Enjoying winter sport in Turkey’s renowned ski center, Kartalkaya

Enjoying winter sport in Turkey’s renowned ski center, Kartalkaya

Wilco van HERPEN Hürriyet Daily News
Enjoying winter sport in Turkey’s renowned ski center, Kartalkaya

In Turkey there are at least 16 places where one can ski. Bolu’s Kartalkaya is one of these places especially for residents of Istanbul.

Generally I write sweet, nice things about what I experience in Turkey. But this time I went to a place where I could not believe what I saw - it was funny and tragic at the same time. Wilco went on a ski holiday in Kartalkaya, near Bolu, after a couple of our friends made a reservation and asked us to join them. This was going to be my first time skiing, so I was very excited; the closer we got to Kartalkaya, the more snow we saw.

Winter sport in Turkey became popular only slowly. I remember just six years ago when there was no snow whatsoever in Austria and we, in Turkey, still did not use the lack of snow over there to promote our own snowy situation. But that was six years ago and in the meantime a lot has changed. There are at least 16 places where you can ski nowadays and the promotion abroad has also increased. You can even now find advertisements for ski holidays in Turkey on the BBC.

But, what about the situation and the service that we are offering? I can only tell you about what I have seen in Kartalkaya, so cannot compare several hotels and ski resorts here. First of all, I have the feeling that ski holidays are more expensive for people living in Turkey than for foreign tourists. For that reason, more and more Turkish skiers are going to Bulgaria to have their holiday over here. The advantage for foreigners is that they can buy all-inclusive trips arranged by big tour operators, while we directly have to deal with the hotels.

First skiing lesson

So there we were, 27 people, of which 10 were children. Check in at the hotel went smoothly and unfortunately it was already too late to go out skiing, but it was the right time for dinner. Do you know how it is to have dinner with such a group? It is something else. The first evening I freaked out. My God, I thought, is it going to be like this for five days? What chaos, what stress. The waiters were looking more and more like acrobats, slaloming around the children while their hands were filled with piles of plates and glasses -there was too much work to do and not enough hands.

The next morning, I woke up early. Şira’s first skiing lesson was to start at 10 a.m., mine one hour later.
Gonca, my wife, and I were walking around collecting everything that was necessary for skiing. Shortly afterwards it was time for my first lesson. Together with some friends I stepped into the very narrow skis, and my lesson was to begin. I found it difficult to keep my balance and the ski teacher started the drill by making us walk up the hill slope while wearing our skis. I was exhausted, I wanted to ski. Finally, we were allowed to go zigzagging about five meters down the hill. As we say in Holland: all beginnings are difficult. Just four days later I found myself skiing down the hill on my own during a blizzard, together with three other friends and our teacher. While going down, one of my friends fell down because of the soft powdery snow that was slowly piling up and she hit her shoulder on one of the many wooden poles that showed the route. As a result of this, she broke her shoulder. If they had covered the wooden poles in some material this might not have happened, but “burası Turkiye” (this is Turkey). We still have many things to learn. The accident involving young champion skier Aslı Nemutlu directly came to my mind. She died while skiing down and hit her head on a wooden barrier. My friend’s injury was on our last day, and what a way to finish our holiday.

The next day at 12 p.m. we had to check out. Our bus was supposed to come to fetch us, but at 12.30 p.m. there was still no bus. We contacted the driver and he told me that some other cocky bus driver had not put snow chains on the tires, so the bus had slipped and blocked the whole road.

The traffic queued up; nobody could leave or get to the hotels. In the meantime, the gendarmerie was sitting in their car sounding the siren every now and then, but not moving at all. Probably their car was comfortable and warm. It all added to the awkward situation of being trapped for no reason at all.

Inside the hotel, the lobby was filled with people who wanted to leave but couldn’t. Outside, cars were waiting alongside each other, bumper-to-bumper, not moving one inch. A tractor tried to get the bus back on the road again and finally, two hours later, the traffic started moving again.

A tip for someone who goes to Kartalkaya for the weekend: do not eat lunch in one of the hotels in Kartalkaya, but go to a place that’s about 25 kilometers down the mountains in the direction of Bolu. We had the meal of our life at the Kartaltepe Hotel, and I strongly recommend that you make this stop before driving back home. After the slippery road going down, full of curves that can be nerve-racking and stomach-upsetting, it was a great place to relax.

Winter sports require different treatment

My conclusion (based on just one visit in one hotel): Turkey is a country with a lot of opportunities and I think it has the opportunity to become one of the most popular winter sport countries in Europe.

However, in order to do so we have to work on the quality, service and safety. We have learned a lot about the summer holiday tourists, but winter sports tourists require a different service and treatment. Once we are able to fulfill those criteria, Turkey will be a holiday destination for tourists for all 12 months of the year. But we still have a long way to go.