Erzurum aims to become winter sports center
WILCO VAN HERPEN
Erzurum is going to be one of the most important ski centers in Turkey, according to the governor Ahmet Altınparmak.According to the new governor of Erzurum, Ahmet Altınparmak, Erzurum is going to be one of the most important ski centers in Turkey. Although this year has been a disaster for all the winter sport centers in Turkey, Altınparmak does not complain.
“Our situation is not as bad as other places. We had sufficient snow to keep most of the ski slopes open. The owner of one of the biggest oil companies from Russia was in Kartalkaya, but because of the lack of snow, he flew with his private jet to Erzurum and stayed here with all of his friends. After Antalya [where Altınparmak worked as governor], I know much about tourism. Seeing the potential of Erzurum I want to work hard on turning Erzurum into the center of winter sports in Turkey. One of the plans is to connect Palandöken and Konaklı with cableways and ski slopes. We have some beautiful five-star hotels here in Palandöken. My idea is to have more intimate bungalow type houses for the tourists in Konaklı. It will create diversity in the kind of tourists that will visit Erzurum.”
Palandöken is a ski center about 20 kilometers out of town. It might look quite a distance, but the road that leads to Palandöken is incredible. Although the temperature was below zero, the road was completely open. I did not need my snow chains at all. The road cut the white countryside into two; it was as if a giant black worm was sliding through the snow. Before you arrive at the Palandöken ski resort, you pass the little neighborhood Palandöken. From a distance, it looks like a fairytale village. On top of a little hill, you can see the houses with their flat roofs. On top of those roofs, the villagers put huge conic piles of hay. Approaching the village, I noticed there is no tar road in the village, the streets are quiet muddy. A little boy was sliding down a little hill with a broken skateboard. Instead of fancy snow boots, he wore his normal shoes and used some ropes to attach himself to the board.
A man with a wheelbarrow filled with manure passed me. The man was not used to people, especially foreigners, visiting his village. I greeted him and asked if this manure was going to be used as fuel to heat the house and to cook with or as fertilizer for the land. He waved his arm over the landscape and told me this was to be used on the land. Then he pointed out an enormous pile of flat pancakes like poo. That there is our fuel… I wondered if the man knows how to ski, but he doesn’t. He tells me 6 men from this village found work up at the ski resort. Someone bought all the land here in front of the village. We agreed we could use it until he uses the land. But years have passed by and we are still using ‘our’ land. We never see the owner. Most of the young guys in this village have left. No work or future for them there, at least, that is what they think.
Looking around the picturesque village, I hoped tourism in this area was going to increase, but at the same time, that it will not touch and therefore change a little village like Konaklı. It is a cute village. An old man tried to get his chickens into the barn, but every time the chickens managed to escape. “Selam Alekum,” I said, but he did not reply. Instead, he performed another chasing move and managed to catch one chicken. When a shepherd passed with his cows, the old man complained about me. I overheard part of it:
“This foreigner is walking around and taking pictures. What does he want I wonder? This is just an old little village. I do not understand those foreigners, they are strange…” The shepherd passed me and apologized for Hacı (a person who went to Mecca for pilgrimage). “He is always like this, do not worry. We’re a small village and not used to visitors. There are just around 25 houses in this village. Tourists that visit Konaklı always go straight to the top for skiing. During summertime our animals graze the alpine meadows and during wintertime we have the tourists who enjoy themselves there.”
Konaklı ski center
About two kilometers further away is the Konaklı ski center. It was not busy at all; all I saw were some members of the national ski team who were training here and a couple of foreign tourists. Most of the tourists who visit Erzurum during wintertime stay in one of the many five-star hotels at Palandöken. If you want to go to Konaklı, you either need your own transport or you have to rent a taxi. This is one of the biggest problems at the moment in Konaklı: transport. Besides that it would make a huge difference if there would be accommodation so the tourists do not have to travel that “far.” But besides those “negative” points there are also positive points.
I liked the lack of tourists; no full ski slopes where you have to be careful not to be swept off your feet by someone who recently learned skiing, but still does not know where the steering wheel is. Empty slopes; no people in a line waiting for the ski lift. You arrive, get in the lift and go up the mountain. Some 10 minutes later you can start with the descent. At the moment, they are working on opening up another ski slope. If that one is ready people can enjoy skiing until June. But all they want at the moment are visitors.
When I got out of my car I was almost blown off my feet. There is a very strong and cold wind. It feels as if it is -15, the cold wind goes through all my clothes and slowly my toes and fingers became numb. I entered the ski lift and enjoy the view. Connecting the different ski resorts would be a very clever thing to do. This would become Turkey’s biggest ski center and maybe, one day, Turkey might enjoy the winter Olympics. They already have a lot of things that would make Erzurum suitable for the winter Olympics; two big ski ramps, covered stadiums for ice hockey, figure skating and curling. The only thing they do not have is a slope for bobsleighing. The cableway brought me 400 meters higher up the mountain and during the trip I was freezing. But once I arrived at the top and started walking around, the cold is gone. I really enjoy the view; it is spectacular. Wherever I look, I see mountains covered with snow. Beautiful clouds together with the sun make this a real blue and white dream world.
Just once in my life I have been skiing, it was in Kartalkaya and I really liked it. But here, in Erzurum, the urge to ski is almost unbearable. There are so many different kinds of ski slopes; from really easy ones, to the most difficult ski slopes. I promised myself to come back to Konaklı and enjoy skiing and the view it one more time.