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Turkish Backcountry Trip Report, Jan 2024

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Where Now?
My interest was first piqued by a post in the r/backcountry sub-Reddit of someone absolutely charging through a thigh deep tree run in… Turkey?! I figured it was some freak storm and a snowboarder struck it lucky to have their gear with them at the same time. But then at the end of January - just as the Alps’ very encouraging start to the 23/24 season hit a (now boringly characteristic) snow-destroying wave of positive temperatures - another post popped up of more forest shredding in Turkey. I checked to OP's profile and saw that they ran "Turkish Backcountry - a guiding service for ski touring and split-boarding in the incredible Kaçkars mountains of Turkey!”.
After a short WhatsApp chat, I checked Snow-Forecast.com for the closest weather station (Turkey Heliski-Ayder) and behold - a low wind, 60cm storm cycle was on the horizon with temps down to -15C and a comfortable 160cm base. 9 days later I was standing outside of Rize-Artvin airport with my board bag waiting for a driver to take me to one of the most fantastic snowboarding experiences of my life.

Background Check
I’ve had the incredible good fortune to have snowboarded almost every year for the last 20 or so years. I’ve skii’d champagne trees all up the Kootenay’s “Powder Highway” for over a decade (including heli with Eagle Pass in Revelstoke), I’ve scored cold smoke in the USA, descended the Valley Blanche, white-roomed in Hokkaido, poached face shots in around 15 resorts in Europe and endured the novelty of Falls Creek, Australia (having grown up in sub-tropical Brisbane - getting turns in Oz was a hilarious and totally unlikely experience).
My splitboarding experience began about 6 years ago in Whitewater, BC where - as part of their “Cold Smoke” backcountry festival - I was fortunate enough to participate in an “Splitboarding 101” clinic hosted by (who I now know to be) none other than the legendary Godfather of Split himself, John Buffery. Over the pandemic I lived in Nelson, BC where I completed my AST 1 & 2 courses with Summit Mountain Guides and completed a range classic and kooky Kootenay itineraries.
*Honestly, I’m not trying to d!ck-swing here! I am trying to set up just how great my trip with Turkish Backcountry was, so let’s get into it…

Brothers Gonna Turk It Out
Turkish Backcountry is run by Elet Hall with his brother Ian Hall as Head Guide. These US natives grew up in West Virginia and both relocated to Utah, to pursue ski industry careers. Elet starred as a competition freestyle snowboarder and Ian grafted as ski patroller and certified ski-guide. Elet discovered the deep snow of Turkey under advice of his then-girlfriend, realised what untapped potential there was and swiftly persuaded Ian to join him in setting up their one-of-a-kind, mechanically assisted, guided backcountry outfit in the Kascar ranges of Eastern Turkey.

Hotelifornia
My driver arrived to take me and two thirty-something French novice powder riders to the modest “hotel” an hours drive from the airport stopping for snacks and booze (another discovery of the trip was delicious red wines from Turkey and neighbouring Georgia). The base for Turkish Backcountry is the Sumda Hotel, set at about 900m. It’s a series of wooden “bungalows” with up to 3 en-suite rooms (a sauna and jacuzzi room is available for a small upgrade) per bungalow. The rooms are spartan with bare wooden walls, comfortable beds and tidy bathrooms with towels, the room temperature was warm, the spring-fed showers needed coaxing to deliver totally hot water. The restaurant serves as a common room and base camp. A large cast iron stove heats the room and leaves your clothes with a campfire aroma. It’s basic, but it’s all a part of the honest, down-to-earth backcountry vibe that is Turkish Backcountry

Food for Thought
Morning and evening meals were included in the fee - breakfasts were a shared meze-affair with a daily variation of table of eggs, baskets of fresh bread, cheeses, olives and sweet offerings with constantly flowing tea refills. Lunches were self-made sandwiches cobbled together from breakfast leftovers. I would have liked a little more for lunches, but they were explicitly not included so I had stocked up on dried figs, trail mixes, local pistachio chocolate and power gels as well as my miso-paste for my warm mountain beverage (another discovery was combining this with chicken bone broth - so hearty!). Evening meals were usually a soup and a main stew, usually with some chicken involved. I found that the evening meals were a bit lacking to be honest - it could possibly be the only criticism I had of the week that was noted by another guest - we were working hard and could have done with just a bit more food. That being said, one night the local speciality of River Troutwas served with a load of delicious tapass-tyle plates which was a lovely variation and left me with my belly maxed out.

