Skiing and Shashlik Parties in Karakol

I don’t ski.

Yep, I’ve lived in Norway for the last 3.5 years and have never put my feet inside of skis.  I did, however, try snowboarding one time about nine years ago which resulted in what I think was probably a broken tailbone.  I was too embarrassed to go to a doctor so I suffered for about six months after the incident.  Nevertheless, that was the last time I ever attempted any winter sport aside from drinking vodka in Russia or snowmobiling in Wisconsin.

When my Kyrgyz friend, Jyl, suggested that we take a long day trip to Karakol from her home in Cholpon-Ata, I was a little unenthused.  I knew Karakol was a ski town.  I knew it was cold.  And I knew everything in the area involved snow and huge mountains.  I recall asking her what we would do there and she said we can have lunch and take the ski lifts up to the top of the mountain.  I was a little apathetic about spending my day doing such.  But my days in Cholpon-Ata were spent without internet, even without working data on my phone, so this was a semi-welcome escape for a day.

Upon arriving by taxi to Karakol, we grabbed a little lunch, which was basically just ridiculous amounts of ketchup, and headed straight for the mountains.

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After quite the car ride up to the ski resort, we were relieved to wander around a little and buy our lift tickets.

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I quickly realized that Karakol was not filled with Kyrgyz skiing, but rather with Russians on holiday taking advantage of the enormous mountains, cheap prices, and world-class skiing.  The Kyrgyz worked (although there were a few Kyrgyz running around, but I never saw any actually skiing) while the Russians played.  And drank.  Oh yes, the Russians don’t shun the booze just because they are partaking in a sport.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t an immediate fan of what they were doing and I wished I could join in.  Well, I gave in- at least on the drinking part of things.

We got a lift ticket to the top of the mountain and were prepared for a long ride up.

Midway up the mountain, Jyl, was explaining about some movie she saw where people were stuck on a ski lift overnight.  Probably not the right time to tell this to someone who is quite afraid of heights.  I spent my entire trip up the mountain attempting to snap photos of skiers falling on their butts so I wouldn’t be thinking of the most resourceful way to escape pending we were stuck on the contraption overnight.

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Once to the top, I was enamored by the beauty that surrounded me.  You could see Lake Issyk-Kul in the far distance.

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Adventure extremists were doing their thing.

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Once someone heard me speaking English to Jyl, I became an instant celebrity, with several photo requests.  Apparently, these parts were saturated with Russian speakers, not English speakers.  They probably also wanted a picture of someone wearing a ridiculous, unflattering marshmallow jacket as I was.

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The Russians wanted to be part of photos too.

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Despite most people being up at this part of the mountain to ski or snowboard, we had a blast.

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After an hour of standing in once place because I was fearful that I would fall down the mountain, we gathered the courage to head back down.  My legs were frozen solid as I underestimated the weather from my parka down (it was around -25C / -13F that day which was colder than usual, AND we were atop a mountain).  And all I could think about was how hungry I was because eating ketchup for lunch didn’t do it for me.

Fortunately, the Russians do something else well aside from drinking while skiing.  They shashlik well.

Ain’t no party like a shashlik party.

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Halfway down the mountain, one could smell the shashlik.  And a shashlik party isn’t complete without some super loud music.

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A venue packed with Russians drinking, partying, and eating.  Jyl and I had an absolute blast, despite the fact that she doesn’t drink.  I had some hot tea with my beer to make myself look a little less pathetic.  With flasks on the table and paper plates drenched with oily plov, I have concluded that if in the rare event I make it to heaven, this is what a glimpse of what it may look like.

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I’ve had many experiences around the world, but I have to say, that despite nearly losing my limbs to frostbite because I don’t know how to properly dress for cold weather STILL after 3.5 years in Norway, this ranks in the top five.

I still have no desire to ski.

But I do have the desire to party with Russians at a ski resort again.

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Comments (2)

haha this is great!! After my horrible ski spill recently, I can barely look at those pictures without shuddering. But I’m all for the drinking and eating part!!

Um…. you don’t ski?! I mean, you at least cross-country ski, right? Because there’s no way you got through a winter in Norway without it. I was in Karakol in the summer, so I didn’t see many vacationing Russians there, but it was suuuper pretty! And the son of the guest house owners where we stayed always likes my Facebook statuses, so I consider it a successful trip.

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