Gudauri – ski resort in located near the Big Caucasian Ridge. It has southern exposure and is surrounded by a chain of mountains that protects it against strong winds. It certainly provides a very favorable conditions for skiing and snowboarding.
In recent years freeride in Gudauri is developing rapidly – opening up new spots, exploring new lines of descents. For safety reasons local guides are to work a lot on the systematization of the knowledge that had been prepared over many seasons.
In this article we want to introduce riders, who ski for the first time in Gudauri, and as well to those who seek to raise the level of security with features skiing off-piste in the resort of Gudauri and around.
The table below shows the opportunities for off-piste skiing in the resort and directly near it.
Freeride in Gudauri and the surrounding area
|Difficulty*||Title||Total time||Estimated time of ascent||Distance from resort||Transfer before lifting||Return transfer||Vertical drop of descent||Additional equipment **|
|I||Chrdili||1 hour||20 min||0 km||No||No||300 m||No|
|II||Lomisi||8 hours||2-3 hours||15 km||Yes||Yes||800-900 m||No|
|II||Kobi||4 hours||10-30 min||0 km||No||Yes||800-900 m||No|
|II||Bidara||4 hours||30 min||0 km||No||Yes||800-900 m||No|
|III||Miketi||8 hours||3-5 hours||16 km||Yes||Yes||1000-1200 m||No|
|III||Tsiteli Range||8 часов||3-5 hours||27 km||Yes||Yes||1000-1300 m||No|
|III||Dedaena||8 hours||3 hours or more||10 km||Yes||Yes||900-1100 m||No|
|III||Narvani||4-5 hours||1 hour||2 km||No||Yes||1100-1300 m||No|
|III||Khorisar||8-10 hours||4 hours or more||20 km||Yes||Yes||1300-1800 m||No|
|III||Kazbek light||8 hours||3 hours or more||35 km||Yes||Yes||1000-1300 m||No|
|IV||Kazbek pro||3 days or more||2-3 days||35 km||Yes||Yes||Up to 3500 m||Yes|
|IV||Mepiskalo||2 days or more||5-7 hours||19 km||Yes||Yes||Up to 1700|
|IV||Chaukhi||3 days or more||5-6 hours to the base camp||40 km||Yes||Yes||1000-1500|
|IV||Sherkhota||2 дня и более||6-8 hours to the base camp||19 km||Yes||Yes||600-2000|
|III||Khorisar||2 days or more||4 hours or more||20 km||Yes||Yes||1300-1800|
* For more information on levels of difficulty for the freeride routes can be found in the relevant section of our website.
** Under the additional equipment it is meant the equipment needed for the organization of the base camp and overnight stays in it.
Below in the article will be said about Gudauri and most surrounding areas as the most easily accessible off-piste possibilities.
The zones for Freeride in Gudauri
Gudauri is a resort with large height differences, varied terrain and good snow, which certainly attracts the lovers of freeriding. Off-piste skiing is possible directly in the resort of Gudauri, using ski lifts. This saves power, but also attracts those people who just want to try themselves in this direction. Lets take a look at main freeride zones on each of the ski lifts.
The second chairlift and cabin lift
The second chairlift and cabin lift provide an infinite number of options to descent from the right side, left side and right below the cable lif. The area is bounded by mountains Chrdili and Bidara. Moving away from the cabin lift to the west, you can see the couloir that leads outside the resort zone to the Georgian Military Road. If you go further west by crossing the entrance to the couloir, it is possible to descent from the “shoulder of Bidara” (to return to the resort you need a car). If you leave the east to the second chairlift, it is possible to go down to the slopes of Mount Chrdili where you can ski of a gently sloping fields to the bottom of the cabin lift.
mount Kudebi (3rd chairlift)
Mountain Kudebi (third chairlift) offers the opportunity to ski on almost 360 degrees. Excellent slopes occur on either side of the chairlift towers. If we start down the sloping track to the north and then turn to the west, it is possible to descent on steep short couloirs. A bit of hiking to the cross on the top of the mountain and begin the descent towards Sadzele 2 (north), the you can try to go down to the “Kudebi back”, but the descent is short and to return to the track you are to traverse left.
mount Sadzele (5th cairlift)
Mountain Sadzele is visiting card of Gudauri resort, Great skiing with various sections 30-35 degrees steep, rocky couloirs and difficult areas. The descents are available in any side. The eastern slope – good steep sections of fields, right in the center (southern slope) are more gentle slopes with steep sections at the bottom. On the western exposure you can ski a network of couloirs with a slope around 30 degrees and rocky outcrops. If you move away from the cable car to the side of Sadzele main peak, there are huge snowfields which lead you back to the bottom of the chairlift.
This is only part of skiing options available directly at the resort. If you leave Gudauri, the number and variety of options for skiing off-piste is increased in dozens of times and the risks are increasing as well. Some variants are available after a 20-minute hiking, while others require a longer approach and special equipment.
It is important not to forget that the freeriding from the mountains Sadzele and Kudebi – is riding on potential avalanche areas, it requires appropriate techniques of skiing and the knowledge of avalanche safety.
The avalanche conditions
Gudauri is often associated with an ideal place for freeriding. Indeed there are many different areas to ski, and in comparison with many regions of of the Great Caucasus, there is indeed smaller amount of avalanches. However, they are, and you should not neglect it in any case. There are some laws that need to be kept in mind, going on freeride in Gudauri.