Deus Sexy Machina
Mornings started as the group decided - usually 7.30am. Breakfast was followed by a morning briefing on snow conditions and an approximate sketch of the days itineraries. After breakfast it’s time to load your gear in the first of the charmingly lo-fi “mechanical assists” to the top - a lovingly maintained vintage Turkish-built Dodge/Chrysler 4WD pick up truck. This beast of a tank shuttled us to snowline where the options spread into either two modern Ski-Doo sleds or a funky bright orange exterior, purple interior (with Turkish bus seats!), Soviet-era RatTrac snowcat called Aunt Betty. Riding the sleds up the main logging road “buddy style” was a genuinely cool experience but the next unexpected unique experience was trundling along in Aunt Betty when we pressed a 11km road through 50cm of powder, clearing small drainage slides across the road as we went. She moved at a stately pace, roared occasionally and never skipped a beat. The whole motorised part of the trip was an experience in itself - the vintage machinery is delightfully “down-home” and characterful, occasional hissy fits were subdued by the brothers with Elet the mechanical maestro of Mountain Operations.

Ace of Bases
Once the sled/cat combo had brought us close to the top of tree line (at approx 1700m) it was time to climb into the Turkish Backcountry territory. As soon as we arrived to the main staging spot it was clear how abundant and quality the snow was. The proximate location of the Black Sea typically delivers “right way up” storms starting with high water-content snow and ending dry and fluffy which leads to a relatively stable snowpack - an adventurers dream!
Barely 50m from our start we crossed the foot of a looming and thrilling heavily featured 350m, 35+degree run called “E.T”, we then steadily climbed on a small logging road through the pine and deciduous forests that are sprinkled with perfect hallways of clear cut. In barely 30mins views were expanded to take in the large powder fields, ridge lines, soft rolling bowls and epic surrounding peaks and faces of the surrounding Kascar range. This variety of terrain gives Turkish Backcountry options no matter the weather with the high alpine objectives available when the sun shines (and boy, did it!) and top-tier, short-shot tree runs when the visibility drops. 500m vert high alpine to deep tree runs are possible with the sleds positioned to run shuttles back to the staging spot - it felt like a backcountry ski resort! Except… we were literally the only 5 people on the entrée mountainside. Turkey is not an international hub for snowsports and their resort infrastructure is hardly worldclass, so there is even less of a push for people to venture further out to backcountry. For me this is my idea of perfection - no competition, no queuing for the skin track, no pushing for position.

Riding High
I was fortunate to time my visit perfectly with a boat load of fresh snow, 2 perfect days of visibility and then a timely storm for the last 2 days which provided a 15cm refresher. The first day the snow was a little heavy, but progressively softened up as the cold nights sucked the moisture out creating champagne hero pow for the last couple of days. I was able to ride the full gamut of terrain from the wide open and untouched bowls and rollers, technically featured faces and fabulous tree runs.
As is typical in North American ski culture the Hall brothers are fanatical tree riders and bring this passion in bucketloads. Not only do they rip it up but they’re exceptionally good at coaching deep snow and tree riding technique. I shared my trip with three other snowventurers (two skiers and a snowboarder) none of who had significant deep powder or tree skiing experience. All three of them finished their trip comfortably and confidently shredding through the forest runs which is remarkable and wholly due to coaching led by snowboarder Elet and skier Ian with warmth and patience. Stoke is high, friendly advice given, filming opportunities happily created and safety is paramount.
This pervasive friendliness is part of what made the week I had so good. The brothers are highly professional, but also just really nice guys who are making a cool thing happen. We laughed, joked and connected. This camaraderie is not something I’ve always experienced with guides. Maybe I’ve never had a “good one” but European guides have always had an aloofness about them that I did not get from the Hall brothers.
Ian Hall is Head Guide and head of snow science and safety. His eagle eye is constantly present, with detailed explanation available for any safety decision made. Ian and Elet constantly and openly communicated about conditions or options. Their terrain knowledge is superb with each run explained in detail and pathways for powder mapped out to ensure that everyone got as much powder as they could handle. The terrain is highly complex in places, yet all guests on my trip repeatedly stated how safe and assured they felt at every stage with terrain carefully selected to match individuals needs with groups split at times to ensure needs were met for all levels. I was highly grateful for this as no-one was waiting for other s to catch up or being pushed too hard with the expectation of people waiting for them.

