Discos and dancing are banned, alcohol is off the menu and women have to wear headscarves in public – welcome to Iran!
Despite the sometimes-negative portrayal of the country and its people Nick Williams, the Director of Mountain Heaven, has just come back from perhaps one of the best skiing trips he has ever been on – and he has been skiing for 40 years.
“When you arrive in the country you don’t know what to expect. But as soon as you touch down any worries immediately abate. The people here are as friendly as they come. They all learn English in school and they all want to talk. They are also very grateful that you have visited their country; they don’t get many Brits coming over. In fact, after spending a week in Iran I need a rest from talking because everywhere you go people stop you, invite you to their homes and want to tell you they are a peaceful nation.
Just north of Tehran are the mountains – around a 1-2 hour transfer time. Skiing was developed here in the 1970s by the then Shah in a small number of ‘resorts’. However, after the revolution in the late 1970s development stopped still and today most of the lifts are old fashioned and slow, and there are limited facilities compared to the big European resorts. So why go?
The main resort is Dizin where we spent four days. During that time we were lucky to ski fantastic dry powder on three of them. There are so few people in resort, and with the ability to cruise the whole mountain we were able to ski untracked areas right through until the lifts shut – this is unheard of in Europe. And to top it off, the views from the resort are stunning with the magnificent Mount Damanvand at over 5600m towering in the distance.
The strict rules regarding the likes of headscarves for women are much more relaxed on the mountains and there are great atmospheric mountain cafés that could compete with anything in Europe (despite there being no beer). Where else can you hear the call to prayer coming out of one speaker and Iranian pop blasting from a café just up the mountain? And as for the food – it’s simply wonderful, probably some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Think Ottolenghi on the slopes with succulent roasted meats, spice-infused rice and a spread of delicately flavoured Persian dishes.
There are a few other smaller resorts close by, including Shemshack, with nice steep runs, and Darbandsar, which we skied on the last day in great powder. This has a newer infrastructure than Dizin with some nice runs and even night skiing.
And the rumour/myth of women only lifts is simply that – everybody piles in to maximise their skiing time. As for alcohol? Well, if you’re invited to a private party as we were you may be lucky. If not, think of it as a treat for your liver and see how good you feel after a week of fresh mountain air untainted by the booze.
I suggest that you ski Iran as soon as possible for an experience you’ll never forget. Currently it’s great value and a good talking point both before and after. Who else will have that answer up their sleeves when asked – so, where did you ski this year?”
Want to ski Iran?
Mountain Heaven are hosting an escorted Ski Iran tour in March 2018. The trip is fully guided and will combine a few days experiencing the sights and sounds of Iran with skiing in several of the main resorts.
The trip departs 10 March, returning 19 March with 8 full days in Iran. The cost is £1,300pp based on a twin/double room and excludes flights and visa charges. Full details here.
www.mountainheaven.co.uk 01516 251921