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Snowcat skiing and boarding in Siberian wilderness

Discussion in 'Noticeboard' started by alex_masolov, Jul 8, 2015.

  1. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Probably would have jumped at it a few years ago. Had similar concerns to you - a long and complex way of getting there for a short period. I did enjoy the Kamchatka trip but it was a bit of pain to organise. Also timing doesn't really work for me either. And I also have another Japan trip in mind - though not like we did last year.

    Good luck though if it does go ahead. Russia is an interesting place and I'm sure you would enjoy it.
     
  2. ocker

    ocker Hard Yards

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    If the tour goes ahead it looks like I will not be stopping at Tibet on the way. The extra airfare was attractive, the train fare was reasonable and the local accommodation and bus costs in Tibet seem low. But because you have to buy a package from a travel agent the cost goes through the roof. Last time I was starting a cycling tour in Lhasa and the operator was organising my permit. I was going to arrive three days early to do some individual sightseeing and the cost was minimal. This time I wanted to be there for 5 days leaving on the morning of the 6 th day. Two different agents are saying that I have to be on a tour the whole time. Because there are not many visitors at the time of the year there are no group tours so I have to have a private driver and guide. When you see the cost I am not surprised that there are not many visitors. The first day I would fly in at 10:30 in the morning. I have to have a driver and guide and all we do is the transfer from the airport. If I went by bus from the airport only costs about $6. On the last day I would leave on a morning train. Again I cannot take a $3 taxi I have to have driver and guide for the day.
    I have to take a 6 day tour with driver and guide but there is only 4 days of sightseeing. I personally do not feel comfortable with a private tour for 6 days with all the yes sir no sir opening doors and general hand holding like an invalid. I do not want to rip the locals off but suddenly 4 days sightseeing instead of being an economical add on, I find it will cost more than two weeks skiing all up in Japan or USA including airfare.
    I am thinking a would rather spend my money on another ski trip than looking at temples and experiencing the Tibet train.
     
  3. gmanpadre

    gmanpadre Hard Yards Ski Pass: Gold

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    If your looking for some other options in the area I spent two weeks touring in the hills around Luzbha in early Dec last year, it's a few hours north of Sheregesh and south of the Priskovy cat area on the rail line between Novokuznetsk and Abakan, had great snow the whole time, they had a big dump before I got there and it was super cold first week, kept everything in the shade/forest in great nick then got some fresh in the second week, small hills but super fun!

    The trip was run by Grigory Mintsev at http://skiinginrussia.com good guy, professional, also did a trip with him to Kamchatka in April if you want any more details let us know, I'm thinking about going back as well.
     
    #53 gmanpadre, Jul 26, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 29, 2015
  4. gmanpadre

    gmanpadre Hard Yards Ski Pass: Gold

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    This worked a bit better!

    Luzbha train station.
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    The village, our cabin in the middle.
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    A real Russian banya, maybe even better than an onsen at the end of a big day.
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    the train home
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  5. alex_masolov

    alex_masolov Hard Yards

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    Luzhba is a great place for ski touring and there a lot of opportunities for tree skiing. However, doing Luzhba implies that you're going to bring touring and avy gear with you. A terrain there is very similar to Priiskovy so basically you get the same thing. If you feel that your legs are strong enough - make another at Priiskovy. Traveling on public transport could be tricky there but doable.
     
  6. alex_masolov

    alex_masolov Hard Yards

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    Nice photos! Thanks for sharing! Reminded me home
     
  7. gmanpadre

    gmanpadre Hard Yards Ski Pass: Gold

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    That's how the plan started, originally wanted to do cat at Priiskovy then maybe some time at Sheregesh but they were booked solid for my dates, I started looking for other options in the area as it seems to be a great spot to get powder early in the season, last week of november early december and the base was 1.4m to 2m! When it snowed in the second week we had 15cm and a couple of 10cm's and it was so light and dry, definitely best quality snow I've ridden!

    Having an english speaking guide and bi-lingual people in the group definitely made my life easier, your right it would be a little tricky to get around on the trains but then again it would make life interesting, found the locals to be friendly and willing to help out where they can but staff maybe less so copped a few blank looks trying to use google translate, all good fun though:)
     
  8. alex_masolov

    alex_masolov Hard Yards

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    There are still free places for December! Start your next season early!
     
  9. Powplow

    Powplow First Runs

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    How are conditions in January and February?
    Are there still enough precipations for good snow.
     
