Elbrus is not just a ski region. This is a special world, in which it is very easy to become “one’s own”. You just need to take a deep breath of this fresh frosty air, stunnedly turn your head to the surrounding peaks, slap your friend on the shoulder, saying Gagarin’s “Let’s go!”, And forever forget gray everyday life, dull high-rise buildings and eternal traffic jams. They say that you come back from this land of snows and trails as a new person, which is readily believed. Dizzying heights, insanely dangerous slopes, damn exciting descents and adrenaline that beats 24 hours a day – that’s what Elbrus is all about.
And, at the same time, this, one of the best ski regions in Russia, is still trailing behind modernization. Let this buzzword not cause a smirk: yes, there is incredible riding here, especially for the pros. And no, most of the infrastructure is not even a B, but a C-minus. The Elbrus region needs to be developed. Fortunately, at the very least, they do, but it’s still worth being prepared for meager entertainment and Soviet service when planning a trip.
Alpine skiing in the Elbrus region
According to a2zgov, the Elbrus region is the most beautiful region of the Caucasus, covering the vicinity of Elbrus and many peaks of the Main Range. There are two main ski areas: Elbrus-Azau and Cheget. In total, this gives skiers 12 km of cable cars and 35 km of slopes, as well as year-round skiing on certain sections of the slopes. But it is important to understand that most of the local routes are wild sections of mountains, full of hillocks and cliffs. Therefore, in the Elbrus region, every season they harvest the “harvest” of injured skiers. In a word, one must adequately assess one’s forces when going to this area.
As you know, the height of Elbrus is 5642 m, but the highest point accessible to skiers is Gara-Bashi (3780 m above sea level). Despite its height, the skiing area here is suitable for both beginners and “pros”. For the first, at the foot of the giant, a yoke is equipped to serve a gentle slope. Well, confident “middle peasants” and pros will need two lift stations – the “old” pendulum and the new gondola road. Both start from the Azau glade and run parallel to each other. From the 2nd stage (Mir station) those who wish go up on snowcats to Shelter-11, which is about 20 minutes.
In general, the slopes of Elbrus are wide and gentle blue trails, with small elevation changes and short red sections. The length of the longest route of the Stary Krugozor resort is 2.5 km with a height difference of 650 m. Some of its sections are quite accessible even for beginners. And in general, the slopes of Elbrus are less demanding on the professionalism of skiers than Cheget. Beginners will be relatively comfortable here, as well as families with children. Well, the boarders will also like the fields rich in snow relief under the second stage of the pendulum (from the Mir station). Fans of freeride and backcountry can be advised to connect in groups with guides.
Gara-Bashi can be reached from the Mir station by a snowcat, sometimes a snowcat can bring skiers even higher than the Shelter of Eleven, about 4800 m above sea level. Target? Cut the snow with an edge even in summer – this is where the year-round ski area is located.
The cost of the lift Azau – Stary Krugozor – Mir – Gara-Bashi for an adult: from 1700 RUB – in the high season for 1 “tourist” lift. You can check the prices and work schedule on the website.
At the Shelter of Eleven, there are often winds of storm and even hurricane force. In winter, with low temperatures and deep snow, this makes it very difficult to climb to the top.
The slopes of Che (or Cheget, 3700 m) are the realm of professionals, they are rightfully considered one of the best in the country. And it is here that one of the most difficult tracks in the world’s ski resorts is located, which is “too tough” only for experienced skiers.
Cheget is also known as a venue for all-Russian and international competitions. However, there are areas for “new” athletes here too. Although, frankly, the concept of a “groomed track”, spent to the state of “velveteen”, is unfamiliar to local riders. Cheget is the pristine silence of the mountains and wild nature. Altitude difference – 1000 m.
What to bring
At the lower stations of the lifts of Cheget and Elbrus, as well as in the center of the glades of Azau and Cheget, spontaneous markets are scattered every day, where you can find at least a bald trait. Naturally. The most popular souvenirs are hand-knitted things from goat and sheep down (very warm and pleasant). Moreover, it is extremely easy to determine by eye whether the product was made by the hands of a local craftswoman or by a machine – the latter are always worse. You can update almost the entire wardrobe: from socks and hats to sweaters, underpants and fishnet shawls. To them, to buy in addition national felt hats and boots, chuni, hats made of goat and ram skins, and the image will be completed.
