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Where to Ski: Mestia – Georgia‘s Rising Ski Mecca

Mestia town and ski resorts
Photo taken by georgiaabout.  Mestia town and ski resorts

Mestia – the capital of Svanetia Region – is yet another paradise for mountain lovers, and home to the country’s highest mountain Shara (5201 m). The local ski resort Khatsvali, located 7 km from the centre of Mestia, has been open for five years. Another resort, called Tetnuldi, will be opened near Mestia at the end of 2015. This remote and forgotten region of Georgia is slowly becoming a true skier’s mecca.

Svanetia is an alpine territory in Central Caucasus, situated on the southern part of its sierra. This region spans the most mountainous areas of the Caucasus Mountain Range. It’s the highest populated territory in all of Europe. According to UNESCO, the famous Ushguli Village near Mestia is the continent’s highest settlement (2,200 m above sea level).

Not long ago, every winter Svanetia used to become a kingdom completely isolated from the rest of the world: impassable roads covered in snow avalanches, and snowbound villages forced to live on supplies accumulated during summer. The situation started to change in 2010, with the construction of the first ski resort – Khatsvali.

Video by Travel On Spot.  

A small airport was opened near Mestia during the same year. It is located in the northern part of the townlet, by the River Mestiachala. Thanks to this new development, reaching Svanetia and the Khatsvali resort became much less difficult.

There’s a good road that goes from central Mestia to the resort. Khatsvali has a café and a ski equipment rental. The winter recreation centre is located in upper Svanetia, 1,500 m above the ground. It’s a new, rapidly-developing ski resort. The climate here is humid, the winters cold, and the summers short. The average temperature in January is 6.5 degrees below zero.

Photo taken by Travel On Spot.  Mestia

Here you’ll find lit ski tracks, brand new Leitner lifts, and several cafés in the lower and upper stations. The resort is supervised by rescuers at all times.

Ski tracks are located 1865-2345 m above the ground, the difference in height being 482 m. Even though Khatsvali had only a handful of tracks during its first season, new ones are being built every year.

Mestia in winter
Photo taken by  Mestia in winter

The advantages of this resort are its affordable prices and lack of queues: the number of guests is limited by the shortage of accommodation and distance to the capital Tbilisi (450 km).

In Khatsvali you can go skiing outside tracks, a perk most appreciated by experienced skiers, as going down fluffy snow-covered slopes outside the boundaries is strictly prohibited in most other European resorts.

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