How did you get to Georgia?
|The idea is old. Initialy we spoke about it in December 2014 in a Catski Lodge in the Siberian Altai Mountains. At night we talked about the idea of opening our own freeride ski area and came to the conclusion that Georgia was "the place to be". The Lesser Caucasus is known for a lot of snow and above all the snowfall is very reliable. Georgia promotes tourism as a core industry - in particular ski tourism and there are things possible that are not (any longer) possible elsewhere.|
|In theory you could drive the SnowCat to Georgia where there is a lot of snow right now? or do you need a lot of permits?|
The local permits will be the lesser problem. Access to the mountain regions is more problematic - there is a lack of paved roads and accommodation options. You have to get to the
forest line on a wide route - snowy forest trails are not enough. High alpine locations in the Greater Caucasus are rather unsuitable for SnowCats - too steep, you need a
You should also know the area well for security reasons. The Little Caucasus is a good place for the use of SnowCats from its topography and it is also snowy - more snowy than the Greater Caucasus.
|You mentioned in your report that you had an armed guard with you on your first trip to Bakhmaro. What is that supposed to mean? Security situation?|
That was the governor's announcement. In winter there was practically never anyone up there. There are bears and wolves. On another scouting tour we came across fresh bear tracks in
the snow (less than an hour old). We never had a gun with us on our ski tours. I don't think that's necessary either (unlike grizzly bears and polar bears, brown bears are not
The security situation is otherwise safe. The country is politically stable and the crime rate is no higher than in the Alps. So that wasn't the reason for the gun. The guard with a weapon should rather clarify the status of the expedition.
What s the best time to book the trip?
|We get most bookings in April and May for the upcoming season. In particular weeks in January and February are full booked petty sonn.|
|Why do you take such a high do downpayment?|
|Most of our cost we have in September and October. We need to bring Diesel, oil spare parts but also drinks some food etc. up to Bakhmaro before the street is closed by snow. And a lot of other costs like rent, insurances etc. we have to pay before the season starts. All together it is a way more than 50% of our costs.|
|What happens to days when you cannot ski? Is there a refund per down day?|
|The price is calculated in such a way that we spend an average of 5 days in the cat. If less than 5 days are ski-worthy, we will refund the cost of the snowcat on a pro rata basis.|
|How many vertical meters do the runs have and how many runs do you make during the day?|
The high valley is at over 1,900 meters. The tree line is a good 2,200 meters. The peaks reach 2'500 to 2'755 meters. However, the higher elevations are often blown off. We usually
move between 2'300 and 1'800 meters. The individual runs therefore have between 300 and 500 meters of altitude difference.
Depending on the area, the length of the runs and the condition of the participants, we can do about 10 runs per day.
|Are there treeruns which you could drive on a bad weather day?|
Yes, with Roadside and Maximundo we have some excellent treeskiing in Bakhmaro. We can access these area even in bad weather conditions. Even these runs have up to 300 vertical meters. There are more areas with treeruns, but usually the drop-off points are above the treeline and in bad weather these runs are unconfortable to reach.
|How stable is the weather? Is a week of bad weather possible? Are there empirical values?|
|In early winter there is usually heavy rainfall, which reliably ensures good snow conditions from the end of November. In December 2019, however, it was much too dry - this can also happen. January and February are the main season with good snowfalls but also sunny days. From March the days get longer and the risk of higher temperatures increases. But there can always be warmth or snowstorms (even in January) - just like in the Alps. We already had the best days of the season in December or March. I - by the way - prefer December - the snow stays fluffy longer ...|
|Is there emergency care?|
|Of course! We have prepared our team for safety and first aid measures since the first season. There are annual training sessions for off-road use and first aid training at the lodge. But this also includes the hardware: rescue equipment, corresponding transport capacities, first aid materials and also an AED (defibrilator) including oxygen.|
|What happens if there is an injury (salvage, nearest hospital, etc.)?|
We are prepared for injuries and salvages and our rescue chain has been tried and tested. First aid is provided by the guide and supported by our team. With our snowmobiles we can quickly bring rescue material to the vows. First we recover the injured freerider from the area (Akia, vacuum mattress, which is necessary). Then the transport takes place in the valley - usually with the Snowcat or also with a snowmobile. The ambulance is waiting in the valley to take the freerider to a small hospital in Chokhatauri. A team member will always accompany the injured person and also help with the translation.
