After last years ski trip to Kars, Turkey, I can now declare (after 7 years of marriage too) that we are a skiing family! Yes, both Jason AND Sofia both when out skiing with me in Kars. Check out ALL of our KARS videos and Blog post!
This year we were itching to go again! We consisder meeting friends from Dubai north of Antalya to ski Davruz, and it didn’t work out. So this time, after a lot of change of plans, we are on our way to Erzurum to ski at Palandöken Ski resort!
And of course… in usual ‘Catie’ fashion, we can’t just ‘go skiing’! We wanted to see some of the other sites around Erzurum as well! Check out ALL of our ERZURUM videos linked at the bottom off the article
Hopefully your 2022 winter season got you to the slopes as well!!
By the way…. IMPORTANT: This post covers only the ski portion of our trip to Kars, Turkey. Check out our other Kars post below:
- Part 1 – TURKEY: Your Guide to Skiing in Turkey – Palandöken Erzurum – THIS ONE!
- Part 2 – TURKEY: Top 7 sites in Erzurum City – YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE
Now on your guide to skiing in Turkey!
- Where should I ski in Turkey
- Where is Erzurum + Palandöken
- Little bit of history
- About the Palandöken Ski Center
- Our Experience with the Ski Center: PROS + CONS
- When Should I Go to Palandöken
- Getting There
- Must Try Foods
- Sites near Palandöken
- Nearby Erzurum
- Check out our video playlist about our trip to Erzurum, Turkey!
Where should I ski in Turkey?
This post is all about skiing near the area of Erzurum, specifically Palandöken. BUT I wanted to live you with a list of other options kayak merkezi (or ski centers) to explore if you aren’t wanted to head that far east. The other places we have skied are Sarıkamış (Kars) and Uludağ (and I don’t have a post on it).
In no particular order, these are some of the most popular (not all of course):
- Uludağ Ski Center near Bursa (easy weekend from Istanbul and Izmir)
- Kartaltepe Ski Center near Bolu (easy drive from Istanbul)
- Erciyes Ski Center, south of Kayseri Airport (aka Cappadocia region)
- Davraz Ski Center, north of Antalya near Isparta (2 hour drive from Antalya)
- Sarıkamış near Kars (east Turkey)
Check out this article over at the Daily Sabah for a brief description of each.
Where is Erzurum + Palandöken?
Erzurum city, capital of the Erzurum province, is located in the far northeast region of Turkey just north of the Palandöken Mountains. Situated at an elevation of 1,890 m (6,200 feet), it’s 140 meters higher than its neighboring city of Kars (1,750 metres/5,740 feet). This city sits on the historical Silk Road and preserves much of it’s legendary Anatolian hospitality.
Palandöken ski center is just 10 minutes south of town and a half hour drive from the Erzururm Airport traveling through the city of Erzurum.
Little bit of history:
Situated on the historic Silk Road, Erzurum has been a residential area for centuries, dating back to 4900 B.C. Like most of this area, it has fallen under the rule of many nations such as the Urartu, Meds, Persian, Parthian Romans, Arabs, Seljuks, Byzantines, Mongols, and Ottomans.
The city of Erzurum is best known to Turks as the seat of the Erzurum Congress which met in summer of 1919. Crucial decisions were made among 62 delegates determining the path for Turkish national independence.
Today, Erzurum is still a Turkish stronghold protecting the Eastern region. It is called the “City of the Dadaşlar” which means “brave men. ” The famous touristic Dogu Express Train also passing through this city from Ankara onto Kars.
It is also favorite getaway for local and foreign tourists, especially in the winter season for those who love winter sports.
To learn more about Erzurum, check out part 2 – TURKEY: Top 7 sites in Erzurum City – YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE
About the Palandöken Ski Center:
Palandöken Ski Center (also known as Ejder 3200 World Ski Center) is built on the 3,000-meter-high mountain named Büyük Ejder (The Great Dragon). Palandöken offers local and foreign tourists a true skiing experience boasting of its title for having the longest ski track in Turkey.
Thanks to the University Winter Olympics held in Palandöken in 2011, serious investments were made in the facility. When you look at the map, you can see how long the ski slope appears. Tracks Ejder and Kapıkaya are actually approved by the International Ski Federation (FIS) for Slalom and Grand Slalom competitions. All these have made Palandöken very appealing to outsiders.
Unlike Sarıkamış, most of their slopes are more suitable for intermediate to advance skiers. There is very little area for beginners. Local businesses providing ski equipment rentals and private lessons are located at the entrance to the ski lift areas.
