Skiing in Iran: HEAVEN FOR SKI LOVERS
WANA – During wintertime, you need not travel far from Tehran to reach snowy peaks and ski slopes. When skiing season comes up, it’s practically impossible to get up the ski slopes without having to wait hours in line. Iran, which is generally known for having an arid climate and regarded as a “desert” country, has some of the best ski slopes in the world.
With the worsening economic condition inside the country, many Iranians skiers and snowboarders are having to reevaluate their hobby. Despite this, the slopes remain crowded every passing year as visitors make room in their schedules and their budgets to head out to the mountains every skiing season.
Over the past few decades, Tehran has expanded right up to the base of the Alborz mountains. This, combined with the interlinked road network of the city, has meant that Tehranis are never too far from a ski slope. Tochal ski slope is on the northern limits of Tehran. A relatively long uphill walk followed by a cabin car ride will get you to the summits, where the skiers head to.
Tochal’s location practically inside the bounds of Tehran’s city limits means it’s frequented very often by hikers and athletes. Outside the city limits of Tehran, slopes such as Dizin and Darbandsar lie just a two-hour drive away, with the former being regarded as the best ski slope in Iran and one of the best in the world.
When WANA got to Tochal, the admission line was as busy as ever. Long and winding lines of people waiting to get onto the cabin cars to head to Station 5, the last and highest station on the mountain. The summit is filled with people preparing to ski or snowboard. We talk to a resting couple, Hossein and Mona who are resting after completing a ski downhill.
Hossein tells us the economic conditions of the country have affected the number of people who go skiing, himself included. “For instance, if we used to come skiing 4-5 times a month, we now have to come less frequently, but we always find time for our hobby,” says Hossein as he sits on the snow.
For a lot of the people here, skiing is a form of stress relief and a way to get their minds off their day to day lives. Reza Ehtesham, head of the cultural committee of the ski federation of north Shemiran, invites people to come to the mountain and enjoy the fresh air every so often, mentioning the return of stress from daily life once one has left the ski pistes.
A good number of foreigners can also be found among the countless Iranians in the crowd. WANA spoke to 3 tourists who had come to Tochal to ski and snowboard: Isaak, Maf, and Ryan. All 3 tourists cited the visual beauty of the mountains as a reason they visit the country to ski.
Isaak, a skier from New Zealand who traveled from his home in Australia to ski here, calls the vertical drop of the slopes amazing, mentioning it’s much more than what he would be experiencing were he in Australia.
Iran’s location in a region of the world stereotypical for its camels and sand dunes means it’s usually grouped up to be not much more than deserts and sand, but the Alborz and Zagros mountains that straddle the flanks of the country, with their abundant snowfall and suitable slopes, are perfect locations for skiing and the influx of foreign visitors from all corners of the world show a side of the country’s climate that isn’t often talked about, and with time could flourish from a niche into a world-renowned seasonal activity.