|Is there a telephone connection to the home country?|
|Magtikom is the largest provider in Georgia and for the first season we have already arranged for Magtikom to switch on the antenna for us in the otherwise deserted place. The connection is relatively stable and offers 4G. If the network fails or if snowcats operate beyond the range, we are equipped with satellite phones.|
|What kind of snowcat do you operate in Bakhmaro?|
We now have six Pistenbully 300W Polar and two Pistenbully 300W. Pistenbully is the Merdendes among the snow groomers
and is known for its good workmanship and reliability. The machines have between 330 and 430 hp (455 hp) and are therefore well equipped for the heavy snow. The Pistenbullys are over
15 years old and come from Austrian and Swiss ski areas. We brought them to Georgia ourselves and equipped them with a heated cabin for up to 12 freeriders.
|What happens, when a snowcat breaks down?|
|First of all, we have reserve machines on site. Even if one machine fails, normal operation continues for the time being - we just pick up another Cat. Then our team of drivers and mechanics is well trained and prepared for technical failures. We now even have a Pistenbully 100 on site as a supply and workshop vehicle. We have stored countless spare parts and, since summer 2020, our own workshop in Chkhakoura. The usability of the machines is an essential point in our range of services.|
|Is an alternative pickup in Tbilisi or Batumi possible?|
|That is possible in principle. Consider on the one hand the rather long distance to Tbilisi (6 hours by car) and on the other hand the problem of the last 15 km. The road is not cleared and the pickup must be done with the snowcat or a snowmobile. There will be additional costs paid by the participant. The question is how many people, to determine which kind of vehicle is needed.|
|Is there a possibility to book a winter-ready vehicle with a driver in order to connect a road trip?|
|We can arrange for you drivers who have all-wheel drive vehicles, drive carefully and sometimes even speak English.|
|Is an identity card sufficient or is a passport required?|
|I would like to defer you to any website of the foreign office for your country. For example, an identity card is sufficient for Germans and Austrian citizens. However, I always travel with a passport. The responsibility for valid entry documents lies with the traveler.|
|What should we bring?|
We have put together a short packing list.
|How much do you need to calculate for the flight? What needs to be added for luggage?|
|Expect around € 300 depending on the season. We recommend booking the flight at the same time as the booking confirmation. WIZZ offers various tariffs. We usually book the Plus tariff with XL seats and 32 kg luggage. Ski luggage (max. 32kg) has to be booked for € 30 each. Membership in the WIZZ Discount Club offers the opportunity to lower the price again.|
|Is there a safety ranking for the airline?|
|Wizz is a low-cost airline like Ryanair or Easyjet. It has more than 70 aircraft and is particularly known in Eastern Europe. The airline is based in Budapest - the EU. More information can be found, for example, on Wikipedia.|
|Why is the flight not included in the package?|
|We have freeriders from all over the world who travel on very different flights. The arrival is therefore much too individual to be organized by us. Booking through Wizz is easy and best to do individually.|
|What is the probability that a flight will be canceled?|
|It has happened that flights have been canceled. But that doesn't happen every season! Since the Wizzair machines are based in Kutaisi, they always fly back to Kutaisi. However, it has happened that the destination airport in Germany could not be approached due to the weather.|
|What happens if the outward flight does not take place / shifts significantly? Is the week booked and then expires?|
|If the flight is canceled by Wizzair at short notice, there is the option to rebook to another departure airport or to book with Turkish via Istanbul, for example, or with Lufthansa from Munich. In that case we also pick up from Batumi. However, we cannot assume the financial consequences of flight postponements or cancellations for which we are not responsible.|
|What happens if the luggage is lost on the outward journey?|
|Flying with checked baggage always involves the risk that it will not arrive on time. For this reason, we expressly recommend direct flights - this significantly reduces the risk. There are no shops on site. We have limited equipment available for rental on site and other participants can usually also help out, so that ideally no valuable freeride days can be missed. It is definitely advisable to transport ski boots as hand luggage (finding suitable ski boots on site would be pure luck). Please follow the guidelines of the airline.|
|Can we bring the cartiges from our airbags?|
|Wizzair allows bringing the cartridges ether in the hand luggage or in the checked-in luggage (not in the sport equipment). However, there have been problems in particular at small provincial airports like Dortmund. Best to inform the airline at the check-in desk and check any changes in regulations.|