Skiing in Iran: Tochal & Dizin – January 2014

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Editor’s Note: Given that I’m not skiing OS this year due to a house renovation, I thought it would be a good idea to reach out to members of the aussieskier Social Media community to tell us about some of the places they go to that are off the beaten track. Natasha Pase, aka ‘skisplease’ is a prolific contributor to our community, so when I saw that she was skiing in Iran I asked if she would write up a story about her experience, and she gladly accepted:

It started off 2 days before my final exam when we thought that chucking a sickie to go for a ski was a good idea. Skiing is always a good idea. As we had only one day to spare, Roza and I decided to head up to Tochal, around a 1 hour drive from the centre of Tehran. On a good day one should be able to see the whole city from Tochal’s top station but due to Tehran’s chronic pollution we were not so fortunate. The beautiful bluebird skies of Tochal certainly made for a welcome change. Tochal is Tehran’s closest ski resort and is reachable by a gondola lift which stops at 4 stations along the way. The top station sits at 3740m so there is no tree skiing here, just beautiful, toothpaste-coloured slopes. Unfortunately on the day we chose to go only one chairlift was open but after 4 months of no skiing, who was complaining?! We were greeted with a stunning bluebird day which was also windy as hell.

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We had packed powder conditions all day and had the entire slope (the only one open) to ourselves as we went on a weekday. Weekday skiing in Iran is practically deserted however weekends (Thursdays and Fridays) are a different issue entirely. Waiting times for lifts are endless – it is best to either take the weekends as rest days or to use the lifts as little as possible and get some human-powered turns. Fridays are the worst.

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As you can see, Tochal’s lifts are entirely above the tree line and the resort is very picturesque. The red-roofed building you can see is a canteen which is attached to the Tochal Hotel, a fairly swanky-looking hotel by Iranian standards. As the piste was practically deserted it was perfect to make some long, wide turns and cruise around which is just what I needed to get my ski legs back after a few snowless months. No lift lines, no ski school snakes and no crazies. The lifts here close around 2pm which gives ample time to take the long gondola ride down to the car park. This was unfortunately number 1 of only 4 days I managed to get this season as I was utterly exhausted from uni every weekday.

Days numbers 2-4 were spent at Dizin, which is around 2.5 hours drive from the centre of Tehran. The drive is spectacular though is sometimes reached with some difficulty – if you are staying at a hotel this makes things easier as reception is easily able to call a cab which will take you all the way from your hotel to the hotel doorstep in Dizin. Things were a little bit difficult for me as the taxi agency near my apartment were not exactly eager to take me up but with some patience and perseverance I managed to find a taxi who gladly drove me all the way. Lift tickets at Dizin are 550000 IRR which at the time was approximately $20. Beats Buller any day. Tochal’s lift tickets are even cheaper at approximately $15 AUD. My first day at Dizin for season 2014 was wonderful with perfect bluebird conditions and barely any wind however the snow cover was definitely less than the same time last year.

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Dizin locals, like all Iranians, are terribly friendly people and will go out of their way to make sure you feel at home and are skiing comfortably. This typically includes offers of lunch, snacks, free ski lessons, a ride back to Tehran, a guide, a ski buddy for the day and often a ski buddy for life. Dizin’s highest lifted point is 3600m and like all of Iran’s major resorts is well above the tree line. It boasts, in total, 15 lifts consisting of two gondola lifts, pomas, t-bars and some fantastic antique-looking chairlifts.

The snow on day one was much like Tochal – packed powder but with a couple of stashes in some of the valleys and hard-packed, icy groomers where the FIS races occur. Around the top of the highest chairlift, a 2-seater, is a ridge which takes you to the top of one of the valleys and powder which is easily accessible by a short hike. It is entirely possible to do some backcountry runs around Dizin and skin out. Despite not having snowed for some time there was still enough powder to keep me very happy. It was also wonderful to look at the creativity of other people’s lines and where they have traveled.

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Day 3’s conditions were again very similar to that of day 2 however the wind picked up a little more in the afternoon and things got a little warmer – I was fine in thermals and a softshell which is fairly unusual for Dizin. Being a Wednesday (last day before the weekend) a few more people had arrived the night before however the slopes were still almost empty which was absolutely fantastic. I felt a little silly riding around in my Volkl park skis with an 83mm waist when everyone else had either carving skis or fat powder skis depending on what they decided to ski for the day. Dizin’s terrain park was just set up a few days ago so unfortunately I never got to test it! Due to Dizin’s geography though one can see the entire mountain range as their own personal park as there are tonnes of valleys, natural kickers and even a natural halfpipe all within lifted terrain. Get creative!

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In the middle of the photo below you should be able to see Mt Damavand which is the highest volcano in Asia. It is not entirely certain whether it is active or not, so watch out. On a day when Tehran’s pollution is not so bad it usually looks much clearer from Dizin and is reminiscent of Japan’s Mt Fuji. Mt Damavand holds a special place in the heart of Persian history and even features on Iranian banknotes. Mountain climbing is very popular in Iran and one can find a guide if you fancy attempting to tackle Damavand.

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My last day skiing was a Thursday, the first day of the weekend and a little more crowded but still wonderful. It had become overcast overnight and I was hoping for some fresh snow but unfortunately it was not delivered. I decided to strap on my snowboard for the whole day and take in as much of the mountain as possible. Rode some nice, firm groomers in the morning around the main run area, felt great to get some speed and cruise around. In the afternoon the eastern lifts started to get fairly crowded so I headed in the opposite direction and found some powder stashes in some of the valleys up the top. One should just make sure they gather enough speed for the run-out, as I discovered the hard way!

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Dizin is beginning to feel like home to me and it’s such a shame I had to leave early with only 4 days of riding. Hopefully the snow cover will be better next season with some classic Persian pow as the main feature – I am very hopeful.

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