Updated: May 22
It may come as a surprise to some…
…but I don’t know how to ski.
At least not until this past weekend.
In an effort to get out of the house, engage in some new adventure, and shake up my daily routine, I took off to the mountain village of Bakuriani. This village survives largely off the supreme skiing and resort scene that thrives there. Even some of Europe’s biggest skiing and extreme winter sports events are focused on this small alpine-style community.
The road to this town is long and winding through the mountains. Passing small villages and markets, it is incredibly scenic. Vast swathes of land largely untouched by humanity and neck-craning mountainscapes surround the road to Bakuriani. Simply, the journey itself is an experience.
Stopping for a bit of Nazuki (ნაზუქი) is almost required. This sweet, cinnamon and clove, sweet homemade bread with raisins baked inside is the love of many Georgian travelers. Sold by small home markets on the side of the road, it makes a belly-warming snack while meandering through the mountains in the snow and increasingly cold weather.
Passing Borjomi, the hometown of the famous Georgian sparkling water brand and hangover cure, the road becomes a narrow and poorly cared-for rural route. Skirted by snow-covered trees and rising mountain slopes, caution is the best action. Some marshutkas are not so observant of this rule, however.
Arriving in the town, the lights of a bustling tourist center are most welcome from the vast empty expanse of the mountain wilderness. My first stop was a small but busy venue, the Golden Valley restaurant. Serving traditional Georgian fare, I opted for the pork mtsvadi. This Georgian barbecue is a staple of everyday cuisine.
Washed down with a beer, the last few meters to the hotel were more than welcome. A warm bed being needed, the hotel was more than happy to oblige. A helpful staff at the BM Plaza rapidly ushered me into a room that had every possible heater on, making the room an oven compared to the sub-zero temperatures outside.
After thawing out and grabbing a significant number of hours of quality sleep, it was off into the town. A small ski shop offering basic equipment had everything I needed. Walking in, I was quickly kitted out with a set of boots, skis, and introduced to a ski instructor intent on making sure I didn’t die on the slopes.
His instruction regimen was flawless. While exceptionally casual, it ensured I knew every little basic aspect of riding down the mountain. Albeit not a significant grade and more for beginners, it was exhilarating to slowly be introduced to the sport. While I did indeed faceplant on the first ride, the subsequent rides down were liberating to say the least.
Returning to the same restaurant after a day of snow and ski, a plate of Ostri, or beef stewed in a spicy tomato sauce, made everything perfect. Returning to the hotel, a calm night of comedy movies and tea closed the day for this new ski trainee.
The morning of my last day was the ultimate test. With no trainer, I engaged the slope with my boots and skis alongside my own confidence. After a false start trying to help a tumbling snowboarder, I regained my poise and graciously glided down the hill. Mastering the art of my posture, turning, and managing my speed, I achieved my aspirations of becoming that much closer to being the winter ski warrior I was meant to be.
Closing my time in the mountain village, some chicken mtsvadi and a nice draft beer were welcome before packing everything back into the car and venturing back down the elevation. The return journey, much like the approach, was something of awe and wonder. As with many vacations, it was the arrival home that put a capstone on the adventure.
Bakuriani will stay in my seasonal schedule. Skiing, as a sport and a release, will now be added to the litany of minor hobbies I explore from time to time. As I can now say, I am officially a “ski guy.”