The Affordable European Ski Destination You Should Have on Your Radar

A beautiful country on the cusp of Asia and Europe, Georgia is a perfect ski destination for beginners — here's why.

A ski lift on a snowy mountain at sunrise in Georgia

Courtesy of Georgia Tourism

When you didn’t grow up learning how to ski, getting into the sport can come at a price. Even if you have friends willing to lend you some snow pants and gloves to complete your mountain fit, there are still lessons, rentals, and short-term ski passes to consider.

As a bonafide beginner on a budget with infrequent access to the snowy slopes, hitting up posh ski destinations first seems like a pricey mistake. Crowded slopes can also be discouraging, especially if there are advanced speed demons constantly whizzing past you. With only a few ski days under my belt, I knew I’d need some time to get the feel of it again and was wary about the mounting costs of this admittedly bulky hobby that's not very well-suited to my nomadic anti-checking-luggage lifestyle. So, when the opportunity presented itself to strap into a pair of skis during a trip to the Eastern European country of Georgia, I was pleased to discover I was traveling through a country with some of the cheapest ski passes in Europe. 

Bakuriani Bunny

People skiing on a light skiing track in Bakuriani

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On a Thursday morning in February, the ski lift had just opened and there was no line. Bakuriani is a ski area that sits on the 1,700-meter-high northern Caucasus mountain slope. I tapped my card and the lift scooped me up to the first station, where I cautiously trudged to the slope, trying to remember how I did it last time. I assumed the pizza shape and descended, very slowly, on a freshly groomed hill.

Staying at a modern ski-in ski-out resort, it didn’t take me long to get ready either. The Rooms Hotel Kokhta is a sleek, beautiful property located so close to the lift, I could connect to the Wi-Fi and video call my more ski-savvy friends to show off the views. I went up and down a few times, building my confidence without ever feeling crowded or rushed. 

For a luxury hotel within spitting distance of the slopes, the rooms are surprisingly affordable, starting at $150 per night. For those who stay longer, a seven-day ski pass is just 312 GEL (about $117 USD) for an adult and 156 GEL (about $59 USD) for a child. The hotel doesn’t offer skis, but you can rent some equipment at Bakuriani Intersport for 30 GEL (about $11 USD) per day and store it in the depot for the duration of your trip. Whether you’re learning to ski at age three or 33, a trip to Georgia poses a unique opportunity to get in your hours on the mountain with one of the most affordable tickets and some of the best après-ski meals you can imagine. 

With spacious slopes and even challenges to please the more experienced skiers in your travel group, this historically fascinating and culturally rich country is worth exploring — whether it be on the mountain, in the vineyards, or around the dinner table while digging into a steaming hot and cheesy khachapuri

Where to Ski in Georgia

Nigh view of mountains and resort at Gudauri in Georgia

Courtesy of Georgia Tourism

In Georgia, the opportunities to ski in majestic mountains are the cherry on top of a destination filled with unique cultural experiences, incredible food, and unrivaled hospitality. 

As the 2023 host of the Snowboard, Freestyle, and Freeski World Championships, Georgia has built up its ski infrastructure over the past few years, elevating its two main resorts — Bakuriani and Gudauri — to international standards. While the affordability of traveling and skiing in Georgia is attractive to newbies, more experienced skiers will also appreciate that resorts like Bakuriani are split into three areas of varying difficulty with more than six miles of intermediate- to expert-level pistes. With the Caucasus Mountains running its course from the Black to the Caspian Sea, Bakuriani is far from being the only ski area this large and mountainous country has to offer.

Two hours north of Tbilisi, Gudauri is a favorite for freestyle skiers, but bigger adventures can be found in Svaneti. This region has been recognized by UNESCO as being home to one of Europe’s highest continuously inhabited settlements, Ushguli. From the town of Mestia, skiers can enjoy the slopes at either Hatsvali or Tetnuldi ski resorts, or take to the skies for a dream day of heli-skiing.

Getting There

This Eastern European country has been on the rise, with more and more visitors arriving to experience its rich history and delectable supras — feast-sized spreads of classic Georgian dishes. For a trip to Gudauri or Bakuriani, plan to arrive in the capital and make the two- to three-hour drive from Tbilisi, repsectively. Or, if you prefer to go straight to Mestia, fly into Kutaisi, Georgia’s second-largest city.

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