Ski resorts in provinces across Turkey have been attracting domestic and foreign visitors during winter as the country bids to diversify its struggling tourism industry.
The Palandöken Ski Center in the eastern province of Erzurum continues to be a hot spot for skiing fans following heavy snowfall in the area.
The center has seen over 30 centimeters of snow and has thus attracted many visitors in the new year.
Sway Hotel Deputy Manager Ömer Akça told state-run Anadolu Agency that his hotel is 100 percent full.
Palandöken is one of Turkey’s most easily accessible ski resorts, located approximately 15 kilometers from Erzurum Airport. It is an hour from the capital Ankara by plane and nearly 1.5 hours by plane from Istanbul and İzmir, Akça said.
Palandöken is also notable for having one of the longest natural ski tracks in the world.
“One of the most significant characteristics of Palandöken is that it is Turkey’s only ski resort that guarantees snow. Both with investments and artificial snow system made by the government in 2011 and by the private sector, Palandöken provides a ski and snow guarantee for 120 days from Dec. 1 to March 30,” Akça said.
Palandöken provides an opportunity for night skiing via its world-standard lighting system and many new facilities like ski jumping ramps and shooting ramps for biathlons, he added.
“Most of our hotel guests are from Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir and the Black Sea region. Most of our foreign guests are from Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran but our ski center is largely filled by domestic ski-lovers,” he said.
Also in eastern Turkey, the Sarıkamış resort 50 kilometers from the center of Kars province, features 14 kilometers of slopes and four ski lifts with an elevation of between 2,100 and 2,600 meters.
Kartalya: Close to Ankara and Istanbul
In the northwest, Kartalkaya is another popular ski center in the Köroğlu Mountains in the Black Sea province of Bolu. The resort – located around 45 kilometers from the center of Bolu, 186 kilometers from the capital Ankara and 263 kilometers from Istanbul – is at a 2,200-meter altitude.
The Sarıalan Plateau in the foothills of the resort also charm visitors with its houses and natural beauty. Five hotels with 2,000 beds offered accommodation to a total of 113,489 visitors, including foreigners, visited the ski resort in 2016.
Turkey’s first ski resort, Uludağ in the northwestern province of Bursa, has been attracting winter lovers for the last 50 years.
Uludağ still popular
Uludağ’s hotel area is just 40 kilometers from Bursa city center. Snow remains deep enough to allow for skiing four months of the year at Uludağ, which hosts 17 hotels with a bed capacity of more than 6,000.
Having received more than 70,000 visitors, of whom 5,000 were foreigners, in the winter season of 2016-2017, Uludağ has 20 ski runs ranging between 300 meters and 980 meters.
Holidaymakers can also snowboard and ice-skate at Uludağ, and it is also possible to tour the area on snow bikes.
Mehmet Haluk Beceren, the head of the GÜMTOB, a hotel-owners association based in Bursa, told Anadolu Agency that Uludağ was Turkey’s largest ski resort.
“It is the nearest ski resort to Istanbul and since the Osmangazi Bridge was built the drive from Istanbul to Uludağ is now down to around three hours,” Beceren said.
Mediterranean ski resort
Perhaps surprisingly, the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, already a major destination with its stunning beaches and sunny skies, attracts now attracts winter visitors with its Saklıkent ski resort.
Located 50 kilometers from the center of Antalya, Saklikent has four tracks operating from mid-December to the beginning of April.
The resort sits on the peak Bey Dağları (Bey Mountains) at an altitude of 2,400 meters. During winter last year around 45,000 people skied at the center. It also has a total of 45 villas with a capacity of 250 people.
“Our goal is to reach one million tourists in Saklıkent,” Emin Altıner, president of cooperative housing for Saklıkent, told Anadolu Agency.
“We aim to be the center of winter tourism. It is possible to create more than 30 ski resorts like Saklıkent in the region. Antalya could then become a center of skiing, as it already is in golf,” Altıner said.
Erciyes grows with investments
Erciyes in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri is another fast-developing ski destination.
“The best product we can offer to the tourism market is Mount Erciyes,” Kayseri Mayor Mustafa Çelik told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.
His predecessor, Mehmet Özhaseki, who is now the environment and urban affairs minister, initiated the project to renovate the idyllic ski center into a ski and mountain resort at world standards with an investment worth $200 million.
The lgaz Ski Resort, situated in the Black Sea region of Turkey, some 40 kilometers from the Central Anatolian province of Kastamonu, provides 6 km of slopes and 7 ski lifts, according to skiingturkey.com. The skiing season there runs between December and April.
Kartepe in Kocaeli, neighboring Istanbul, covers 19 kilometers of slopes with four ski lifts and has an elevation of between 1,300 and 1,700 meters.