FAQs

Location

How did you come to Georgia?
One night, back in December 2014, in a catski lodge in the Siberian Altai Mountains, we talked about the idea of running our own freeride ski resort and came to the conclusion that Georgia is "the place to be". There is a lot of snow there and, above all, the snowfall is very reliable. Georgia promotes tourism as a core industry, and ski tourism in particular. Things are possible there that are not possible (any longer) elsewhere.
Why Bakhmaro?

In the summer of 2015, we looked at a few locations. In the winter, we explored all of the interesting regions with several scouting tours. An essential conclusion of these tours is that accessibility in winter is not guaranteed in many of the regions in Georgia. The big advantage of the remote area of Bakhmaro is the proximity to the international airport in Kutaisi with direct flights from Germany, which is reachable by a good road up to 2,000 meters.

Theoretically, can a SnowCat drive in Georgia where there is a lot of snow? Or do you need many permits?

The permits are not as big of a problem. The larger problem is the access to the mountain regions; it lacks paved roads and accommodation options. You have to come on a wide track to the tree line and snowy forest roads are not enough. High alpine locations in the Greater Caucasus are rather unsuitable for SnowCats because they are too steep; you need a helicopter.

 

In addition, one should know the area well for security reasons. The Lesser Caucasus is, from its topography, a good place for the use of SnowCats and snowy it is, more snowy than the Greater Caucasus.
You mentioned in your report that you were armed on your first trip to Bakhmaro. What is that supposed to mean? Was there a security situation?
That was an announcement from the governor. In winter there was practically no one up there. There are bears and wolves. On another scouting tour, we came across fresh bear tracks in the snow (not even an hour old). But we never carried a weapon on our ski tours. I do not think we needed it (unlike grizzly bears and polar bears, brown bears are not aggressive). The security situation otherwise is safe. Politically, the country is stable, the crime rate is not higher than in the Alps, so it is not a good reason to carry a weapon.

Freeride

How can this be done with / without a guide? Is a guide not necessary?

That depends on the experience of the participants. I am a certified ski instructor as are many of my colleagues, some of whom are ski guides. If we go freeriding for ourselves, we do not need a guide, whether in Japan, the Rockies or the Arctic. The basic offer without guiding is just for such people who have many years of experience in freeriding in different regions of the world and professional training in snow and avalanche safety. For all others, book with a guide! Together with the Georgian Mountain Guides Association we offer great tour packages that include guiding.

What are the runs and the terrain like?
Bakhmaro is located at the northern foot of the Meschetian mountain range. The predominant exposure is North. The slopes are very different and range between 30 ° and 40°. We spend a lot of time in the sparse forests - here there is tree-skiing at its best.
How many vertical meters do the runs have and how many runs can you make in a day?

The high valley is at over 1,900 meters. Above 2,100 meters, the mountains are tree-free. The summits can reach 2,500 to 2,755 meters. However, the higher elevations are often wind-blown. We usually move between 1,800 and 2,300 meters. The individual runs therefore have between 300 and 500 meters in altitude.

Depending on the area, the length of the runs, and the condition of the participants, we can do about 10 runs per day.

Are there possibly tree runs which one could also ski on a bad weather day?
Yes, in the upstream bowl we can drive to 1,800 meters. Since the access road lies in this high valley, the forests can also be reached on bad weather days. In our pioneer season, we did not have a single down-day.
What kind of SnowCats do you have?

We now have three Pistenbully 300 Polars. Pistenbully is the Mercedes of SnowCats and known for its good workmanship and reliability. The machines have 430 hp (455 hp) and are thus well prepared for a big snowfall. Two of the Pistenbullys are over 10 years old and come from Swiss ski resorts. We brought them to Georgia ourselves and equipped them with a heated cabin with 12 seats. We will use two in parallel and the third will be ready as a back-up. Then, we have several snowmobiles on-site. With the snowmobiles, we can maintain the operation. We know that Georgia always requires 2 back-up alternatives.

Welche Alternative gibt es, wenn eine SnowCat ausfällt?
Zuerst einmal haben wir eine Reservemaschine. Auch wenn eine Maschine ausfällt, läuft also der normale Betrieb weiter. Dann haben wir mehrere Schneemobile vor Ort. Auch mit den Schneemobilen können wir den Betrieb aufrechterhalten. Wir wissen, dass es in Georgien immer 2 back-up Alternativen braucht.
What happens if, for example, we book a guide and the rest of the group does not? Would we go with a guide while the rest of the group does not?
In the winter of 2017/18, we have primarily offered tours including guiding. Each group is responsible for themselves.

