Finally! Ski opening in Shymbulak close to Almaty. It’s a mere 25 min ride from Almaty to the ski resort or less even if you get into the cablecar at Medeo. Unfortunately there wan’t an awful lot of snow, but the snow which I could sample was promising: nice and soft, in the same league as the Rockies’ champaign powder, I would say. The bottom section of the ressort was still closed, so there were only two slopes open on top of the ressort. Too little snow to go offpiste – I got a couple of good scratches on my skis now which illustrate this. That said, it’s a great place to be: season opening day, Saturday, the 29th Nov 2014, was a gorgeous bluebird day at initially -16 Celsius – phantastic views into the mountains and over smoggy Almaty.
Weekend! Saturday morning, well sort of morning – we didn’t show signs of activity until lunchtime, eventually time to see more than the few blocks of Almaty that we’ve seen until now. We were picked up by a local colleague, who took us to the Shymbulak (a.k.a. Chymbulak) Ski Resort. Unfortunately we’re in the middle of April, so no more skiing, but I was very curious to see the lift equipment and maybe the slopes. Even more unfortunate it started to rain on the way up, so we couldn’t spend as much time as we wanted and therefore didn’t see as much a we would have liked.
Nevertheless, the cable car station looks modern and well maintained – I so regretted that I wasn’t here two weekends earlier, when you could still ski at least at the top of the resort. Nevertheless, we could drive up further from here by car and thus had the chance to see the famous ice rink of Almaty or rather Medeo, where a lot of world records in speed skating have been broken.
The idea of an ice rink that high up is appealing, the place is probably the highest speed skating site in the world at almost 1700m above sea level. The architecture is distinctly pompous and you can almost smell the sweat of the speed skating proletarians, who, after spending virtually all their energy on extending the glory of the Soviet Union, still had enough power to break one or the other speed record in ice skating. But beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. From there we went further up to a dam just above the ice stadium, which has been built in the 1960’s to protect Almaty from potentially devastating mudflows.
The dam did a good job in July 15th in 1973 when 4.5 million cubic metres of mud were stopped here and did not flow down the gorge like in 1921 before. At this point the increasing rain forced us back into town, where fortunately the weather wasn’t quite as bad. More to follow.