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A Winter Wonderland Two Hours from the Capital of Georgia

Check out this top destination to have a blast on your winter trip to Georgia, where you can escape expensive European winter resorts while having an exciting cultural experience.

Snowy mountains and roads with few small buildings

by Alessandro Ramazzotti

15 de sept de 2023

It’s 7 AM. It’s cold. The city is still asleep, but I am already out in the street, walking towards the Marjanishvili metro station. Is it really worth it? Why couldn’t I sleep longer and just enjoy the warm coziness of the house?

No! I know that the day will be a blast! A kick of adrenaline which will boost my energy for the entire next week!

Zavidet! (”Let’s go!” in Georgian.)

How to reach Gudauri and back

The tired early-morning workers look at me – equipped with a snowboard, wool hat, and technical boots – with interest, but my headphones protect me from unnecessary and unwanted talks. After all, I am still very sleepy as I didn’t even have time for a coffee before leaving the house.

At about 7.40 AM I reach Didube, from where the marshrutka to Gudauri leaves (cost: 10 GEL).

Unless you are up to pay additional money, ignore all the taxi drivers who will shout to offer you a ride. Walk straight, but keep to the right. You will need to pass the stalls selling the most random things and reach the small road on the other side. Ignore the second wave of taxi drivers, cross the road, and enter the small passage that leads to the second parking spot of the bus station.

Once there, you will just need to ask the friendly marshrutka drivers where to find the one to Gudauri (it usually stands in the right corner when you face the line of parked minibuses).

Although they leave every hour, I suggest trying to catch the one at 8 AM. If you do, you will arrive at Gudauri at about 10, when the resort opens: you will not lose even one minute of your day of shredding.

The resort closes at 5 PM, right on time to get the last marshrutka to Tbilisi, which leaves from the same spot where they left you. Try to be there a bit before 5 though, to avoid being left behind. By 7 in the evening, you will be back in Tbilisi.

Snowy ski station with small huts and chairs and umbrellas outside

Morning at Gudauri ski resort Photo by Vruyr Martirosyan

Snow, sun, and adrenaline

With headphones in my ears, I enjoy the rising sun and the careless, scary ride in the minibus. Soon after we pass Mtskheta, we turn right towards the mountains. We cross Pasanauri, and start going up. The snowy peaks and slopes on my left are wonderful! I start dreaming about the fun to come: snow, sun, adrenaline… What else could you wish for?!

Gudauri is a tourist hub in the South Caucasus range, not far from the border between Georgia and Russia. Throughout the year, both Georgians and foreigners gather among these peaks to have a breath of fresh air and enjoy the fabulous landscapes of the Kazbegi National Park.

Even though it is merely 120 kms away from Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, this high-mountain destination really makes you feel in close contact with nature. Moreover, if you want to combine sports and cultural visits, after a stop in Gudauri you can move on to Stepantsminda, one of Georgia’s most popular destinations.

What to expect and where to stay

For those interested in the resort activities, New Gudauri offers plenty of accommodation options just next to the ski slopes. The whole town, as the name suggests, has been newly built in the last years to develop the place and provide services to the increasing flocks of tourists.

Among the big apartment blocks of New Gudauri, you can easily find shops, bars, and restaurants. During the weekends, the town gets even more crowded, and bars often organize events to entertain the youngsters looking for fun after a day of skiing.

White Shino Hostel is a recommended, budget-friendly stay. If you search for more nightlife, it is better to search for some accommodation in the center instead. If you don’t have budget issues, or if you travel with a group of friends, then you can also consider renting a small apartment in the blocks.

A hand holding a mug in front of a bus window looking out on a snowy slope

A warm cup of gluehwein (mulled wine) at the highest pass of the resort Photo by Alessandro Ramazzotti

What to do

Once the marshrutka drops me off at New Gudauri (the last stop), I start walking up towards the first chairlift. It is just 5 minutes away, and the more I get closer to it, the more I feel excited. It is 10.10 and I am about to enjoy a day of good snowboarding on the slopes of Georgia, for a much lower price than I would pay in my home country (cost for one day: 50 GEL, ca. 17 EUR).

The ski slopes are wide and well-built. Given the absence of trees, there are infinite options for free-riding too (of course, with the necessary attention!).

White Rabbit Park – the snowpark of the resort – is always a lot of fun and the vibe there is just great! Their white domes have a cozy environment, where you can even play ping-pong between a ride and the next.

For a nice coffee break, reach the restaurant at the top of the resort, from where you can enjoy a magnificent view of the mountains on both sides of the pass. You shouldn’t miss it!

When it is about 4.30 PM, I decide to have a beer before the last ride of the day. It is needed: the hot sun baked my head, even though I was wearing a helmet.

Then I finally reach the bottom of the resort and unlace my snowboard. I look back at the slopes and say goodbye to Gudauri; it was definitely worth it to wake up early in the morning.

Last tips and… Drop in!

If you want to save some money, I recommend you to rent the skiing or snowboarding gear in Tbilisi at FreeStyler. It costs about half of what you would pay in Gudauri, and it has the additional benefit that once you arrive you are ready to go and hit the slopes!

If you are into paragliding, Gudauri offers that too. Check FlyCaucasus for more information. Even though I didn’t try it myself and cannot provide a first-hand account of the experience, I can bet it’s just great to fly above the snowy Caucasus range and see the people below as smoothly-moving dark dots on the white snow.

Even though Georgia is not well-known as a place for winter sports lovers (at least not as it is for its wine tradition), it is definitely worth the visit. Gudauri – as well as other resorts in the country – are affordable, set in mind-blowing locations, and comparable to the best European resorts in terms of service.

Zavidet, it’s time to drop in!

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