While summer in Georgia is rife with Black Sea beach trips, dinners in luscious vineyards, and excursions into the wilds of mountainous Tusheti, winter has its own allure. As the warm season begins to close and many begin to make plans for the cooler months, Georgian skiing is often the first topic discussed. With its expansive slopes and international notoriety, the country has become a hot destination for cold-weather trips.
Bakuriani is a prime wintering destination. A small town, it is nestled in the Trialeti mountains 183 kilometers (114.3 miles) from the capital Tbilisi, with regular taxis and minibus services bringing visitors from A to B and back. The journey through the low mountains, particularly when dressed in their seasonal layers of snow cover, is a delight. For those in no rush, there are several small towns, shops, and the famous Borjomi facility that all allow for a pleasant rest stop.
In addition to the various sights along the way, the road is home to one of Georgia’s most popular culinary attractions. Nazuki is a sweet homemade bread with cinnamon, clove, and raisins that local vendors sell on the roadside, particularly in the west of the country. Ideally eaten when fresh out of the “tone” oven, it makes a delicious belly-warming snack while meandering through the mountains in the snow and increasingly cold weather.
Arriving at the village of Bakuriani, accommodation ranges from the humble guest house to the luxurious resort hotel. This village survives largely off the supreme skiing scene that thrives there. Even some of Europe’s biggest skiing and extreme winter sports events take place at this small alpine-style community.
The village is quaint in size compared to other European mountain resort towns. However, it has a comfortable selection of restaurants, corner stores, and locals renting hiking gear, off-road vehicles, and snowmobiles at reasonable rates. Warm and inviting cafes, traditional Georgian fare, and elevated European dining provide a well-rounded culinary scene for you when you’re not on the pristine white slopes.
One particularly advantageous feature of Bakuriani is its diverse attraction for a wide range of skiing skill levels. For the more advanced skier, there is a large slope down a nearby mountain that is a lively challenge with amazing views of the surrounding peaks. For the novice or first timer, there are smaller and more modest slopes that are perfect for learning.
Warm cafes and delicious cuisine, slopes for all ages and skill levels, and a vast expanse of immaculate nature to be explored
Those who don’t have their own ski or snowboard equipment also have a selection of shops where, for a small fee, you can equip yourself with the appropriate gear. Helpful locals not only assist in kitting new skiers with the perfect fitting equipment, they also offer lessons and tutorials. Experienced trainers help remove the fear many might otherwise face when barking on this new hobby.
In my experience, the learning curve was made easier due to the immensely knowledgeable staff, who ensured I knew every basic aspect of steering, recovering, and riding down the mountain. Albeit not a significant grade and more for beginners, it was exhilarating to slowly be introduced to the sport. While I did indeed find myself embedded in the snow on the first ride, the subsequent rides down were liberating to say the least, leaving me feeling as if I had mastered the sport by the first day’s end.
The morning of my next day was the ultimate test. With no trainer, I engaged the slope with my boots and skis, bolstered with my confidence. After a false start trying to help a tumbling snowboarder, I regained my poise and graciously glided down, repeating the feat to my amazement. Mastering the art of my posture, turning, and managing my speed, I felt I had really made an achievement.
For those not inclined to cruise down the slopes of the local heights, the hiking in the area offers trails that meet any skill level. Many of the well-marked trails lead to scenic overlooks and suitable camping areas. To compliment this, locals also offer horse riding should the terrain prove to be too much in the dead of winter.
Regardless of your personal preference in leisure activity, Bakuriani offers something for everyone seeking a winter getaway. Warm cafes and delicious cuisine for the homebody, slopes for all ages and skill levels, and a vast expanse of immaculate nature to be explored makes the mountain village an attractive destination. If wintering in the Georgian highlands is at the top of one’s list this season, Bakuriani deserves a due visit.