Snow falls at the Palandöken Ski Center is about 50 days a year and it stays on the ground for about 113 days. The season usually starts around late November lasting until mid-April.
- Facilities in Palandöken: It has 3 chairlifts and 1 ski lift.
- Height of Palandöken: Tracks starting from 2200 meters go up to a height of 3,176 meters.
- Ski tracks in Palandöken: With an altitude at 3,000, Palandöken has a total of 22 tracks (2 of these are declared Olympic tracks). For the tracks: 4 black, 3 red, 9 blue and 8 green. (I will explain more about this in the PROS and CONS section below). There are 28 kilometers of tracks in total. It is possible to ski 12 km without interruption on the longest track (which wasn’t open when we were there). On paper, Palandöken seems to beat Sarıkamış, but in practice things are complicated. Due to unmaintained lifts and closed runways due to avalanche risks, there are a lot of underutilized runways.
- Times and Lift hours: General season is late November to mid April. Lift closing hours vary from month to month. But it usually opens at 9.00 and closes at 16.30 – 17.00 depending on the weather conditions.
- Lift wait times: The total number of ski lifts claim to be 13 but we only ever saw 3 or 4 that were open. (I belief this number includes the separate private lifts for the Polat and SWAY hotel which I will explain more in the hotel section.) There are 2 gondola (bottom to mid-level then continuing from mid-level to top of the mountain) and 11 Chairlifts. During our stay, the gondola never opened to the top of the mountain. As well, we found that we had to walk a bit from the chairlifts or gandola to get to the ski path -can we say exhausting!? The open chairlifts and the gondolas both seat 4 at a time.
- Electronic Passes: There are electronic pass readers on the lifts. You swipe the plastic card over the magnet and pass it on. The card has lanyard. You can use all the lifts with a single pass in Sarıkamış Ski Center.
- Ski equipment: Most of the hotels have their own private ski rental companies usually located in the hotel. The prices are reasonable and if you forgot anything, they have it! As well at the entrance of Palandöken there is a ski rental room not attached to any hotel.
- Food/Drink the slopes: For lunch, our hotel was full-board and we always just took a break to eat there to eat. It was also a natural stopping time for our daughter who is still 3 years old and can only really be out about 2-3 hours. On the runways, there is a cafe at the entrance/bottom of the mountain and mid-area, and all of them have hot and cold drinks. However, not all of them have much choice of food. There are also a restrooms.
- In case of emergency, loss or injury: The gendarmerie is the first to respond to accidents. The search and rescue team will come to you with snow vehicles as soon as possible. There are doctors on the mountain and if necessary, transfers are made to nearby hospitals. Take the contact number of the hotel you are staying in with you in case of an emergency.
- Extras: There are a few folks that provide a VERY small area to snow sled. It is also the area that beginner skier use for lessons… I saw most people almost running into one another. This trip we didn’t get the chance to do any other winter activities with our daughter.
Our Experience with the Ski Center:
Palandöken ski center definitely has a variety to offer. From luxury hotels to more modest ‘pansyon’ type hotels and even private Airbnb type rentals, you can make this ski destination as expensive or as affordable as you would like. The prices are more than Sarıkamış but not as steep in cost as Uludağ. And while the mountain has great slopes, we found a lot was closed to skier while we were there and the snow to be less fluffy and much more icier.
We did stay in an all-inclusive ski lodge type accommodation but it wasn’t on the slopes (which was by choice but prefer being right on the slope). We loved that the town of Erzurum was not far. We were able to go into town one night and do a day trip another day. Something that you can’t do, or at least isn’t as easy, in Sarıkamış to Kars.
Keep reading on to see our final decision between Palandöken vs. Sarıkamış below.
- Ezurum is so close! The best part of Palandoken is the convenience of transportation. Being only 15 minutes away from Erzurum, when the skiing is done, one can head into town and enjoy some site seeing. It also means that an all-inclusive hotel is not necessary as you can commute from town to ski or get a more affordable hotel option and enjoy trying out the local restaurants instead of staying in the hotel all the time.
- The roads are always clear and sparkling coming to and from the Erzurum airport. It is part of the city and the roads are taken care of properly. Since the elevation was already so high, the ride to the hotel was easy and clear. No shuttle issues or curves to fear.
- No one thought twice about giving us skis for our 3 year old! If you read our Sarıkamış post or watched our video, you will remember we had issues with them even allowing us to rent skis for our daughter (2.5 years old at that time).
