Only 25 minutes by car from my front doorstep lies Chimbulak, the local ski resort which will host the 2011 Asian Winter Olympics
. Yeah I know - I don't ski, in fact I had never seen snow up until 3 weeks ago, but the Canadian guys (Dwight & Kim) from work were heading up for a day on the snow, so I thought I would tag along.
We arrived up at the resort just before 10 and headed to rent some skis. Once the gear was arranged we then went and purchased our lift tickets. After that, Dwight accompanied me to the beginners slope whilst Kim headed further up for some real fun. Dwight gave me a few pointers and once I had built up enough courage I went for it. Now I will happily have a go at anything and usually stick it out, however this was different - the slope was quite steep and the snow was really hard packed. Whilst trying to practise some of what I had been told I lost a little bit of control and I managed to take off at a fair rate down the slope, only to end up in a pile on both occasions. I really did not enjoy it - too quick and no way of stopping yourself in a hurry (so I thought, anyway). I persisted for a couple more attempts and then I gave in - I was not having fun. I also felt a little guilty as Dwight was sticking with me when he could have been up with Kim and getting some real action.
Anyway, I headed back to the ski school at the bottom of the beginners run and just stood, watching as people made their way down the mountain – I thought to myself that this was probably the first time I had given up on something so quickly, but I didn’t want to end up with anything in plaster so I kind of felt justified. I returned my ski gear and was able to sell off my lift ticket so it didn’t really cost me that much.
I met up with Kim and Dwight and we went and sat in the restaurant/bar area for a drink. This was just so beautiful – sitting in the warming sun, snow capped mountains on three sides, the smell of shaslicks cooking and local music in the background – it really was so peaceful. This was the first time I had managed to experience the winter sun in all it’s glory by getting above the smog that constantly hangs over Almaty. We had a couple of beers and the boys then continued skiing – I just remained there, sitting in the sun and enjoying the sights.
About an hour or so later, the guys returned and we ate lunch. Shaslicks along with salad, and it was great. They again headed off for more skiing on the mountain and so I took off for a bit of a wander around the village. Not a huge place, but there were plenty of chalets and weekenders where I assume the top end of Almaty comes to play. There is no town as such – everything is based around the resort, so its BYO supplies if you plan on ‘chaleting’ it for a while. There is contruction work going on right next to the resort for a new gondolier which will bring everyone up from the skating rink further down the valley – the idea is to limit traffic travelling up and down the tight, narrow road, which I think is a great idea.
After another hour or so I met up with the guys and we decided to head off. The access road to Chimbulak would be a great on the GSX – lots of slow, tight curves and some straight sections, you could really have some fun, although with the local drivers I would have to think twice. We stopped a couple of times on the way back down to take more pics. At the last stop the view looking back down the valley towards Almaty really highlighted to me how much pollution hung over the city – it really did look yuck. Most mornings are clear but as the day goes on, the smog increases, and with very little wind it really has no way of clearing. Think I may have to visit Chimbulak a bit more!!