Ski touring in the Turkish Tauros - Akdag / Saklikent

Ski touring in Turkey?! Our plan to undertake a ski tour in this country in the Middle East provoked a lot of skeptical reactions, not only among “normal” people, but even amid many of the ski touring bums that we know. For the worldlier backcountry skiers however, the Middle East has been praised as a very attractive skiing destination since many years. Ski touring in countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, and Armenia means exploring remote mountain ranges, discovering friendly people and fascinating cultures and, above all, often finding better snow conditions than in the Alps!

Ironically enough, we had our first ski experience with ski touring in Turkey during a disappointing organized beach and culture trip to Turkey’s south Coast. It felt a bit like being on a conveyer belt, which transported us along an endless chain of souvenir stops, where we were supposed to spend all the money we had. We had just managed to survive the obligatory visit to a feigned carpet factory, when they were about to let us enter an Authentic Gold Store in a commercial centre in the outskirts of Antalya. That was enough. We decided to evade this horrible tourist factory, took our skis (which we, foreseeing as we are, had brought with us under the mocking eyes of the co-passengers and airport personnel), jumped on a dolmus (a local taxi bus), and took off for Saklikent, a ski resort situated at 40 kilometers from Antalya.

Driving up to Saklikent was a funny experience. Walking with your skis through Antalya, a metropole at the Mediterranean coast, provokes a lot of flabbergasted and staring faces. When people smile at you, you never know if it’s meant friendly or if they are just amused. There is no bus driving up to Saklikent, so we had to hitchhike. In a quiet village, that consisted mainly of orange tree orchards, we doggedly raised our thumbs, but for a long time we didn’t seem to have any success. No wonder; there are not many Turks that ski, especially not during the week… But finally a car stopped, ironically enough with two Dutch in it! The road through the barren Mediterranean landscape passed along the best known rock climbing area in Turkey. Getting a little nervous, because only a few kilometers away from Saklikent we hadn’t yet discovered any trace of snow, we suddenly came across a continuous snow cover turned up just at the beginning of the village.

Saklikent is situated at an altitude of around 1900 meters on the eastern flanks of the Akdag Mountains, the westernmost part of the Tauros Range, which crosses Turkey roughly from the southwest to the northeast. Saklikent is the type of ski resort the average beginner in alpine skiing would laugh about: it offers the skier exactly one hotel and two t-bar lifts. However, the site has a lot more to offer to the skiers that can ‘free their heels’ from their ski binding.

Unfortunately, we had only two days left so we were restricted to some smaller trips. On The same day that we arrived, we went up a mountain close to the ski area. We were a little surprised when just before the summit we were stopped by a barrier. Just when we thought that we would have been arrested by the army staff for entering prohibited terrain, we were welcomed by the personnel of the observatory on the top, and guided to the summit. We spent the night in the only hotel of Saklikent.

The next day we crossed the ridge that separated the ski area from the valley further west. From the first step we were accompanied by a dog that had only three legs. It was amazing how this dog managed to follow us, not only all the way up, but also stumbling down the slopes that we skied down, leading down to a valley far away from his home. The valley itself was beautiful and we both regretted that we didn’t have time to explore it more thoroughly. Especially the slopes at the opposite side looked very attractive for skiers. We decided to go back to the valley we started from, of course not leaving untouched the summit that marked the dividing ridge. From the summit to the north we had a beautiful view over the dry and barren Turkish backcountry. To the west, behind the mosque of Saklikent, the glittering Mediterranean Sea showed up. What a wonderful place, so close to the crowded coast, and yet so far….

Continue reading about ski touring in the Ala Dag range.