- Since this is a huge district, the state brought services such as schools and train stations here. There is a hospital and it’s possible to reach the hospital quickly in case of an accident.
- Even though we went during the weekdays, I felt like it was still crowded everywhere. Because schools are near, there were many ski classes out during the day. This ski center is just a bit narrower and I felt the need to keep an eye out around me for less experienced (or even more experience one!) flying by us.
- Since it is a more formal ski center, the prices of food and beverage etc are marked up.
- Our hotel’s kids play area was not nice. We had to ask for the lights to be turned on most times and the toys were all half broken.
Palandöken vs. Sarıkamış
We would 100 % choose Sarıkamış over Palandöken in the future. There were no closed lift in Sarıkamış or ski paths. 🙂 While snowfall and season lengths seem to be the same, I’ll post our points below comparing why we like Sarıkamış more:
- Snow: The snow is powdery and crystal with very little ice.
- Tracks: The facilities are open and spread out allowing room for skiers even on the busier days of the season. The tracks of Sarıkamış seem a little wider to us around 70m. More difficult tracks in Palandöken are narrow, but since these tracks are for super advanced levels it’s not an issue. It is an issue with those skiers that are not ready for those slopes.
- Fog: As well, we did not encounter any fog on the tracks in Sarıkamış. However in Palandöken, we came across a fog during our skiing, which thankfully didn’t cause any accidents. Since Sarıkamış ski center is surrounded by yellow pine forests, it affects little if there is a wind blowing.
- Wind: Since Sarıkamış ski center is surrounded by yellow pine forests, it affects little if there is a wind blowing.
- Risks: After the avalanche that fell in Palandöken, experts from abroad were brought and the tracks were examined. Unfortunately, they found a lot of runways risky and closed them. (We did not know this prior to going.)
- Crowds: While both are quite spacious during the week, both get crowded during the holidays and especially on the weekend. Difficult tracks are still calm in Sarıkamış. It is empty enough that you can choose a lane and slide straight down without ever leaving. We found that we were always aware of other people moving while skiing in Palandöken. In summary, although the capacity of Palandöken is higher, its tracks and lifts are denser. Sarıkamış’s calmness makes a difference for us – especially with having our daughter with us.
- Beginner? Our recommendation is Sarıkamış again, as it is less likely to be disrupted by the weather conditions in Sarıkamış. Considering that there is a lot of fallout while learning, Sarıkamış seems to be more suitable as it has less icing and more space to practice!
- Nature: The hills of Palandoken are bare. Sarıkamış is surrounded by yellow pine forests. When skiing, Sarıkamış was a 1000 times more enjoyable. It is not surprising to see wildlife like rabbits and foxes in Sarıkamış.
When Should I Go to Palandöken?
If you came to Palandöken, you probably came to ski. That’s why you should make sure to come in the best time of winter. Snow falls here for 5 months of the year, from the beginning of December to mid of April. December’s new snow and March’s warmer weather seem to be popular times to go.
- For our trip, we flew a 2 hour direct flight from Izmir to Erzurum on SunExpress Airlines and took a free shuttle offered by the hotel.
- If you are going to come directly to Sarıkamış by plane, the nearest airport to you is the Erzurum Airport. The airport is 18m (30 minutes) away from Palandöken. Before buying your flight ticket, we recommend that you compare the ticket prices of different airline companies. Both Pegasus Airlines and Sunexpress offer direct flights from Izmir but not daily. You can always find connecting routes to Kars with layovers in other airports via Turkish Airlines (which some of our friends who joined us did).
- Alternative options: The historic Doğu (Eastern) Express is an alternative option for those with a bit more time on their hands. Passing through Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan, Erzurum and Sarıkamış, it arrives at the second to last stop, Erzurum, before finishing in Kars. Coming to Erzurum with the Orient Express is an experience that must be experienced in itself. It’s a bit difficult to figure out the ticketing system and times (and it’s usually sold out) but if you are able to figure it out, go for it! This article is a bit old but it’s a great start!
Around the Palandöken ski center, you will find a variety of accommodations. From luxury hotels to more modest ‘pansiyon’ type hotels and even private Airbnb type rentals, you can make this ski destination as expensive or as affordable as you would like. It’s hard when searching online, where exactly you should stay. (I outline all of this more in detail in my video.)
There are 3 sections of accommodations near the Palandöken Ski Center:
- SWAY and Polat Hotel: Lower area. You pass this as you go towards the Palandöken Mountain base and ski center. SWAY is a luxury full board hotel and perhaps the most popular hotel in Palandoken. It has wifi and spa facilities. Polat Hotel is a A full board five-star hotel option with 3 types of rooms: deluxe, family and standard(old rooms). These two hotels have their own ski slopes not part of Palandöken. Using these runways are included in the price.