Travel

Is an alternative pickup in Tbilisi or Batumi possible?
That is possible in principle. Consider on the one hand the rather long distance to Tbilisi and on the other hand the problem of the last 15 km. The road is not cleared and the pickup must be done with the SnowCat or a snowmobile. There will be additional costs paid by the participant. The question is how many people, to determine which kind of vehicle is needed.
Is there a possibility to book a winter-ready vehicle with a driver in order to connect a road trip?
We have a small fleet on-site, and we can also arrange for you drivers who have all-wheel drive vehicles.
Is an identity card sufficient or is a passport required?
I would like to defer you to any website of the foreign office for your country. For example, an identity card is sufficient for Germans and Austrian citizens. However, I always travel with a passport. The responsibility for valid entry documents lies with the traveler.
Warum gibt es keinen Sicherungsschein?

Einerseits sind wir eine Schweizer Firma und unterliegen damit dem Schweizer Recht. Im Schweizer Recht gibt es den Begriff "Sicherungsschein" nicht. Gleichwohl gibt es für Veranstalter von Pauschalreisen die Verpflichtung Kundengelder abzusichern. Da  powderproject.ch eine kleine Firma ist, ist die Absicherung nicht notwendig und würde die Kosten der Reise erheblich steigern.

Zudem bezahlen wir gut 80% aller Saisonkosten bis einschliesslich November. Wir haben also immer deutlich mehr Geld vorausbezahlt, als durch Anzahlungen eingenommen.

Auf der anderen Seite haben wir Material vor Ort (Pistenbullys, Schneemobile, Gastro-Inventar, etc.) im Wert eines gesamten Saisonumsatzes.

Is there an emergency care? What happens with an injury (rescue, next hospital, etc.)?

There are rescue helicopters in Batumi and Kutaisi. Provided the weather allows for a flight, rescue by air is possible. In the case of a rescue by us the transport takes place with the SnowCat or snowmobile and then with a 4x4 vehicle to the hospital. The regional ambulances are equipped accordingly. There are big hospitals in Kutaisi. Bone fractures can also be treated in Chokhatauri or Ozurgeti. We urgently recommend the appropriate conclusion of an accident and recovery insurance (including return transport).

In our pioneer season, we had the experience of both a cruciate ligament tear and a dislocated shoulder. The rescues worked well as planned.
Is there a local telephone connection?

A mobile connection is available, and we recommend to have MAGTI as your provider. We have both telephone and internet reception. The local mobile antenna is switched on for us in winter. The provider has installed a generator so that the antenna can transmit a signal as long as we are in Bakhmaro.

In the pioneer season, there were breakdowns of the generator, so we are now equipped with a satellite telephone and InReach (each have different networks). Again, our principle of double reserve applies.
In case of bad weather, are you tied to staying close to the lodge?
We are in a mountain lodge and have only the limited possibilities that everyone knows from a mountain lodge. We rarely have down days, so in really bad weather and avalanche conditions we can stay close to the lodge. In the past, we have hosted cha cha tastings and built a rather large kicker where the freeskiers were pulled by snowmobile for max speed over the jump.
How stable is the weather? Is a week bad weather possible? What is your experience?
In the early winter, there is heavy rainfall that later on will ensure reliable snow conditions. From January, there are more and more days without precipitation and also without clouds. The information is based on weather data and the experience of the locals. So yes, we are in the high mountains and a full week with bad weather is somewhat possible.
What happens to days when you cannot ski? Is there a refund per down day?
The price is calculated in such a way that we spend an average of 5 days in the Cat. If less than 5 days are ski-worthy, we will refund the cost of the SnowCat on a pro rata basis.
What should we bring?

We have put together a short Packliste. You can also find it on the page about Bakhmaro.

Flights

Can one estimate the flight cost? What about check-in luggage costs?
We recommend booking the flight directly after the booking confirmation (minimum number of participants required). The prices at WIZZ Air are without luggage. For ski luggage including 32kg you have to expect, depending on the season, of an additional cost up to 58€ per flight (including 23kg - 48€). There is the possibility of a membership in the WIZZ Discount Club to reduce the price further.
Is there a safety ranking for the airline?
Wizz Air is a low-cost airline, like RyanAir or EasyJet. It has more than 70 aircrafts and is well known in Eastern Europe. Their homebase is in Budapest – thus they are part of the EU. More extensive information can be found online.
Why is the flight not included in the package?
It is less complicated and more cost-effective to give you total control over your own flights. For any changes to a flight reservation (for example, you fall in love with Georgia and want to extend your stay), you can make your own decisions.