In Summary...
As an experienced snowboarder but a relative backcountry novice this was a perfect step-up trip - I have never toured for 7 days continuously which was a great refresher and I also learnt a lot. For backcountry beginners without any gear, it can be hired (all avi kit is included in the guiding fee). For the snowboarders - Elet has collaborated with Turkish MAS Snowboards to design a split board specific to the riding at Turkish Backcountry to further his mission of proliferating split board ownership in Turkey.
I’m stoked to find that I can access a “North American” deep powder, tree riding experience much cheaper and closer to me in the UK than my usual trips to Canada. €350/day for 2 guides, breakfast, dinner, access, transfers and daily snowcat/sled access is pretty bloody good value IMO. Flights to Istanbul were £200 return with the local flights £60 return. It’s
If you’re a seasoned powderhound or backcountry enthusiast you might be pleasantly surprised (as I was) that Turkey can really deliver the goods, and that such a little gem of an operation is here on the doorstep of Europe. If you’re looking to dip your toe into uphilling then Turkish Backcountry is a low-cost, personable company that excels in easing people into the experience with a wide variety of challenges that will suit all. Turkish Backcountry is a charming, humble and lo-fi setup that is admittedly placed as “the Wild West” of backcountry guided experiences. Elet has struck gold before the gold rush and brings an immense amount of heart and passion to providing the best experience he can possibly deliver.

TL:DR
I did 7 days of guided splitboarding with Turkish Backcountry and it was dope. Turkey gets more snow than I realised. If you’re already backcountry-ing this is a good option and if you’re looking to get into it it’s also a good option. It’s pretty cheap. The guys that run the place are champs. Go do it.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Wed 14-02-24 12:20; edited 1 time in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Nice one re the report - enjoyed a day with ET in Erciyes early last season.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Way too much detail.

Can you post a clear summary in less than 50 words?

Where, when, how, etc.


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Sun 11-02-24 21:51; edited 1 time in total
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@Knoxious, great report. Sounds fabulous in no small part due to the guides! If I wasn’t going to Eagle Pass Heli (any good?) in a few weeks I’d be all over it snowHead
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Fantastic report and a good read - thanks!
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BobinCH wrote:
... If I wasn’t going to Eagle Pass Heli (any good?) in a few weeks...:
It was when I was there some years back. You're in a good snow belt and the Monashees delivers good entertaining mixed terrain. I had over the head powder there with a good private group. It's close to the resort, so what you get is somewhat dependent on what you pay for, and who you're flying with.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Great report. Enjoyable read. Am sure there will be SHs who will benefit from the TR. Good to support such a great sounding outfit.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Great TR! Have you git any pictures?
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phil_w wrote:
BobinCH wrote:
... If I wasn’t going to Eagle Pass Heli (any good?) in a few weeks...:
It was when I was there some years back. You're in a good snow belt and the Monashees delivers good entertaining mixed terrain. I had over the head powder there with a good private group. It's close to the resort, so what you get is somewhat dependent on what you pay for, and who you're flying with.