- Palandöken Mountain base area: This is where we were at. This hotels usually have some type of shuttle to the nearby base and we found are more affordable than the 1st and 3rd areas.
- Mid-mountain level: Located on the mountain and at the top of the first gondola. Funny enough there is a Dedeman Hotel at both the 2nd and 3rd levels so it can be a bit confusing when looking at the hotels on a map.
Where we stayed:
- Palan Otel: Our friends recommended this hotel to us, and this was the good option for our family because it had a more affordable 1+1 room option. The hotel is located near the entrance to the ski center with a free shuttle taking you to and from the lifts. The staff was kind and quick to respond to any request. I was even able to WhatsApp with one of the workers in English which helped bypass any miscommunication in Turkish. For Sarıkamış we did a package via estur.com, but for this trip we booked everything for Palan Otel via their website. You get a cheaper price when you book on their website and pay the non-refundable deposit. The food was good and varied and that was nice to have included in our stay. They were a bit of sticklers about take your lunch the day you arrive and wanted to make us pay extra which we did not have too. The ski rentals where just down the hall from the main lobby of the hotel. You will need to pay in cash or transfer via your Turkish bank account like we did.
- Here are a few other recs if you want to stay in town or nearby:
- The Erzurum Hotel – Just outside of the city center before getting to the 1st area with the SWAY hotel going up mountain. Breakfast is included, free ski shuttle to the base of the mountain, and ski rental area in the hotel.
- Hotel Zade – Hotel Zade is a hotel option from the center of Erzurum, but it is a 7-minute drive from Palandoken Ski Center. Breakfast is included, wifi is available.
- Grand Catalkaya Hotel – In the center of town if you are wanted an extra night to explore the city and be ‘in the middle of it all’
Must Try Foods:
Although the hotels do provide food service, feel free to taste local delicacies in Erzurum via our tour with Silk Road Moments.
- Cağ Kebabı: Originating from Erzurum, cağ kebabı, also called Yatik Döner, is a horizontally stacked marinated rotating lamb kebab and is one of the specialities that you must try. Apparently, it is the tradition that they will keep bringing the kebab until you tell them to stop.
- Burma Kadayif: I would recommend to take another speciality of Erzurum desert after the meal. This type of baklava is made with shredded kadayıf dough rolled around ground or whole pistachio nuts or other nuts like walnuts. Burma, literally meaning wringed or twisted, is baked like most other baklava varieties, soaked in a simple syrup, and sprinkled with ground nuts before serving.
- Because our hotel was all-inclusive, meaning it offered breakfast, lunch and dinner, we did not really explore much more outside our ski resort and ski park. We take a day tour and tried a few places in town. Check out our Erzurum Guide here: TURKEY: Top 7 sites in Erzurum City – YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE
Sites In Erzurum:
There is quite to see in and around Erzurum. I have another post to check out that is all about touring this area here: TURKEY: Top 7 sites in Erzurum City – YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE
- Some people like to do Erzurum and Kars in one trip! The drive is about 2.5 hours from Erzurum to Sarıkamış. However, we think you should always tour the area nearby too! You could fly into Erzurum, tour, ski, drive on to Sarıkamış, ski, then tour Kars a few days, and depart from Kars! If you do head to Sarıkamış and Kars, we suggest to visit Kars City, Ani Harabeleri, Lake Çildir, and Boğatepe Cheese farms! All the links for the videos are below.
- North about 4 hours by car, Rize is home to Turkey’s famous tea fields and the nearby Trabzon’s Sümela Monastery (Explore Trabzon Part 1, Turkey – POST and VIDEO).
Overall, Palandöken was not our favorite ski center in Turkey, but we did enjoy trying it out. We really enjoyed touring the city which you can watch a video on that AND read our complete guide to visiting.
You can check out our trip via video over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel and see what all we did in our ski week!
Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:
- Have you gone skiing in Turkey?
- Have you visited Palandöken Ski Center, Turkey in Erzurum?
- Share a memory you have about skiing!
Check out our 2 part video for Erzurum, Turkey:
- Part 1 – TURKEY: Your Guide to Skiing in Turkey – Palandöken Erzurum – VIDEO and POST
- Part 2 – TURKEY: Top 7 sites in Erzurum City – YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE – VIDEO and POST