I invite you to Upper Svaneti (Svanetia), an amazing skitouring and backcountry region on the north-west of Georgia. Upper Svaneti is surrounded by the Greater Caucasus range with its summits Shkhara, Ushba, Tetnuldi on the north, and Svanetian (Layla) range on the south and east. Almost half of the highest Caucasian peaks make Svaneti prime destination for ski-mountaineering. The Black Sea regularly brings heavy snowfalls, and varied alpine and treeline terrain will fulfil wishes of any rider.
Oh yes, local mountains are amazing place to be and to ski, but many interesting destinations require very long approaches, which may break your day and give you more hiking than skiing. But we have found the way to provide you good skiing in high alpine without painful approaches from the bottom of valley. This is helicopter-assisted skitouring. A morning helicopter flight leaves you in prime terrain, ready to enjoy a full day of skitouring in the best possible snow conditions and great scenery.
What are the advantages of heli-assisted skitouring?
- At least two times more skiing. As soon as we are dropped on the ridge top, we make a perfect morning run with the best snow, and after keep skitouring and riding. At the end of the day we ski down to the valley bottom, and it adds extra vertical meters.
- We don’t need to spend even a minute on low altitude, and can get directly to high alpine terrain and best snow conditions.
- Scenery. With helicopter we enjoy the great panoramic view of Caucasus Range from another point.
Besides skiing, Upper Svaneti is a very interesting cultural region. Historic-ethnographical museum; house-museum of Mikhail Khergiani, prominent Svaneti alpinist; churches with fresco; famous Svanetian towers, protected by UNESCO.
And of course, the cuisine of Upper Svanetia and Georgia. Not necessary to talk about this, you just have to come and try.
Saturday – arrival to Batumi or Kutaisi. Kutaisi international airport is the closest airport to Mestia, but has not so much international flights. Batumi international airport has lot of incoming international flights, and it can be easier to fly there. Transfer from Kutaisi takes about 4 hours, and from Batumi about 6 hours. Accommodation in the hotel, rest time. Important note - you should arrive to Batumi or Kutaisi not later than 3 PM. In case if you have a late flight, we strongly recommend to come a day earlier. And actually, in both cities there are many things to do and to see.
Next 6 days – skitouring, surrounded by astonishing views and ethnography, flavoured with Georgian hospitality, wine and food. We have 3 days of helicopter drops, and I will do my best to choose the most suitable days and locations, according to weather and snow conditions.
Saturday – morning transfer to Kutaisi or Batumi, arriving there at about noon.
You can also fly to Tbilisi, especially if you wish to spend couple of days in this beautiful town. But transfer from Tbilisi is long, and takes 7-8 hours. Also, In this case you will be asked to pay additionally for the transfer from/to Tbilisi. Please, contact me to discuss it.
Price: 2 660 € per person
- 6 days of skitouring and guiding
- Group transfers from Kutaisi/Batumi to Mestia and back.
- Accommodation in Mestia, 7 nights. TWIN, with breakfast.
- 3 helicopter drops per week. If any heli-drops are not used due to bad weather, technical problems, etc., we refund 175 Eur per heli-drop per person.
- Transportation by 4WD van to the place of skitouring and back (in days without helicopter drops); transportation back to Mestia in days with helicopter use.
- International and domestic airfares
- Lunches and dinners in Mestia
- Personal insurance covering helicopter rescue (required).
- Extra helicopter drops (counted by minutes according to the cost of flight hour - 2600 Euro per hour, per group)
- Intermediate or higher level of skiing in any snow conditions.
- Healthy and in good physical shape.
- At least 15 days of ski-tour/backcountry skiing experience.
Our “base camp” is Mestia village situated on the foot of Mt. Ushba, on 1500 meters above sea level. Accommodation in Mestia – family guest-house Bapsha, located close to the helipad and just in 10 minutes walk from the centre of the village. Twin rooms, breakfast included. Single room accommodation is available for extra surcharge.
Skitouring and skiing
Upper Svaneti is a large region, and even with helicopter you need more than a week to explore most interesting places. Our main destinations - Layla range, glaciers of Tetuldi mount, and the range below Ushba mount.
In days of helicopter drops we go to helipad at morning and fly up in the mountains. Skitouring/splitboarding until afternoon, and riding down to the valley bottom, where our 4WD van picks us up and drives back to Mestia. Thanks to the helicopter the daily vertical drop gets 2 times bigger, and we will be able to ski up to 2500-3000 vertical meters per day, with skinning up around 1200 meters.
We have 3 helicopter drops per week (one per day), and 3 days of "pure" skitouring , when we will use 4WD van to reach tiny local villages. In snowy days we can skitour in treeline or go to the local ski resort Hatsvali, with great skiing through open forests. We also can do some skitouring around Tetnuldi ski resort, in alpine zone. If we want to keep using helicopter after we've used all drops, we can do it for extra payment.
Helicopter and safety
We use Eurocopter AS 350 B3 machine, the most known and reliable helicopter for mountain flying. This helicopter is provided by our partner, German heliski company who runs heliskiing in Svaneti for already 8 years. Experienced mountain pilots from Austria and Italy, have been involved in heliskiing operations all over the world. All of them have proved incredible flying skills over the last seasons in Svaneti.
I take part in daily guide briefing with heliski guides, and discuss most important questions and plans for the day. My own experience in the region combined with experience of heliski guides is a guarantee of your safe and perfect day. During the day we can contact pilots and heliski guides any time using radio or satellite phone. In case of any emergency they can come with necessary equipment in a short time.
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