Having exhausted the topic of fashionable shopping, you should pay attention to the tur horns, horseshoes and all kinds of chased and ceramic products. Finally, stock up on provisions for the future – dried lamb, smoked cheese, halva, amazing honey or herbs.
Cafes and restaurants near Elbrus
In the “Courchevelian” sense, there is no après-ski near the Elbrus region – there are a dozen cafes and bars on the slopes, and the same number in the villages. But skiers do not complain: this is not what they come to Elbrus for. And yet, earthly food is important for skiers tired of conquering the slopes, because in the Elbrus region Caucasian cuisine is so honored – hearty, hot, meat. The best snack is the famous khychins, the drink is mulled wine.
There are also a couple of places of worship worth visiting just for the sake of history. For example, cafe “Ai” on Mount Cheget at an altitude of 2750 m. Just imagine: on the right – Elbrus, on the left – Kogutai, Donguz-Orun and Nakra-Tau, in the center – skiers sunbathing and sipping hot wine. Its rival is located on Elbrus, this cafe “Old Outlook” is another meeting place that should not be changed.
Entertainment and attractions of Elbrus region
Mountains that cause wild delight and some kind of animal feeling of worship are the main local attractions. It is simply impossible to take your eyes off them or go somewhere on a cultural “excursion”. Therefore, most of the excursions are of a natural nature, not counting a couple of museums, which only serve as a pleasant addition to a vacation in the mountains. The most visited is the Mountaineering and Hunting Museum. V. Vysotsky in Tegenekli. The exposition is not rich, but touches to the depths of the soul – these are hunting trophies collected over 30 years and memorable gifts and photographs of famous people who could not imagine life without Elbrus. Among them is Vladimir Semenovich, who starred here in the title role of the sensational tape “Vertical”.
Another important collection is located in Terskol – the Elbrus Defense Museum, the highest mountain in the world (3500 m above sea level).
Museum exposition. Vysotsky is not rich, but touches to the core – these are hunting trophies collected over 30 years and memorable gifts and photographs of famous people who could not imagine life without Elbrus.
No less popular is the famous “Polyana Narzanov”, which is located near the village of Baidaevo. In fact, the sources of this healing water are almost everywhere in the Elbrus region, but the most convenient one is located here, about three kilometers from Terskol. The glade, surrounded by a fluffy pine forest, is equipped with benches, gazebos, a cafe, two baths and parking. The mineral springs of narzan are rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium, so it is worth consulting a doctor about using it for medicinal purposes.
Unfortunately, it will not be possible to collect Narzan for the future – after a couple of hours, a “rusty” sediment appears on it.
As a field trip, we can recommend a trip to the Aushiger thermal hot springs, located 30 km from Nalchik to the village of Aushiger. The spring springs from a well 4000 m deep, forming a beautiful lake on the surface, where you can swim all year round. Another excursion to the Chegem Gorge with the waterfall of the same name. In winter, the water column falling from the cliff freezes, turning into the realm of the Snow Queen – countless icicles hang everywhere, ice blocks rise from below, there is a ringing silence. And, of course, do not forget that the ski resort is located on the territory of the national park of the same name, where there are more than 60 species of mammals. Even in winter, routes are arranged in the park, including those on snowmobiles and snowshoes.
The rest of the entertainment is active – ice skating, billiards, saunas, cross-country skiing, karaoke and nightclubs. Alas, with the onset of darkness in the Elbrus region it becomes a little boring, but for many, the early release is only a plus – the earlier the new ski day will come.
- Slopes of Elbrus
The climate of the Elbrus region is formed under the influence of high-altitude, sharply dissected and contrasting relief. On the plains, it is continental, and high in the mountains, even in the middle of summer, it is below zero.
Each altitude zone has its own climatic features. Atmospheric pressure noticeably decreases with height – up to 25% in the upper limits, the weight content of oxygen also decreases proportionally, and the intensity of solar radiation, in particular, ultraviolet radiation, increases. During mountain climbing excursions, these circumstances should always be taken into account in order to avoid overheating and sunburn.
In terms of the number of sunny days, the Elbrus region is not inferior to such resorts as Dombay, Teberda and Krasnaya Polyana. The snow cover here is established in November, in the valleys the snow lies until about mid-May-June.