus: the lack of tourist industry.

Plus: the perfect powder and a long season plus the possibility to get a sight of the biggest freshwater resource in the world.

Arrival: Irkutsk IKT or Ulan-Ude UUD

Transfer: 3 hours by car + snowcat

Heliski: skitour/snowshoeing primary, snowmobile-assisted backcountry skiing as an option

Skitour: $400 per week

Elevation: 1600 – 900 m

Season: November/April

3. Luzhba

Freeride a la Siberian Style, uncompromising and comprehensive. There is no heliski there, only snowshoeing and ski-tour. In return the skiing take course in the wooded part of the Kuznetsk Alatau, and the playground provides incredible terrain opportunities.

Minus: the place is hard to get to, the lack of tourist infrastructure, huts accommodation. During January and February severe frosts possible (up to -40°С).

Plus: typical Russian adventure: not only freeride, but Russian sauna, national-style log cottages accommodation and the real pioneer style.

ArrivalNovokyznetsk NOZ or Novosibirsk OVB, then by train to Luzhba Station, then snowcat transfer across the Tom River

Transfer: 4-5 hours

Heliski: only backcountry/ski-tour

Skitour: $400 per week

Elevation: 1700 – 1400 m

Season: November/March

4. Sheregesh

Photo: AlpIndustria.ru

Sheregesh is the one of few ski destinations in Russia where the best freeriders prefer to open the winter season. The site is famous by its terrain and snow quality: the powder does not freeze, and even on previously skied slopes you can find favourable surface. Some years ago the resort was the host of one of the Freeride World Qualifier steps.

Heliski in Sheregesh has been operated since 2017, there are three skiing zones available.

Minus: long journey.

Plus: the thick snow layer (3-4 meters), early season opening.

Arrival: Novokyznetsk NOZ

Transfer: about 3 hours

Heliski: from $700 to $1200 per day (4 descents), depending on the routes; snowcat & caterpillar ascents also available

Skitour: $350 per week

Elevation: 1270 – 600 m

Season: November/April

 

5. Khibiny Mountains

Photo: Ivan Ionov

Plateau-like Khibiny Mountains are situated within the Arctic Circle, and the Polar Night is 3 weeks long. The steady snow formed in December as a rule, but because of short light day any sport activity shifted in time. Despite a small altitudes, the avalanche hazard is high, so please pay attention.

Minus: Polar Night; very fierce winds during winter and in the beginning of spring. Tourist infrastructure not at the highest level; the lack of thorough accommodation and food.   

Plus: the opportunity to observe the Aurora Borealis from August till April. Quick access to the skiing zone not only by helicopter but by the snowcats.

The additional article about Aurora Borealis and other most breathtaking things you can see in the world you can find by the link

Arrival: Khibiny KVK

Transfer: 40 minutes

Heliski: 4 descents for $600

Skitour: $350 per week

Elevation: 1100 – 500 m

Season: March/April

6. Krasnaya Polyana

Photo by Oksana Chekulaeva, the member of Mountain Planet Alpine Community

Perhaps the Olympic resort for Winter Games-2014 is the only place in Russia which is comparable with European infrastructure. One can find four skiing areas and illimitable freeride capabilities near Sochi city. And a few years ago before the Olympics these slopes of Aibga Ridge were the playground for Freeride World Tour (Russian Stop).  

Minus: the accommodation prices are fare from comfort, high traffic on the developed pistes. Please pay attention: because of the Subtropical Zone, the snow conditions in Krasnaya Polyana could be changable, you better plan the trip according to the forecast.

Plus: excellent tourist infrastructure, a diverse choice of accommodation, cafes and restaurants, close to the airport.

Arrival: Sochi AER

Airport to resort transfer: 50 minutes

Heliski: 4 descents for $900

Skitour: $400 per week

Elevation: 2500 – 1500 m

Season: January/March

7. Kamchatka

Photo: Helipro.ru

Kamchatka is the Mecca for any dedicated freerider, and its proud volcanoes are famous alongside with the Alaska’s snow slopes. If most of the other Russian ski resorts allows to order one-day heliski program, Kamchatka is “all inclusive freeride”.

The group of skiers/snowboarders arrive to well equipped remote recreational facility with the delicious cuisine and natural hot baths. This is the starting point for the radial flights to volcanoes, snow hills and fjords. The skiing area (with direct descents to the Pacific Ocean) are more than 200 sq. km. That’s it, that’s all!

