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I grew up in the plains of Illinois, and I often joke that the closest thing in my hometown resembling a hill is a speed bump. So, although I’m familiar with harsh, snowy winters, I managed to make it to adulthood without ever once donning a pair of skis or clipping into the footholds of a snowboard.
But at 26 years old — and in the mountains of central Turkey, no less — I found myself heading downhill while practicing “pizza” and “french fry” ski formations, part of an itinerary with tour operator Flo Tours.
Luckily for me, I was under the watchful eye of “Gladiator,” my Turkish ski instructor at Erciyes Ski Resort — located about an hour east of Cappadocia — who patiently walked me through the bunny-hill basics.
If you’re scratching your head at the thought of Turkey as a destination for winter sports, you’re not alone. Although looming Mount Erciyes, an extinct volcano near the city of Kayseri, has been a symbol of the region for nearly 50 million years, it only recently began to grab the attention of skiers and snowboarders.
Yucel Ikiler, vice general manager for Kayseri Erciyes A.S., the resort’s operator, notes that skiing has never been a central part of Turkey’s culture. And currently, locals make up only 30 percent of the resort’s business.
But he and his colleagues hope to change this. In 2011, the Kayseri Metropolitan Municipality opened the resort, making it the first centralized, city-owned mountain management model in Turkey. The initiative promotes low-cost access to high-quality powder, and prices are kept low to attract as many people as possible. (For example, parking areas and mountain emergency services are free. My hourlong lesson with Gladiator was booked for $25; my all-day ski pass for $10; and my skis and boots, along with helmet and pole rentals, were about $30, combined.)
But low cost doesn’t equate to low quality. Although I’m a beginner skier, the group I traveled with — most of them advanced-level skiers and snowboarders — raved about the equipment and slope conditions. Eighteen detachable/double-speed chair lifts and gondolas take visitors across 34 slopes and have the capacity to carry up to 36,000 people per hour, and the difficulty ranges from easy (blue) to intermediate (red) and advanced (black).
I stuck to the blue slopes. And after only two massive “yard sale-style” wipeouts — where ski equipment was lost halfway up the mountain as I tumbled downhill — I was pizza- and french fry-ing like a pro.
The DetailsErciyes Ski Resortwww.kayserierciyes.com.tr