Iranian Culture - Skiing in Iran
Olivia He introduces Skiing in Iran
History of Skiing in Iran
In regions of the world with regular, annual snowfall and before the existence of plows and streets, people had to come up with a method to easily walk and get around on the snow.
Modern skiing, or skiing as we currently know it, came to Iran around the year 1930, roughly 85 years after the first modern ski competitions took place in the world.
Two groups of individuals helped introduce modern skiing; first it was the Germans who arrived in Iran to build the national railroads. Seeing how the Alborz range filled with snow, the Germans brought their own skis and spent winters touring Iran and skiing.
Then, it was Iranian students who learned the sport as they were studying abroad, usually in France or Switzerland. One of the most prominent students was Dr. Abdollah Basir who went abroad to France in 1929. While abroad, not only did he learn how to ski but he also learned how to make skis.
Upon his return home in 1938, Basir instructed carpenters in Tehran in the art of ski production. Ski equipment was also developing in other parts of the world at this time thanks to technology, and quickly foreign manufactured skis surpassed domestically produced skis. In 1947, the Iranian Olympic Federation was established alongside the Iranian Ski Federation.
Iran's first ski trails were located in the Telo hills, also referred to as Lashkarak. Beginning around 1939 Lashkarak became the prime ski destination for everyone from those in Iranian sports clubs to American soldiers. The year 1951 saw the installation of Iran's first ski lifts. Two years earlier, ski trails at Ab Ali were also established. These trails were initially used in late winter because road conditions to the slope were so treacherous during early winter.
As the Telo hills saw an increasing shortage of snow, the Ab Ali trails saw an increase in popularity and soon became Iran's main ski resort. While the Ab Ali ski trails were superior to the Lashkarak ski trails both in size and in the length of the ski season, these two qualities were not enough for all skiers. Most of Iran's young ski fanatics turned their attention to Shemshak and Dizin. Some of the steepest slopes can be found at the ski trails in Shemshak, which in turn quickly became a favorite locale for advanced and expert skiers, while the ski trails at Dizin were more suited for basic and intermediate skiers.
Skiing Today in Iran
Situated in the Alborz mountain range near the peak of Damavand (a giant dormant volcano 5,600 meters high), the Dizin ski resort is Iran's highest in altitude. Coming in at 3,550 meters (almost 14,000 feet) and getting around seven meters of snow a year Dizin is currently the largest ski resort in the Middle East.
Located in the northern mountains of Tehran in the Gajereh region, Dizin is approximately 115 kilometers (1.5 hours) away from Tehran and roughly 71 kilometers from Shemshak. Dizin's geographical location offers the longest ski season in Iran, lasting from the beginning of November through late May, while its size offers skiers a plethora of ski trails. There are difficult patches with moguls and little hills for jumping, as well as a straight steep slope jumping and a beginners trail from which one can watch other skiers perfect their acrobatic skills.
Shemshak is located 57 kilometers (45 minutes) northeast of Tehran. The ski season here is slightly more variable and typically ranges from the end of November through the beginning of April. One will find Iran's best skiers on these pistes, as Shemshak is the host to the nation's hardest and the steepest slopes. While this is not a place for the timid, Shemshak continually draws many tourists, both foreign and domestic, because of its varying weather and proximity to Tehran. During the winter, the ski trails are lit with amber lights providing an interesting and beautiful scene that gives skiers the freedom to ski well into the night.
Often referred to as the birthplace of modern skiing in Iran, Ab Ali is also home to Iran's first mechanical ski lift (installed in 1953). Located 75 kilometers (1 hour) east of Tehran and with a relatively short ski season, ranging from the end of December through the end of March, Ab Ali is no longer known solely for its slopes. Thermal spring water (high in calcium bicarbonate) is bottled and shipped all around Iran and the Imam-Zade Hashem Holy Shrine, among other tourist attractions, help to distinguish this region from Iran's other ski areas.
Darbandsar is the most recent ski area to open (1982) in Iran and is situated 60 kilometers (1 hour) northeast of Tehran. The Darbandsar ski season begins in early December and extends through the end of April. This ski area is renowned both for its unique and picturesque landscape as well as for its varied climate and is most suitable for beginner and intermediate skiers.
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Images © Camille-Helene Lemouchoux