GUIDED SKI & SPLITBOARD EXPEDITION
For centuries, the Upper Svaneti region in northwestern Georgia has existed as one of the most geographically isolated regions in the world. With a turbulent history of kingdoms, annexations and wars, the medieval villages that dot the area are strategically situated on mountain slopes in the shadows of 3,000-5,000m summits. Ancient Svan architecture features castle-like tower houses built to serve in defense against invaders during the 9th-12th centuries. Today, the towers of Upper Svaneti are protected by UNESCO - reminders of the region's rich cultural heritage - and are perfect for scoping the insane mountain backdrops that envelop the valley in every direction.
Almost half of the highest peaks of the Greater Caucasus are located in Svaneti, making it the perfect base for exploring Eurasia's most impressive mountain range. The climate is heavily influenced by its proximity to the Black Sea and is characterized by mild temperatures and heavy snowfall. The timing of our expedition is intended to take advantage of early season pow conditions, enabling our ski-in/ski-out model from the villages where we'll be based.
AVAILABILITY & REQUIREMENTS
Participants must be advanced to expert level skiers or snowboarders, with at least 1 year off-piste/touring experience. Participation does not require any formal avalanche safety certification or glacier travel or ski mountaineering experience.
Splitboards are required for snowboarders. Participants must additionally be prepared with essential touring and avalanche safety gear. We will distribute a mandatory gear list closer to the expedition start date.
Participants must be in excellent physical condition, and comfortable touring for long distances carrying their own backcountry packs.
Georgia offers a visa-free policy for most nationalities. See here for the full list of countries included in this visa-free policy.
7 DAYS RIDING/11 DAYS TOTAL
Our 11-day guided ski and splitboard expedition begins in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, where we will stay in Old Town and spend our first day exploring its cobblestone streets, historic neighborhoods and markets. From Tbilisi, it is a ~5-hour drive through the countryside before we turn north and enter the mountains at the mouth of the Enguri River Valley. From there it is a further 2.5 hours, winding and climbing alongside the river before the valley opens up and we catch our first glimpse of the towering peaks and famous defensive towers of Upper Svaneti.
The itinerary highlights village-based touring and one spectacular village to village tour, with lift-assisted touring/riding as an available backup option. Our very first night in the valley will be spent at a family-run guesthouse in Latali, where we will gather around the fireplace, pull out the maps, and get psyched on the adventure ahead. The discussion that night will primarily be focused on the weather forecast and road conditions, as our intended objective to start the trip is to head even further up valley - via an often impassable road - to the fabled "highest settlement in Europe," Ushguli. At 2,100m in elevation, Ushguli is actually a cluster of 4 small villages, home to ~200 people year-round. If the stars align, we will reach Ushguli on our second day in the valley, and will be treated to a few days of epic village-based touring at the foot of Shkhara (5,201m) and neighboring peaks - the highest in the Greater Caucasus.
If the stars do not align, we have a solid backup plan. Further up valley, but not as far as Ushguli, is the developing Tetnuldi Ski Resort, which offers lift-served access to some amazing touring directly beneath Tetnuldi Peak (4,858m). We will cap off a big day sessioning the Tetnuldi backcountry with a descent down to the village of Adishi, which has no road access at all during the winter months. We'll stay two nights with one of the handful of families that lives there year-round and spend our days sampling the surrounding terrain before touring back out.
The next stop on the itinerary will be Mestia, the most developed and "tourist-friendly" town in the valley, making it a good place to land after our time in the more remote villages. We'll stay 2 nights at a comfortable guesthouse, and for our full day there will either pick a tour above Mestia, or go play in the deep trees at the valley's other ski resort, Hatsvali.
From Mestia we will transfer down valley to Etseri, where we will again be welcomed into a local family's home. We'll spend one and a half days sessioning some amazing terrain above the village and taking in unreal views of Mt. Ushba (4,710m) and the Svaneti Range to the south. On the second afternoon we'll tour up and ride down into the next valley to Becho, where the unexpectedly nice Grand Hotel Ushba (actually a small guesthouse) and an unbelievable fine dining and wining experience awaits. We'll finish things off with a full day touring beneath the towering Mt. Ushba and a second night at the posh "Grand Hotel." The next day it's back to Tbilisi for a final celebratory night out on the Old Town.
To get a better taste of the adventure that awaits, be sure to scope our Georgia photo gallery from our inaugural expedition in February 2016! (Note that Ushguli was not a part of our 2016 itinerary but was a highlight of our 2018 itinerary.)
ACMG Splitboard Guide Ty Mills will lead guide with support from aspiring ACMG Ski Guide Xavier Bouchard. Ty and Xavier have worked together previously in BC, Canada, and will both continue on from Georgia to Kyrgyzstan to guide from the 40 Tribes yurts. The guide team will additionally be supported by the Georgian Mountain Guides Association Ski Guide, Ilia Berulava. Meet our guide team.
Our Georgia expedition is a collaborative endeavor between 40 Tribes and our good friends at Svaneti Backcountry, headed up by Norwegian Audun Lutnæs. Audun was a 40 Tribes client in Kyrgyzstan in 2012 and was inspired by his experience to create a similarly-themed backcountry ski tourism program in Georgia. We are stoked to join forces on this one of a kind adventure.
7 DAYS RIDING/11 DAYS TOTAL
Participants will need to arrive in Tbilisi (airport code TBS) on or before January (TBA). We will return to Tbilisi by late afternoon/evening on January (TBA) for departures on the (TBA).
40 Tribes Lead and Tail Guides with additional support from one local GMGA guide; Airport transfers; Hotel accommodation in Old Town Tbilisi; Private transport between Tbilisi and Svaneti (approx 7-8 hours each way); 4WD transport to/from Ushguli and between all villages in Svaneti; 8 nights guesthouse/homestay accommodation in Svaneti; All meals in Svaneti; (Lift tickets for lift-access touring days at Tetnuldi Ski Resort); 7 days of epic guided skiing/splitboarding!
PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE
Flights and associated fees; Medical/evacuation insurance; Meals in Tbilisi and on transport days to/from Svaneti; Alcohol; Tips for guides.
A 20% deposit is required to secure your spot, with the remainder due 4 months prior to the expedition start date.