Issue 1, 2016. February-march


WINTER IN GEORGIA: WHERE TO GO WITH SKIS - OR WITHOUT has complied basic information about Georgia's four main skiing destinations - and some great sites for day trips on the weekends if you need a break from the slopes.

Bakuriani, Georgia

Georgia's Newest Ski Resort

Adjara, a western Georgian province famous for its rocky Black Sea beaches and signature khachapuri, is now the country's newest ski destination.

Goderdzi offers 13 kilometers of ski runs from December through mid-April. A pass for the resort's two gondolas are $8.30, according to the website.

The website warns, however, that accommodations are scarce, so it is best to plan ahead. There is one hotel and a handful of cottages on site.

Goderdzi is 100 kilometers from the Batumi airport, 242 kilometers from the Kutaisi airport and 450 kilometers from the Tbilisi airport, according to the website.

A UNESCO Ski Vacation

There are two ski resorts in Georgia's mountainous region of Svaneti - Hatsvali and Tetnuldi - both near the town of Mestia.

Skiing in Svaneti is a cultural experience, mixing new ski runs with the province's ancient stone towers and breathtaking mountain views.

The Hatsvali resort has six kilometers of ski runs, a mix of red and blue trails. There are two lifts - one T-bar and one chair lift, and a daily pass costs $9. Skiing is possible from mid-December to mid-April.

The Tetnuldi resort is scheduled to open with bigger and better runs this ski season. The resort will reportedly have six lifts and 25 kilometers of ski runs for the 2016 ski season, which runs to mid-May.

A daily pass is $9.

Accommodations for both resorts can be found in nearby Mestia, where there are some small hotels and guesthouses. It is best to book in advance.

Mestia is 256 kilometers from the Batumi airport, 240 kilometers from the Kutaisi airport, and 430 kilometers from the Tbilisi airport.

There are some charter flights from Tbilisi to the Mestia airport; please check with the airport or local travel agencies for up-to-date information on flight dates and costs. There is also a regularly running train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi, a town 130 kilometers from Mestia. Private marshrutka mini-buses and taxis are available from Zugdidi to Mestia, depending on the weather and road conditions.

Weekend Ski Destination

Gudauri ski resort, just 130 kilometers from Tbilisi, is a popular weekend trip from the capital.

There are 57 kilometers of ski runs, a mix of blue, red and black trails. There are several ski lifts - one T-bar; five chair lifts and one gondola - and a day pass costs $18.

There are accommodations near the resort, mainly small hotels, but it is strongly recommended to book in advance, especially on weekends, when the resort is the most crowded. The resort is open for skiing from mid-December to mid-April.

Gudauri is 130 kilometers from Tbilisi and 310 kilometers from Kutaisi.

Georgia's Family Ski Resort

Bakuriani is a village-turned-ski resort from December to April.

Its 16 kilometers of ski runs accommodate the full range of skiers, from newbie to expert, although there are far more trails for beginners. The nearby Didveli ski resort offers some of the more challenging runs. Be forewarned, however, that the gondolas close on days with high winds.

A daily pass costs $12 for the resort's T-bars, lift chairs and gondola.

Bakuriani is famous in Georgia for its non-ski activities: there is a large park for children, horseback riding, sledding and snowmobiles.

The resort is 220 kilometers from Tbilisi and 190 kilometers from Kutaisi.

Destinations for Non-Ski Weekends

Once you have perfected your ski tan and your mogul jumping, Georgia still has plenty to offer.

Rabati Fortress in Samtskhe-Javakheti is a year-round destination. Located in the town of Akhaltsikhe, 207 kilometers from Tbilisi, the Rabati complex includes the remains of a 14th century castle and an 18th century mosque.

The complex itself reportedly dates back to the 13th century, when it was known as Lomisa Castle. It survived attacks by Tamerlane and the Mongols. From 1590 to 1829, the fortress - as well as the rest of Akhaltsikhe and the surrounding region - was part of the Ottoman Empire.

A museum on site reportedly includes 25,000 artifacts, including manuscripts and parchments dating back to the 11th century, as well as many other items of historical significance.

Closer to Tbilisi, the ancient remains of Uplistsikhe caves and fortress are well worth seeing.

Uplistsikhe, which means "Fortress of the Lord," played an important role in Georgia's ancient past, and the site was active as late as the Middle Ages. It is thought to be the oldest urban settlement in Georgia, and archeologists have found the remains of ancient temples and indications that a sun goddess was worshipped there.

Artifacts dating back to the late Bronze Age have also been found on the site, according to the website.

Uplistsikhe is located about 15 kilometers east of the city of Gori and 80 kilometers from Tbilisi.