Thanks. Private group of strong riders so fingers crossed for the snow and weather!
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Whitegold wrote:
Way too much detail.

Can you post a clear summary in less than 50 words?

Where, when, how, etc.


Very Happy Very Happy

Are you taking the micky? Puzzled

He was good enough to post an excellent and comprehensive trip report! Toofy Grin
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@Knoxious, great trip report. Turkey is on my short list for 2024... Can you give me an idea of they typical vert you skinned uphill vs total decent each day since you were using some mech uplift? Thanks!
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Whitegold wrote:
Way too much detail.

Can you post a clear summary in less than 50 words?

Where, when, how, etc.


How about in 7 words: "CTRL-C-CTRL_V_SUMMARIZE_CHAT_GPT" wink
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@Bergmeister, @Onnem, , don't feed the troll and they'll get bored of aimless replies....

@Knoxious, Great TR, cheers
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Good report. Sounds like you had a pretty epic trip.

I am a bit skeptical of the "right way up snow". Can't really see how the science of that would work. Sounds like slightly too good to be true marketing hype.

Central Asia is the new place to be. Turkey, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan. Seem way more snow sure than europe and some crazy deals - here in kyrgyzstan I've seen $100 guided cat skiing and $200 for 2 people accomodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner and your own private guide for the day.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Quote:
Great TR! Have you git any pictures?
Yes, photo evidence or it didn't happen @Knoxious! Laughing

Sounds fantastic. Great report.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Thanks for the feedback everyone, I’ve not written a trip report before and it was fun recounting it.

@Whitegold - there’s a tl:dr at the end.

@BobinCH - I had a great experience with Eagle Pass. I love the fact that they’re do small group heli. Stoked that you’re with steering riders as my day was nearly ruined by one very weak rider in the group.

@kat.ryb- the most I skinned in the day was 1000m. The laps that we did were a couple of hundred meters of vert. At the end of the day you can descend either on the logging road (piste run home essentially) or when the snowpack is there you can go through trees to near the bottom of the logging road about 700m of vert.

@boarder2020 - “right way up” snow is a coin termed by Bruce Tremper in his book “How to survive in avalanche terrain”. It when you get moisture rich snow at the start of a storm that dries out to become light and fluffy at the end. The snow at the bottom of the new storm cycle bonds to the old snow and the light stuff sits on the top. The other way round would create a storm slab on a weak layer underneath.

For everyone asking for pics…I’d love to post pics but i can’t figure out how to upload them… or do I have to have them hosted somewhere already??
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Is that 350eu a day per person?
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Yup.
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@Knoxious, yes, I am aware what "right way up snow is". I'm just not convinced all storms in turkey start falling as heavy snow and end falling as light snow. That seems a little too good to be true, and I can't see a meteorological explanation. If you want to argue turkey skiing is at some kind of sweet spot from the ocean, giving it the stability of a coastal snowpack, but low risk of heavy wet snow I could maybe get behind that.
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Ah I get ya. Well the Black Sea is in visible of the Kascka’s. The majority of the storms blow in from there.

Yes, what you said is I guess what I’m getting at - the snowpack is stable and the snow isn’t hyper wet all the time. It consolidates nicely.

Also worth noting that there are resorts in different areas of Turkey, but my trip report was from one spot so in not talking about the country as a whole.
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@Knoxious, yeah you need to host the pics elsewhere, I use imgur.com, then when you upload (on desktop) you can click the 3 dots to get share options and simply copy the paste the link under BBCode (Forums)
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
How much do they teach powder technique vs how much are you expected to know already?
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
As in the TR - 3 of the people, turned up with either no powder experience or not uphill experience or both! They all ended up doing great. I also happened to be there for 75-ish cm of fresh, which is considerable by most people's standards.

I thought it would hold me back, but they split us up when it was a good idea and also I wasn't being "no friends on a pow day" - I got the goods I wanted. It was also really nice to see people "getting it" and sharing the stoke with them.

