Advice needed Skiing Iran

Discussion in 'Less Travelled' started by Sydlouise, Aug 14, 2017.

  1. Sydlouise

    Sydlouise Hard Yards

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    Hi all, I had a search through the threads and see a few people have given advice on the best sightseeing in Iran but not much specific to the ski resorts. I'm booked in for March next year (after a false start this year) and trying to decide how to apportion my time to the different resorts I want to go to. Tochal, Shemshak and Dizin.

    From what I gather Dizin is easily the biggest, best snow and should probably base myself there longest but I read the runs are more advanced at Shemshak and Dizin might get boring. Also lower altitude at Tochal/Shemshak so it might be better to start there then move to Dizin since I'm a weak sea level creature.

    And an unrelated question, my partner and I have no issues with visas (Aussie and Kiwi) but we've got a friend who wants to come, with Aus citizenship, accent and passport but dual US citizen and noted as born in US in his passport. I know he can get a visa using his Aus passport but wondering if him being born in the US is likely to cause practical issues while we're there. My Aussie friend who lived there a couple of years has given us the rundown on the religious police following you everywhere (until you get to the mountains) and I'm not keen to draw any attention, noting some of the bizarre things she got arrested for.
     
  2. Nozawaman

    Nozawaman A Local
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    PM Buckwheat . If anyone has been there, he is the one .
     
  3. crackson

    crackson A Local
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  4. buckwheat

    buckwheat Hard Yards

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    Hey Sydlouise, yep have been there,and stoked you're going, you'll love it! My rambling observations on skiing in Iran, in no particular order, are:
    1. Lift tickets are ridiculously cheap (can't remember exactly, but it would have been less than $10)
    2. When I went there, Shemshak was shut (it was being sold or something) so my only experience was Dizin
    3. Dizin was definitely fun for a day, could maybe spend a few there - snow was plentiful and great quality
    4. Despite the cheap skiing, accom there was upmarket only, and transport from Tehran for day trips was a bit convoluted and exy
    5. Iran was such a mind blowing country that I didn;t want to get bogged down in just skiing, I was desperate to see as much of it as I could in the 3 weeks I had on my visa - so I shelved my ski plans, travelled heaps and didn't regret it - Shiraz, Yazd, Esfehan, Masuleh, Abyaneh, Kashan, Kermanshah, Khandovan - travel is stupidly cheap - at the time a 2hr flight from Tehran to Shiraz cost $30.
    6. In 3 weeks there (as a tourist) I didn;t see any religious police, all I had was the most amazing kindness and generosity of complete strangers. I felt completely safe the entire time - of course your friend, in living there, may have generated weird interest for some obscure reason. However every traveller I have ever met who has been to Iran has had the same experience as me.
    7. As for US visas - I did meet an American while there, and my Canadian friend was refused a visa, but I can't comment on the latest situation.

    Hope that helps?
     
    piolet, Wardy and Sydlouise like this.
  5. buckwheat

    buckwheat Hard Yards

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    Here's a few random pics: pics
     
  6. Sydlouise

    Sydlouise Hard Yards

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    @buckwheat thanks for those amazing photos! Definitely getting me more excited about my trip.
    It's going to be a really hard decision how much sightseeing vs skiing to do. I think I'll front end the skiing then if I just love it so much I can stay put but if I get bored or bad weather sets in I can do more touristing. If I can get away with pulling out my speed wing I'll want to stay much longer since that treeless terrain looks like a dream!

    Costs have gone up a lot a day lift ticket is about AUD46 now at Dizin, the other resorts half or less. They have opened a small hostel at Dizin too last year ($25 AUD for a dorm bed) so a bit more choice which is good as the cost of the hotels at the base has gone up lots as well, double rooms are $100AUD a night. So still affordable but would have been great to get in 5 years ago.

    I suppose that makes sense about my friend, choosing to live in the desert for a couple of years may look more suspicious than just being a typical 2-3 week tourist seeing the main sights. Mainly it seems they wanted to satisfy themselves she wasn't a journalist.
     
  7. Mister Tee on XC Skis

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    I have not skied in Iran but I spent three weeks there in 2008. It is an amazing place . I will visit Iran again. Uzbekistan reminded me of Iran quite a bit what with Persian language, culture, architecture, etc. in Bukhara and Samarqand.
    Shomaa Farsi baladeed?
    Yes I have learned some Persian language too.
     
  8. Sydlouise

    Sydlouise Hard Yards

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    Just saw this post again, to close the loop for anyone else reading we did go to Iran in March and had a fantastic time. The prices were much cheaper than I had thought and posted above because I was using the international pegged exchange rate (xe.com) to price things up, the actual exchange rates in the country are much much better but the process is annoying as at the airport which is the most convenient the queues are long and they would sometimes only let us exchange $100 at a time, kind of useless when you're about to head out to the ski fields where exchange is harder. The government was starting to crack down on some wild exchange rates and arrest vendors suspected of offering too good of a rate. We ended up staying at the airport hotel a couple of days waiting for lost bags and because I was super sick (I was a total holiday wrecker on this trip) so my partner just did lots of trips back and forth to exchange our money. No trouble changing it back to AUD at the end of the trip despite the long queue.

    Our lift passes at Dizin were around AUD25 a day and maybe AUD20 a day at Darbandsar. Unfortunately Shemshak was still closed as it looked to have the best terrain but is small.
    We stayed in the village of Shemshak which I would recommend because its an easy 10 min taxi ride to either Darbandsar or Dizin. I hadn't realised at the time you can't get to Dizin village from Shemshak without going all the way back through Tehran (hours!) so we stayed in Shemshak the whole time which turned out great. We liked having the choice of resorts. Also Darbandsar has some wild night skiing which turns into a big party on I think it was Thursday nights. We stayed in a small guest house which wasn't great for all the stairs but was great for having a host who spoke perfect English and Persian and was a lot of fun. He came riding with us on one of the best days and was very helpful when I was sick, driving me around and translating for me at the medical centre (I ended up on IV antibiotics with pneumonia) and bringing food etc. He also had his whole extended family up for a big new years party which was also lots of fun. They all love to drink but it has that joyous abandon of 14 year olds who snuck alcohol out of their parents cupboard which is fun in its own right. We were constantly offered alcohol and joints.