Minus: deeply remote place, not susceptible to anyone.

Plus: “dream trip” for each dedicated freerider.

Arrival: Yelizovo, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy PKC

Transfer: 2,5 hours

Heliski: one week from $5000 per person (transfer, accommodation, 3 meals daily, 8-hour flight time)

Skitour: $400 per week

Elevation: up to 2000 m

Season: March/April

 

8. Lago-Naki Plateau

Lago-Naki Plateau is 2000 meters of average high and situated not so far from Krasnodar city. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and this is the attribute of this intact and precious wildlife spot.

During skitour program one can find a lot of accessible ridge routes with following large off-piste slopes selection. And from the highest points of the plateau you can even see the Black Sea waters.

Minus: there is a lack of tourist industry, primary hostel accommodation

Plus: good snow conditions, very good weather in Spring

Arrival: Krasnodar KRR

Transfer: 3 hours

Heliski: skitour & snowcats

Skitour: $300 per week

Elevation: 2800 – 2000 m

Season: January/April

 

9. Arkhyz

Photo: AlpIndustria.ru

Arkhyz is the most new built ski resort of Russia. As if the additional ski routes, the lifts and hotels are under the development, the heliskiing were an option long before infrastructure uprising.

More than 200 km of virgin snow slopes are well-known to the best freeride professionals of Russia. You can choose from 2-3 riding days to the 7-day package as well.

Minus: almost nothing except the price and lack of hotel stay during season.

Plus: it is interesting that the clients have an option of accommodation in former state summer residence “Red Stones”, so-called “President Gorbachev Dacha”. In 1990 Mikhail Gorbachev greeted Helmut Kohl there, German Chancellor back then.

Arrival: Mineralnye Vody MRV

Transfer time: 3 hours

Heliski: $2400 per 2-3 days (flight time, accommodation & meals)

Elevation: 2000 – 1000 m

Skitour: $400 per week

Season: January/March

10. Dombay

Dombay is called "the most beautiful ski postcard in Russia". This resort is known by the great ski-lifts freeride opportunities, the routes to Gonachkhir Ravine are available right from the upper depots of cable ways. Ski-tour routes accessible on the most of the mountains, there are thick snow cover even on dry winters.

Minus: overcrowded during holidays; construction chaos as in the town and on the slopes of main skiing section as well

Plus: if the township and the resort area can be overflowed by tourists during holidays and weekends, the ski-tour routes stays almost uninhabited. There are no one there as a rule, so all the breathtaking views are for you and your friends only.

Arrival: Mineralnye Vody MRV

Transfer time: 3 hours

Heliski: only ski-tour & snowshoeing, on-site freeride

Skitour: $300 per week

Elevation: 3200 – 1500 m

Season: December/March

***

This rating has been composed following the exploration survey, developed by Alexandr Kuzmitskiy, certified ski guide of Russian Mountain Guides Association*, member of Mountain Planet Alpine Community and the founder of Snow Sense adventure agency. More than 50 Russian guides, who constantly working on routes in Russia, took part in the survey.

Statistics:

  • 50% of guides are the members of Mountaineering Federation of Russia (or Mountaineering Federation of his or her country)
  • 60% of guides are the members of Russian Mountain Guides Association
  • All the debriefed guides permanently practicing ski-tour, freeride, heliski, mountaineering, trekking; works as a ski/alpinism instructors and organize their own outdoor expeditions in the different parts of the world
  • During the winter season one guide leads from 10 to 20 freeride/backcountry programs not less than 6 days long
  • As a rule, all the guides cover from 3 to 8 skiing regions of Russia during the winter season
  • The average guide’s employment history: from 3 to 15 years and more
  • 30% of guides are independent, 30% working for the agency, and 30% combines both
  • Guide’s table-books includes “Avalanche Handbook” by David McClung, “Chrystal Horizon” by Reinhold Messner, “Avalanche Hunters” by Montgomery Atwater and other professional literature
  • 80% of the guides completed the full course of higher education institutes
  • 40% of guides worked as a rescuers/ski patrollers
  • All of the guides have altitude experience from 5000+ m and higher.

Russian Mountain Guides Association – non-governmental organization, founded under the guidance of Mountaineering Federation of Russia, in order to develop professional mountain guides community, to organize the educative and training process on the global standards, certified by IFMGA/UIAGM.

For Y2018 Russia is the candidate country for IFMGA/UIAGM. The training process supervised by Association of Canadian Mountain Guides.  

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