In the beginning with we shall understand a time of formation of snow cover. First snowfalls in Gudauri starts in October, but the snow delays only on the northern exposures at altitudes of 2800m and above. Time between the snowfalls in this period is dominated by the warm weather, which heats the first fallen snow. Gradually the snow line descends to the level of 2800m-2500m, and in November begins to form snow on the mountains Sadzele and Kudebi. Usually arrives 2-3 snowfalls in November . Closer to January night temperatures already below freezing point at altitude about 2000m. Here comes a series of cyclones that form the substrate of snow at the resort. Even at the level of packed snow 50 cm it is possible to ski at resort. Plateau Gudauri is grassy slopes with little stones (and the higher you go the rocks become larger!). Mountains Sadzele and Kudebi consist mainly of stones and destroyed rocks. This factor should be taken into the mind when freeriding the resort, particularly early in the season, as the number of stones under the fresh snow can not only damage the equipment, but cause the injuries. From the standpoint of avalanche safety, stone substrate promotes better adhesion between the surface and the snow. At first snow levels stone surface, clinging to the irregularities, and only a few snowfalls later snow creates a stable substrate suitable for skiing.
Gudauri resort is considered to be relatively low avalanche danger. The winter in the resort is quite mild, more detail can be found in our article about weather in Gudauri. One of the features of this region is the absence of a strong wind that keeps fresh snow and neutralizes the formation of block (slab) of snow, so dangerous in many other parts of the Caucasus. Resort of Gudauri is a unique place. The front passing through Georgia is often delayed here bringing precipitation. If we consider the peculiarities the mountains, it is worth to note the difference in wind speed between the main part of the resort and mountain Sadzele. This mountain (especially its upper part) is within the powerful amplification of the wind flow. Even when all other slopes of Gudauri are complete calm, here (in particular due to the high altitude) wind is blowing tight. This feature is necessary to consider when forecasting avalanche danger exactly on this mountain.
Almost all avalanches coming down at the resort, are formed in the same avalanche cores. First of all let’s look at the main lines where is an increased avalanche danger. This statistical data. The review covers only a part of data which relates directly to the resort.
On the mountain Kudebi there are three main potential avalanche zone.
The first zone – the south-eastern part of the mountain, the cup from the cross to unexpressed comb. Tear line runs 20-30 meters below the site at the summit. This area is marked with a special sign of avalanche danger, but most riders ignores it, undercutting by traverse the unstable section. There avalanches are not regular, sometimes waiting for an entire season. However, the descent an avalanche falls into a narrow couloir with stone dumps overlooking the Hada Canyon.
The second zone – a western exposure of the mountain with a network of small couloirs with stones on the walls, facing the top of the fourth chairlift. The tear line runs directly on top of the couloirs from the stones.
We should also mention the area, which runs slightly below the traverse track. After a snowfall, this area is also unstable, but it usually descends before the chairlift starts going up to Mt.Kudebi.
The third zone, the so-called “Kudebi back” – is northern exposure of the mountain. It is sufficiently large cup with rocky sides, limiting this location. The tear line begins from the zone of inflection and from the stones.
The relief of this mountain is more varied and extensive compared to Mt.Kudebi. The main cores of avalanches cover most of the mountain.The average slope angle and wind make this mountain most avalanche dangerous at the resort by itself.
On the eastern exposure: almost the entire wall from the upper chairlift station to the saddle. Network of unexpressed couloirs with a tear line from almost the summit ridge.
In the south-east: cup with a tear line in the zone of inflection, passing just below the traverse track.
In southern exposure: hazards are couloirs between the rocky outcrops.
West exposition – one of the most unstable on the mountain. The terrain here is more varied: a large number of rocky outcrops. Six couloirs with an stress area from almost the ridge descend avalanches almost every winter. A little lower, around 6-7 chairlift towers passes the second stress zone.
Southwest exposure – area about 6 chairlift tower, is unexpressed cup, passing slightly to the west of chairlift.
This part of the mountain many riders traverse for further rollout to the bottom of the chairlift, thereby undercutting the steep slope and causing possible avalanches.
Also it worth to note Chrdili mountain, which is in close proximity to the resort. In recent years it was a popular freeride route available from the ski lifts. Western exposure accumulates and holds the snow from the beginning of the season, and the grassy slopes enables riding even after the first snowfall. However, there are avalanche cores, which should not be forgotten. They are scattered at the upper part of mountain in the areas where relief bends. A small avalanches on the mountain descend several times per season. In 2012, the case was recorded when the avalanche came down almost the entire western exposure of Mt.Chrdili.
The other side Chrdili is an extremely dangerous area. Avalanches occur regularly. Transit zone – mostly narrow rock couloirs, narrowing at the bottom. All the “slopes” lead in the Hada Canyon, which is cut off from civilization for more than 10 kilometers of impassability.
From descent places lets go to the reasons. Fresh snow, strong winds, or crossing over ± 0 ° C creates additional danger in these areas. Especially when a rider appears in such areas. Mechanisms of avalanches are identical in all the mountains of Gudauri area and does not have any significant differences, except for local features described above.
This article is exploratory in nature. Our aim is to demonstrate the potentially dangerous areas within the resort Gudauri and to improve the safety of off-piste skiing. We remind to all riders that ride at avalanche areas should be with an obligatory use of avalanche equipment and an experienced Freeride guide.
If you have interesting and useful additions to this article – we welcome your comments!
We wish you all a beautiful, memorable, and – most importantly – safe descent!