A Beginner's Guide to Kazakhstan's Ski Resorts

Almaty panorama, Kazakhstan | Courtesy of VisityAlmaty
Almaty panorama, Kazakhstan | Courtesy of VisityAlmaty
Photo of Jade Cuttle
5 December 2017

Almaty is the Chamonix of Central Asia, with gorgeous, hidden slopes that are heaven-sent. Not only will the lack of crowds mean you barely need to queue for a lift, but you’ll also be awe-struck by a bewitching landscape barely known to the rest of the world.


The Shymbulak Resort is by far the largest and most modern in Central Asia, with breathtaking slopes that rise to heights of 3200 meters (10,5000 feet). Not only does this destination attract neighboring Russian thrill-seekers, but it also boasts a history of attracting royals, notably Prince Harry.

Shymbulak | © Torekhan Sarmanov / Flickr

While the eight pistes stretch for 15 kilometers (9.3 miles), Shymbulak is a fairly small ski destination compared to others around the world. The wide and fairly gentle slopes are superb for beginners, allowing for a leisurely, stress-free descent.

It has proudly hosted a number of USSR Winter Olympics and was actually the home training ground for elite Soviet Olympic athletes.


Most adventurous skiers will prefer Tekeli, a wild stretch that gateways to the Dzungarian Mountains, located 300 kilometers (186 miles) northeast of Almaty. Skiing is possible in the Dzungarian Alatau, with two small ski bases nestled in the hills, though the scale is more suited to cross-country skiing.

A yurt in Tekeli | © Stomac / WikiCommons

Once sealed off as a closed city, this location still clings onto its fascinating industrial heritage, as during World War II, Tekeli could lay claim to having produced one in three Soviet bullets fired at Germans.


Almaty, the former capital of the Kazakh state, is nestled in the snow-capped foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau Mountains, whose majestic peaks soar up to heights of over 4000 meters (13,000 feet). Off the beaten track, the slopes of this secluded ski destination are not its only lure, as there is sublime natural beauty wherever you turn.

Tianshan Trans-ili Alatau Big Almaty Lake Kazakhstan | Max Pixel

Perhaps more importantly, it’s an attractive resort to book, given the incredibly reliable snow conditions between December and April. In Kazakhstan, you are guaranteed to have good snow. What makes this destination even better is that there are direct flights from London and other major European cities, and this network is set to expand.

Ak-Bulak, Talgar

Ak-Bulak in Talgar is only a quick, one-hour drive from Almaty, with ten kilometers (6.2 miles) of glistening slopes available for adrenaline-seeking skiers and snowboarders. A fantastic winter sports area is situated between the elevations of 1650 meters (5400 feet) and 2700 meters (8860 feet), with the five lifts that take you there barely ever busy. The area is also close to some of the most stunning lakes in Central Asia.

Akbulak Lake | © Ramil Yangaev/Wikimedia Commons

Kok Zhailau

Kok Zhailau in the center of the Ile-Alatau National Park, located just ten kilometers (6.2 miles) from Almaty, is a fast-developing ski resort, with some $750 million filtered into its construction.

Skiing | Pexels

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