  10. alex_masolov

    alex_masolov Hard Yards

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    More than enough! You can expect at least few snowfalls during a week in January and February. January is a good choice because people and guides already got their early season warm up and ready to shred at full power. Some January photos from previous years.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Powplow

    Powplow First Runs

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    In General the terrain looks very "soft". Are there also some steeper spots which are skiable?
    The European Guides only offer this trip December, how is the process of booking in the later season?
    Alex, you'Re directly involved?
     
  12. Sydlouise

    Sydlouise Addicted

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    I'm going in January with a mate and froth/stoke level is about maximum already. Alexey has been helping me organise it all (fortunately!) directly with them. I'm sure it will be 'interesting' showing up not speaking Russian so I'm starting on language lessons 101 straight away so I can blunder through. I definitely think it would have been a benefit to go as a group and have a local guide.
    Three months and counting.
     
  13. alex_masolov

    alex_masolov Hard Yards

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    If you're looking for a gnar and extreme terrain, you need to look somewhere else. Siberia is a great place for intermediate riders/skiers and also for more experienced people who want to open their season early. If you like to play in trees and make lots of kilometres per day in powder - well, it's a good fit.

    There are few open spots in the later season. It isn't fully booked but very opportunities are limited. What dates are looking at? PM me and we'll find the best option for you.

    My direct involvement in Siberian trips depends on financially feasibility. I'm keen and would love to go if I will get a group of 10 people. I reckon it's going to be nearly impossible to organise such amount of people without proper trip reports from other members. But I'm ready to go. Meanwhile I offer help and support in organising private trips. Few people are going this season and I hope to hear a good feedback from them here (and photos guys!). This is just a first step for nearly endless opportunities for skiing in xUSSR: Kamchatka, Elbrus, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Mamay, Uzbekistan, Ergaki.. These places require huge amount of planning and personal involvement. Let me know if you're interested.
     
  14. Sydlouise

    Sydlouise Addicted

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    [​IMG]
    Yes the terrain is moderate compared to your Alaska's or France etc. From the photos and video's I've seen it looks more like Japan skiing, go as fast as you want in deep pow through reasonably spaced trees, than hucking gnarly cliff lines. I read that the vertical on offer is about 400m (which is ok if you get to lap it without having to climb yourself) with slopes from 15-51 degrees. It's probably not the mountain I'd want to live at forever but I'm excited to go check out such a different culture, tick Russia off the list and have first tracks all day :) The cost is good for cat skiing (around half what it looked to be in US or Canada per day) and I personally find tree skiing to be pretty much the most fun.
    Having spent a huge amount of time searching flights I did find a pretty good deal $1,700 return Syd via Beijing paid for today (long stopover but that suits me because I'd like to duck in and see some of the tourist sights and practice my horrendous mandarin, no visa needed to do that for up to three days). It was an odd one I couldn't find it on any of the sites like skyscanner, kayak and my flight centre friend couldn't even get a price that good going through her own systems. When she replicated my itinerary through their system it was coming up as $5,000 pfft. But its booked and confirmed so I'm happy with that except the luggage allowance isn't great. There are other options through Bangkok and Dubai etc but I'd rather see Beijing to break up the flight.
    I'm taking the opportunity to go visit Moscow and / or St Petersburg as well since I think a week of powder skiing will wreck me. Internal flights are ok (about $300-400 return, 5 hr flight).
     
  15. gmanpadre

    gmanpadre Hard Yards Ski Pass: Gold

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    #65 gmanpadre, Oct 17, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2015
  16. ocker

    ocker Hard Yards

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    This started off as a short summary of my Siberian trip until I have time I have time to sort my photos and video and layout the full report when I get back from North America. The report grew a bit but it I still plan a longer one when I return. This short report may help people planning to go to Siberia in March.


    From late November 2015 I did a three week ski trip in Siberia. The first week was alpine touring based at the very remote Luzhba the last week was cat skiing in the wilderness at Priiskovaya and in between there was four days skiing at the resort of Sheregesh. The whole trip was absolutely fabulous I had three weeks of powder skiing, exceptional hospitality and a great cultural experience.

    The success of my trip was due in no small measure to Alexey Masolov of Sydney from Siberia Powder Research who was the original inspiration for the trip and provided tremendous support and advice before and during the trip. Also Grigory Mintsev from Skiing in Russia who runs the touring in Luzhba went above and beyond to make my trip work so smoothly.

    As I understand it fairly roughly Siberia gets the snow from late October to mid-December, then it is the turn of Hokkaido. Later in February the snow falls return again to Siberia. Generally in January and February Siberia does not get much snow and it is very cold and windy. So the prime skiing season in Siberia is later November well into December and March. 2015 was supposedly a very bad year for early season snow falls in Siberia. I was extremely lucky that snow started dumping a few days before I arrived at each location and then the weather cleared for a good portion of my skiing there.

