Iran: A Skier's Journey with Chad Sayers
There are places you dream of skiing, places you've always wondered about visiting but they seem so far away, so wild and different that you can't even imagine what it would be like to go... let along ski while you're there.
What will the mountains look like? How will we ever find our way? Is it safe to go? Will the people welcome us?
For me that place was Iran, and last February the path of 'A Skier's Journey' finally led us there. Undoubtedly it takes a lot of trust and patience in the process of making a ski trip to Iran happen. Getting tourist visas and permission to visit Iran can be difficult and time consuming, not to mention expensive. We've tried and failed before, but were thankful that this time around myself and three friends were granted 21 day tourist visas and we were set to go.
So with an empty excuse jar and full bottle of unanswered questions, we set off to Iran to film another Skier's Journey episode as part of the series' final season. What lay unknowingly ahead was more than 3000km or driving around Iran, pit stops to admire all the World UNESCO sites along the way, and skiing in some of the more remote and wildly stunning landscapes I've ever come across – and I've been a lot of places.
The people in Iran are so welcoming and friendly; always greeting us with a warm smile and kind gestures. Always keen to share food with us, teach us about their culture and share its beauty and wonder with us, the people I met along the way made my experience so fresh and unique.
The ski culture in Iran is extremely vibrant and colourful, and we were soaking up every moment of it. While the Iranian freeride ski community is tiny but growing, it seemed many of the locals love to escape the cities and head for the slopes and ski hard. Skiing in Dizin, Shemshak and touring in the Zagros mountains - the highest mountains in Iran - was only a small glimpse into what's really out there.
Trips like this can be extremely draining when you are constantly on the move, and trying to stay safe, alert and healthy requires plenty of energy, self-discipline and awareness – both on and off the snow. Staying connected to the mountains and your objectives is mandatory at all times, as is letting go of any insecurities you might have. Trying to understand the snowpack and conditions can also be a challenge but with the right ski partners and little bits of wisdom from the past, the right decisions can be made and everyone comes home at the end of the day.
Chad's Tips For Nailing A Ski Trip to Iran
- Travel tight and light... we were all over the map, on and off snow, and travel luxuries would have just slowed us down.
- Don't be afraid to explore the food... it is sooooo delicious. Kabab`s anyone? Enjoy.
- Dial in your gear before you go... you won't be able to stop into your local G3 dealer for a beer and a gear tweak here 'n there. Look over all your gear before your trip, and pack a few essential back up items.
- Scan & backup your travel documents in case of emergency.
- Travel medical insurance is a must! I went with Global Rescue.
- Always travel with a candle, a yoga mat, and a sleeping bag. That's how I roll.
Where To Go
- Tehran, the capital city of Iran, is a great base camp to regroup and get settled before hitting the road.
- Classic recommended ski destinations - Shamshak, Dizin, which are a 90 minute drive from the city. Great accommodations in Shamshak which give great access to both mountains.
- Late December into January is the best time to get the dry deep pow conditions.
- There's no shortage of great mellow backcountry touring right off the local mountains.
- Take time to seek out all the romantic places to eat great food and chill out with the locals.