Frenchman Baptiste Baudier's breathtaking journey into the mountains of Iran.
Iran is not on the top of most people’s ski holiday list, but for Frenchman Baptiste Baudier it became a fascination that evolved into a project called “Ski of Persia“. The country’s rugged landscape, mountains and plateaus first caught Baudier’s attention during a hitchhiking trip between France and Iran in 2015. He returned just a year later, this time armed with skis, speed-riding gear, and an ambitious plan to document his experience in a way that would make skiing in Iran more accessible to those who wished to follow his path.
We caught up with Baptiste to learn more about the motivation behind the project, and for some advice on skiing in Iran.
Ski Asia: Baptiste, how did this whole project come to fruition?
Baptiste: Well, from June to October 2015, I did a round trip hitchhiking from France to Iran and back. I stayed for 40 days in Iran where I undoubtedly had the best time of my travel. Back in France, I couldn’t stop thinking of the ski resorts I saw while hiking in the mountains north of Tehran.
A year later, I took the decision to go back to Iran for skiing and speed-riding. However, finding information online wasn’t that easy. The idea to go to Iran, visit all ski resorts and collect as much information as possible logically came to my mind.
The name “Ski of Persia” is inspired from the video game “Prince of Persia” that I used to play as a kid. I thought it was cool to name the project that way!
Ski Asia: Tell us why you decided to make such a long journey by bus!
Baptiste: For the last few years, I’ve stopped travelling by plane and now travel mostly by bus. It is more eco-friendly and gives me more flexibility and freedom. Another advantage is that I can carry all my equipment (skis, canopy for speed-riding, clothes) with no additional charges.
It took me 7 days to reach the Iranian border from Lyon. I also did a stop in Erzurum (Turkey) and went skiing in Palandöken and Konakli ski resorts. In Konakli I ended up skiing in a totally empty resort … an amazing experience.
Before leaving for Iran, I also ran a simulation online to compare prices between buses and planes. It is overall cheaper to get a plane from Paris to Tehran (round trip) than travelling by bus.
To give you an idea of the travel cost with a plane, you can find interesting deals from Europe to Tehran: €400 to €600 for a round trip. Planning your trip in advance will help you save money of course.
Ski Asia: How went your journey? Did you face any trouble?
Baptiste: Every time I arrived in a new ski resort, it was an adventure: getting to the resort, filming, taking photos, gathering info, and finding a place to stay overnight… My project helped a lot to create connections with the locals. Iranians were really enthusiast about “Ski of Persia” and helped me all along my journey.
I’d like to point out that I felt very safe in Iran. It is definitely one of the safest countries I have had the chance to travel. For instance:
- In 2015, I slept about 15 nights in my tent in city parks, with zero problems!
- When going into restaurants, public toilets, shops, I frequently left my bag in the street without worrying.
- With the exception of a few taxi rides, no one tried to take advantage of me for being a tourist.
- When someone in Iran has decided to host you, it is like having a personal body guard!
I had some minor trouble with the money, weather, showers and transportation, but overall everything was perfect.
Ski Asia: Which resort would you recommend?
Baptiste: I’d say that it depends on your expectations and the time you want to stay in Iran.
The 3 biggest ski resorts located North of Tehran – Dizin, Darbandsar and Shemshak – are a “must see”. You will find the best snow conditions, the longest slopes and the best lifts. Dizin is the largest one and you can explore the resort for 3 days without getting bored.
Skiing in small resorts is also a great opportunity to catch up with locals and see some parts of Iran you wouldn’t have otherwise. For instance, Fereydunshahr or Chelgerd ski resorts are located 2 hours away from Isfahan. Those resorts are part of the Zagros mountain range, which is a phenomenal spot for ski touring.
If you have just a few days ahead and want to ski hard, my advice would be to stay around big ski resorts. However, I’d recommend mixing things if you are staying for more than a week in the country.
Ski Asia: When is the best time to go skiing in Iran?
Baptiste: Best time for skiing in Iran is like in Europe – January to March.
Ski resorts in Iran are usually opening end of November until April (sometimes May). If you are planning to climb Mount Damavand (5,610m), conditions are much safer and easier after March.
Ski Asia: How much does skiing in Iran cost?
Baptiste: Skiing in Iran is definitely cheaper than Europe. But don’t expect to get the same services and facilities as in Méribel… Everything is a bit more sketchy and ski resorts are facing a lack of investment. I hope this will change in a near future with the lift of sanctions and the growth of the tourism industry in Iran.
To give you an idea of the cost for one ski pass:
A hotel room cost about US$50 per night in Dizin or Shemshak. You will find good deals in small resorts: US$10 to US$20 per night.
The food is also really cheap compared to Europe. You can eat a full meal for about US$4 or buy really cheap bread, veggies, fruits and cheese from local shops.
Transportation infrastructure in Iran is well developed and maintained. Bus, train or plane lines are regular between the main cities – A 700km ride with a bus costs about US$12.
Getting to the ski resorts is also convenient – you can use taxis or minibus, both of which are very cheap. A taxi from Tehran to Shemshak (70km) will cost between US$12 and $US20.
Ski Asia: What is next for Ski of Persia?
Baptiste: I might go back to Iran next winter for “Ski of Persia: Season 2”!
Iran is a mountainous country and possibilities for ski touring are limitless. I’d love to go back to Iran and try to find out new ski touring and speed riding routes.