    I wanted to go and see more of the country but because I was out of action so long being sick we ran out of time and just stayed put in Shemshak. I was getting bored of the terrain pretty quickly but in retrospect I was just recovering from pneumonia so it was hard to bring the stoke. My partner (who lives and breathes stoke 24 hours a day no matter how crap the conditions or terrain) skied about 12 days straight and had a great time. I felt bad that he had to ski alone while I was sick but he made friends with dozens of people straight away and had a great crew for the trip. There is a nice long 900m of vert from two gondola rides at Dizin. The offpiste would be brilliant in powder but was pretty bullet while we were there so we mostly stuck to groomers. We had all our touring gear with us but hardly anyone was going out as it was bullet ice with a brief window of slush in the middle of the day. I took my speed wing and got permission to fly at Dizin resort eventually (the head of PR who we bumped into was so excited that I'd been using his hashtag #iranissafe) but the wind was coming from the wrong direction for the few days I had up my sleeve so didn't try it. A shame as it would be such a brilliant spot.

    At the end of our trip we went to Tochal for two nights and hit the jackpot with a dump of beautiful light dry powder. Since Tochal is just a beginners resort no one was touching it at all, sticking to a groomed run right down the centre so that was lots of fun, I got a fun dusk flight in after the lifts closed (no flying allowed there) and the wind started behaving. Tochal hotel is supposedly the highest in the world (3550m) and I got kicked in the backside by the altitude. I thought I was acclimatised having been sleeping about 2,500 for almost a fortnight and skiing up to 3,500 the last 5 or 6 days. WRONG. Did not sleep a wink for two days in some weird hallucinatory horror movie experience which I hope to never repeat. Later I found out you can just pop down to the medical room and hook onto the oxygen if you're having trouble sleeping which would have been good to know. They make you do a medical test (blood pressure, oxygen saturation and heart rate) before you check in and you can't stay if you're over 50 years old I think the cut off was. There was an entire form of other questions but since the doctor couldn't speak English and I couldn't speak Persian we just made awkward eye contact and assumed I was healthy enough to survive the trip. A pregnant woman with a booking was being sent back down the mountain while we were checking in.

    Every rumour you've ever heard about Persians being the friendliest people on the planet is true. Everywhere we went people would go out of their way to be kind and helpful. It was hard to adjust away from thinking everything is a scam when we were approached and invited to lunch, dinner, anywhere (which it would be in the rest of the world) to realising nope, thats jus the culture. It felt a bit Truman show how badly people wanted us to enjoy our trip and have a good time. I got so many apologies for the Spring snow it was getting ridiculous (even though we knew full well what we were in for travelling in March). The level of English around the place was great except for surprisingly Tochal where I had to awkwardly mime using a towel for ages while they tried to work out what I wanted in some embarrassing game of charades and each meal was a lucky dip of pointing at menus (with some epic fails). I had learned some basics of the language and was feeling confident until Tochal where I realised how useless we were and felt ashamed I hadn't put more time into trying to learn the language.

    Internet was a challenge and I wish I'd prepared earlier. All Iranians have VPN's but you can't download them in the country you need to get it before you come. That meant I had a week in bed with no youtube, netflix, facebook, news sites, meme sites, internet banking, anything really I could think of except for surprisingly Instagram. Plus I ran out of time (thanks work argh) to download anything to watch before I left. So many Iranians we met wanted to add us on Instagram. It was hard to explain we didn't really have it or use it so we had to get on board while we were there and drink the cool aid. Since that's all I could find I read every Betoota advocate headline ever written on Instagram in between fever dreams. It was that or just scroll through never ending bikini photos (wtf instagram?).

    I do really hope to go back and see more of Iran. I don't think I could hack a head scarf in summer but its actually practical and comfortable in Winter, subjugated female population aside. We did bump into one revolutionary woman who was boldly strutting through a train station in Tehran with no headscarf on to the horrified looks of everyone in the area. Knowing there were 20 police just outside the station I got well away from that impending disaster as there were a lot of protests and arrests while we were there so it wasn't a good time to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the ski resorts the woman mostly rip off their headscarves and wear remarkably tight and short ski clothes (since they can't really show off their figures in the cities). Its considered to be the one place where the religious police don't go and so drinking was very much out in the open there compared to the usual secret house parties.
    The skiing wasn't quite enough to entice me back for another round when there are so many other places to see but its definitely worth a trip especially given how absurdly cheap it is. Good child friendly terrain if you were pricing up an international trip with kiddies. I felt much more safe there than many other international trips. No scams, no street violence or harrassment or robbery of tourists. The only risk seemed to be saying something too political or wandering into a protest in the city. Since I'm on a Mum and Son trip next Feb to Slovenia my partner is going to go back to Iran and knock off some of that backcountry he was eyeing off. He definitely fell in love with the place.
    In all- highly recommended as long as you're not expecting the European Alps. An easy (except for the finance system) cheap and fun place to travel.
     
  9. Hunter

    Hunter Part of the Furniture
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    Really interesting place I am sure, especially so the locals and out of the way towns and fair effort for taking it on but I could not see me visiting a country with its human rights record
     
  10. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local
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    Fascinating Trip Report, thanks Sydlouise!