Shymbulak: Legit Skiing in Kazakhstan!

Skiing in Kazakhstan's Shynbulak Ski Resort
Posted by on January 14, 2016

Shymbulak – Skiing in Kazakhstan

The Shymbulak Ski Resort, high above the city of Almaty and tucked deep into the mountains that stretch beyond the Medeo Ice-Skating Rink, is an area seemingly unknown to outsiders but may well be one of the best spots for snow-sports in all of Central Asia.

Wide-angle view of the Shymbulak Ski Resort in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Starting from the cable car station just before the Medeo complex, one could be excused for supposing that Shymbulak is another second-rate mountain resort that will do for local skiers but probably isn’t attracting too much interest from abroad. One would be right on the latter half of that statement, of course, but only on account of general lack of knowledge rather than anything lacking in the facilities themselves. In fact, if not for the signage in Russian and strong predilection for Kazakh pop songs one might almost imagine they’d just stepped off the bus from Denver. Almost.

Facilities at Shymbulak Ski Resort in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Spanning over 3000 ft of vertical drop (920m) and nearly 7.5 miles (12km) of ski runs, there is definitely enough to keep you entertained – and even on a Sunday on the tail end of ski season it didn’t seem too terribly crowded. Importantly, Shymbulak seemed to have all the modern conveniences that a top-quality ski resort should. Lifts to several different points on the mountain, first aid stations scattered all around, several restaurants and places to stay, and lessons available in English. Compared to the ski bases in Kyrgyzstan (with the exception of Karakol, about which I’ve written a bit as well), Shymbulak Ski Resort seemed fairly well developed and equipped to handle lots of skiers and snowboarders of various levels. They even had a little terrain park for adventurous boarders.

I didn’t ski this time, and honestly had only intended to snap a few photos and then head back down the mountain. Once I’m a bit more confident on the snow, though, a weekend here is definitely in the works. If my ski partner isn’t quite ready to hit the heady slopes of Shymbulak? Not to fear! They’ve got a snow-tubing course and a kiddie’s corner as well.

So, would I recommend a trip to Almaty just to visit Shymbulak? For the serious ski enthusiast looking for an offbeat experience, I think that between skiing in Kyrgyzstan and here in Kazakhstan there are enough options to justify a long trip to try them all. Ideally plan a couple of weeks to hop between different ski resorts and backcountry options, maybe even throw in some heliskiing to make it a proper adventure. Given enough time spent in the region, and especially at the resorts in Kyrgyzstan, the cost savings compared to the US or Europe can more than cover the price of flights to Central Asia and it will certainly make a more interesting story for next year’s Aspen apres-ski.


Practical Details

The easiest way to get to Shymbulak is to take Bus 6 or 12 from Almaty (just north of the intersections of Dostyk and Abay) to Medeo, and then take the Shymbulak Cable Car. The cable car is 2,500T (~$14 USD) round-trip, or 1500T one-way. 

A map of the resort is online here

Equipment rental is available at Shymbulak, with a complete ski set 5,000T per day or a premium set for 7000T. (Of course, you can also rent individual pieces if you need.) Additionally, lockers are available for rent by the day (1000T), week (5000T), or month (15000T) and a Hotel starting at 20000T per night.

Alternatively, in Almaty’s city center (a quick ride or 15 minute walk away from the stop to pick up the Medeo bus) is a hostel called the (pretty aptly named) Almaty Central Hostel. Slight less central but also a few dollars cheaper is the Almaty Backpackers hostel. (Either way, it’s fantastic to see proper hostels starting to pop up in Central Asia!) If price isn’t an issue but you want to be in town rather than at the resort, you could also just stay at the Dostyk Hotel and take a cab straight up Dostyk Ave. each morning to get to Shymbulak and Medeo.  

Shymbulak Ski Resort is an international-level gem on the slopes of the Tien Shan Mountains outside the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan. See more about why you should be skiing in Kazakhstan at http://www.monkboughtlunch.com/shymbulak-skiing-in-kazakhstan/

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23 Responses to Shymbulak: Legit Skiing in Kazakhstan!

  1. Susan @ Travel Junkette

    Woohoo! Sounds like quite the adventure — and snow looks good!

    • Stephen

      It was a strange departure from the ordinary for sure. Doesn’t look quite so nice as those Japan shots you put up from a while back, though!

  2. Peter Mandara

    Are there any tour operators offering Skiing in Shymbulak?

    • Stephen

      Hi Peter, I’m sure you could arrange it with a company in town if you wanted. However, it’s also extremely easy to do on your own. Check out the ‘Practical Details’ section at the end of that article for info on public transport and equipment rental – the hotel at Shymbulak I don’t have any info on hand but even if they don’t have rooms you could very easily get back to the city for the night. Have fun!

  3. Katie Featherstone

    I think I’d be pretty happy to just chill and look at the view too. Wow…

    • Stephen

      If there’s one thing that’s always true about Central Asia, it’s that the mountains are beautiful!

  4. Anton

    Re: equipment rentals. Did you notice if the resort rents just the hard equipment or can they provide clothing as well? I am going there later this week. I appreciate the info.

    • Stephen

      Hi Anton, I don’t recall for certain, but I don’t remember having seen any of the soft stuff. Better bet might be to look for that stuff in town, and just pick up your skis and boots and whatever once you’re up at the resort.

  5. niharika

    Hi Stephen , we are planning to book this place for our travel in may , do you thing it will be still as pretty then?

  6. Nicholas

    There are some coaches or buses that depart from Almaty to Shymbulak?

    • Stephen

      Hi Nicholas, as mentioned in the post, there are two buses that depart from central Alamty for Medeo, where you can transfer to Shymbulak.

  7. CHIRANJIT

    Hi,

    Can I ski there during December 23-26? Is it a proper season to find snow at Shymbulak ski resort? Many thanks….

  8. Adrian

    Hi Stephen,

    The place sounds great, I’m planning a trip there in December, do you recall how much a lift pass costs? Many thanks…

  9. Ailza

    Hi Stephen,

    Is there any entrance fee? Can I just go for a leisure and without ski?

    • Stephen

      Hi Aliza, there’s a fee to access the chairlift from Medeu, but no entrance fees for Shymbulak. It’s a nice place to have a walk around and take some photos, just be careful of skiers!

  10. Rama

    Hi Stephen

    unfortunately the Almaty Backpackers hostel link does not work. Do you have any idea how to contact them?

    Regards

  11. Ana

    Hi Stephan, Is there any skiing late Nov? Or just light snow? Thanks

  12. Sukkriti

    Hi Stephen,
    We are visiting in July, and wanted to know if there’s any place for clothes rental around there, before we go up.

    Thanks a lot!

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