    Luzhba is not going to be everyone’s piece of cake. Not everyone wants to skin up hill. The runs at Luzhba were steeper and the powder deeper. However the quality of the powder may have just been timing as I arrived there after a very big dump. There were some challenging runs with some steep sections with tight trees. To enjoy Luzhba most you need to be fit, had some alpine touring experience and not be afraid of trees. The skiing at Priiskovaya was also exciting but a little less challenging. You still had to be alert with the tree skiing. There was less level of fitness required in the cat skiing, but definitely more physically demanding that lift assisted piste skiing.

    The quality of the guiding at both locations in terms of their qualifications and experience, attention to safety identifying optimum runs and general customer service was first class and as good as anywhere in the world. There was a second group at Luzhba made up of locals and staying in more basic accommodation. At Priiskovaya one of the guides had been a guide with the second group at Luzhba. Any concerns you may have that the guiding and safety in Siberia may be a bit slip shod totally dismiss from your mind. Some of my family and friends were concerned about that. How wrong they were.

    You need to realistic about the efficiency of the cat transportation in Priiskovaya. The work you see the cat machines do grooming at a typical resort bears little resemblance to the punishment these machines get every day. The guides want to take you to a new untracked powder area each day. This often means bulldozing a “road” through the untracked powder. In deep snow or depressions the track vehicle can bog itself. If it starts to slide sideways on a corner it can dig the low side deeper making it worse. Sometimes all the skiers will have to climb out of the cabin and wait while the now lighter cat compacts the track. That is a good sign as it means that there has been lots of light powder. The season at Priiskovaya is only about 6 weeks per year and they have two cat’s. These are not new cats they could not afford new ones for such a small number of skiers per year without charging exorbitant amounts, and then you may as well go heli skiing. In heavy snow the track can slip off or part of the rubber track will need an on the snow repair.

    The accommodation at Luzhba was brand new and very warm and comfortable. The outside drop toilet is a bit confronting at first but you get used to it. The banya (sauna) is also in a separate building and you can wash yourself down with the water there. Priiskovaya is an old mining town where the mine activity has almost ceased, not only is the cat skiing operation there but is becoming very popular as a base for snow mobiles. The lodge there is quite luxurious and looks brand new but in fact is the renovated old hospital. There are very nice shared internal bathroom and toilets as well as in internal banya.

    Reasons to ski in Siberia

    1. The best snow in Siberia occurs when other locations including Hokkaido do not have their best snow. So it is possible to ski the best time in Siberia and the best time at other locations in the one season if you have the time and money.
    2. Great cultural experience. As well as Moscow I had some time in Novokuznetsk, Sheregesh town and Novosibirsk. I really wish I had had a day in Krasnoyarsk. People in Russia were super friendly and helpful. While the regulations to get a visa can be a pain, the ordinary people made it clear they were really pleased to have you there and went out of their way to compensate for the language problem.
    3. Food. Had some great food everywhere but especially at Luzhba.
    Reservations

    Based on my experience and what I learnt, don’t go to Siberia expecting better snow than central Hokkaido because I doubt that it happens often. I say central Hokkaido as I do not have enough experience with Niseko having only been there once later in February.

    My Advice

    If you are going to do cat skiing at Priiskovaya I strongly recommend that you work through Alexey Masolov of Siberia Powder Research. I found Valentin who owns the Pri Ski operation at Priiskovaya, somewhat unpredictable to deal with, some of which is definitely his use of English. In the end it did not affect my trip at all, just some unnecessary anxious moments in the lead up. In reality he seems to have little to do with the day to day operation, and was only there one day in the week I was there. He employs great people with excellent English communication who do a fantastic job running the Pri Ski operation. Nothing I say here should deter you from enjoying the fantastic experience of cat skiing in the Siberian wilderness. Just deal through Alex to the extent you can, and take a hard copy of any arrangements agreed to with you to avoid any doubt when you arrive.
     
  17. Budgiesmuggler

    Budgiesmuggler A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Sounds like a real adventure. Well done
     
  18. gmanpadre

    gmanpadre Hard Yards Ski Pass: Gold

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    Great stuff ocker! Your timing was spot on for fresh pow the whole trip hey! Pelmeni in Luzbha was the best feed I had last year for sure. Looking forward to some pics!
     
  19. alex_masolov

    alex_masolov Hard Yards

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    I'm glad you liked your ski experience in Russia!
     
  20. alex_masolov

    alex_masolov Hard Yards

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  21. gmanpadre

    gmanpadre Hard Yards Ski Pass: Gold

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    luke1234, craighelo and dr80 like this.