Obv the more you know and the tighter the groups ability the more you'll get out of a trip there.
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[img]https://imgur.com/a/lrISFJT[/img]
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lol - fail. I really don't get this NehNeh
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.


You need an actual url which has something on the end of it. This is too large, mind, you should try to make it smaller. The BBCode for "width" I think doesn't work here.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Oh yeaaah!
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Knoxious wrote:
Obv the more you know and the tighter the groups ability the more you'll get out of a trip there.
That's the way with anything where you're dependent on others.

One advantage of cats, which are usually dedicated to one group, is that you can easily split the group or ride out a run or two in the machine, and the slow speed (even of a PB600!) means the limit is unlikely to be the guests even if they're slow.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Ooh I think I worked it out! Enjoy the pics Smile











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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Whitegold wrote:
Way too much detail.

Can you post a clear summary in less than 50 words?

Where, when, how, etc.


Oh just f off
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Fantastic report.

On my list. As wiigman said we skied/rode with Elat at Erciyes last season. Top man.

wiigman and I also played at Ovit Mountain nearby and can confirm the snow is brilliant in that area.

One thing I will say is in my experience at Ejder 3200, Sarakamis, and Erciyes resorts in Turkey both the infrastructure and terrain is top notch.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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Mike Pow wrote:
Whitegold wrote:
Way too much detail.

Can you post a clear summary in less than 50 words?

Where, when, how, etc.


Oh just f off


Glad someone else said it first Eh oh!
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Mike Pow wrote:
Fantastic report.

On my list. As wiigman said we skied/rode with Elat at Erciyes last season. Top man.

wiigman and I also played at Ovit Mountain nearby and can confirm the snow is brilliant in that area.

One thing I will say is in my experience at Ejder 3200, Sarakamis, and Erciyes resorts in Turkey both the infrastructure and terrain is top notch.


Thanks Mike Pow!

Interesting and good to know about the quality of the resorts.
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Lovely photos!

I do understand Turkey is having a bumper year this year. Was chatting to the owner of cat ski Turkey (he was in Jyrgalan with a ski tour group) and he was saying they had almost had too much snow. 2
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kat.ryb wrote:
Lovely photos!

I do understand Turkey is having a bumper year this year. Was chatting to the owner of cat ski Turkey (he was in Jyrgalan with a ski tour group) and he was saying they had almost had too much snow. 2


In that region yes.

Other areas where the ski resorts are not doing so well.
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@Knoxious, great TR. I enjoyed it as the text, and then those photos are just amazing! Sounds like a great trip. One to add to my ever lengthening wishlist.
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How reliable is the snow, I guess you struck lucky with the decent powder?
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@kitenski

The guys that run the outfit have invested heavily in the operations as they're so enamoured with the frequency and quality of the snow... and they're from Vail, Utah. There's also a Swiss Heli outfit been there for many years on the adjoining valley... so it's probably pretty predictable I'd have thought?

I think I *did* stroke it lucky, but historically it's been pretty damn good apparently - https://www.snow-forecast.com/resorts/TurkeyHeliski/history
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@Knoxious,

Great report! As a turkish citizen, I'm super excited to see we are starting to attract great skiers and boarders! We have a loooooooong way to go in terms of building and operating high-quality snow resorts (and I'm afraid that climate change might catch up with us on that one) but I feel like the backcountry touring/ heliski and snowmobile tours are getting some attention.
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kat.ryb wrote:
Lovely photos!

I do understand Turkey is having a bumper year this year. Was chatting to the owner of cat ski Turkey (he was in Jyrgalan with a ski tour group) and he was saying they had almost had too much snow. 2


It's a mix of both. The Black sea shores are getting really good snow for the last couple of years but there are no resorts there for people who don't do backcountry. Sometimes I feel that's a good thing.

My local resort, Kartalkaya, had an AWFUL year last year but this year things are looking up. But with these kinds of extremes, I just hope the hotels can keep up.
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