Kazakhstan, Asia

Cat skiing and ski touring deep powder week in Kazakhstan

The West Altai mountains offer a glimpse into a world untouched by mass tourism. Mountain ranges up to 2,000m tall are clustered around a small mining town of Ridder, offering wide open slopes 20-35 degrees steep with sparse fir trees and 300-800m vertical drop per run – a paradise for effortless glade skiing! There are options for different weather, avalanche conditions, and group fitness, including steeper couloirs and snow pillows.

Air masses moving east from Siberia plains hit the westmost extent of the Altai mountains making Ridder one of the snowiest places on the continent, with reliable skiing possible from late November. Founded in 1796 by a German engineer, the town has become a growing free-skiing playground, still waiting to be discovered by European skiers.

✔ Start your season in early December, cheaper than Japan!

✔ Combine 3 days of touring in pristine conifer forests with 3 days cat skiing ‘on par with BC, Canada’

✔ Light fluffy powder, first tracks every day

✔ Experience an authentic steam sauna followed by snow diving.

 

Yurt-based ski touring add-on 

If you think that six days of shredding knee-deep powder in Kazakhstan isn't enough to justify a flight, then consider extending your trip and adding 3 more days of ski touring. You can stay in an off-the-grid yurt, located in the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains at an elevation of 1,750 meters. It's just a three-hour drive from the city of Almaty. More details will follow shortly. Please check the "ESSENTIAL INFORMATION" tab for more details. 

  • 2025 departures:  We retain the right to reassess the final price in the event of any changes in supplier costs.

Day Itinerary

  • Getting into the West Altai mountains

    Your overnight flight from Europe lands in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city at the foothills of the mighty Tian-Shan mountains. After a 3hrs layover, you'll catch a 1hr domestic flight to Oskemen airport (UKK). When you arrive there, your guide will be waiting for you. We'll then hop into a private minivan and make our way to Ridder, which usually takes around 2 hours, but it can vary depending on the condition of the roads. After we check into the hotel, we'll have dinner together and go through a gear check and safety briefing. 

    You should aim to be ready for the group airport transfer at 2 pm on 11.01.2025 / 01.02.2025. Recommended connection flight from Almaty to Oskemen Airport is at 11.30 AM on 11.01.2025 / 01.02.2025.  Andrey will be waiting for you at 2pm at Oskemen Airport. Air Astana is the recommended airline. 

  • Warm-up cat skiing

    The cat skiing experience is comparable to BC, Canada – with fast and powerful snowcats boasting spacious cushioned cabins, while pre-groomed snowcat trails and super-experienced drivers warrant safe and comfortable uphill rides. We can expect 5-7 runs per day with a total vertical drop of 3,000-3,500m but it can be more with a strong group in favorable conditions.

  • Ski touring with roadside access

    Time to put our skins on! We explore quiet conifer forests in different spots that are out of reach for snowcats, allowing us to ski some steeper terrain! On average, you can expect to complete 2-3 runs per day, with a total elevation gain ranging from 800 to 1,200 meters. One of the days might even end with a special treat—a ski-in to an authentic steam sauna located deep in the woods! 

  • More cat skiing

    We treat ourselves to two full days of cat skiing. One evening we have a guided tour of Ridder town museum and dine out in a rather peculiar steak house!

  • We fly back to Almaty, take a short optional city tour and share a farewell dinner. Overnight in a 3-4 star hotel.
  • Disperse after breakfast and fly back to Europe

2025

Dates

Price

Sat 11 Jan
- Sun 19 Jan
£2425 Book
Sat 01 Feb
- Sun 09 Feb
£2425 Book
Flexible From £2,425 PRIVATE GROUP Enquire

zIncluded in the price

  • 3 full days of private catskiing: 5-7 runs with total elevation drop of about 3,000-3,500m

    • If there are 3-5 participants, we will be using skidoos instead of a snowcat. Each skidoo seats two passengers and one more is towed behind. This is a colder experience but faster and allows for more runs than on a snowcat.(TBC)

  •  3 days of guided ski-touring. At least 1 English-speaking guide per 5 participants. IFMGA aspirant lead guide.

  •  All accommodation:

    • 7 nights in Ridder, half board hotel, twin or double rooms.

    • 1 night in Almaty, 3-4 stars hotel, twin/double rooms with breakfasts.

  •  Local transfers from arrival to departure.

 

Not included in the price

  • International flight to Almaty and domestic flight to Ust-Kamenogorsk (UKK). Return flight from London by Kazakhstan’s flag carrier Air Astana costs around £580 including one piece of luggage (ski bag) of up to 23kg.

  • Dining out in Almaty.

  • Lunchboxes or snacks during skiing days.

  • Beverages and additional expenses incurred at the hotels and guesthouses.

  • Personal insurance.

  • Equipment hire.

  • Any items or services not explicitly mentioned as "included in the price."

 

Please check the "ESSENTIAL INFORMATION" tab for more details about the 3-day Yurt Based Extension to the trip. The price per person is £600.00 and will run with a minium of 3 passengers. 

  • 2025 departures:  We retain the right to reassess the final price in the event of any changes in supplier costs.

 

 

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This is an extensive list of the equipment you will need if you are coming on one of our Day Ski Touring trips

During the trip, you will be staying most nights in a comfortable chalet or hotel accommodation on a half-board or B&B basis. You will just need to carry a daypack with your avalanche safety equipment and a few personal items.

We require fat skis for all participants and the minimum is 105mm wide waist while 115+mm is highly recommended. There is a limited selection of fat skis available for rent on the spot. The downside is that they have heavy platform bindings (i.e. non-pin) but still do the job.

Unless you come in March, it is a good idea to bring skins that are engineered for cold temperatures and stick well, for example, American-made Black Diamond. It is better to leave vacuum skins at home.

An avalanche transceiver with fresh batteries, a shovel and a probe is mandatory. However, our guides typically leave their airbags at home unless they are going for the yurt-based trip extension. The call is yours!

It is a good idea to pack a UHF/VHF radio if you have one. You will need at least two goggles: for overcast and for sunny conditions. Since we will be skiing amongst trees, we require all participants to wear a helmet. We will send you a complete packing list well before the trip.

  • For all touring trips it is essential you ski with an all-mountain/freeride type skis, ski touring boots and ski touring bindings. If you have your own skis but they do not have ski touring bindings then you will need to rent skis. The same applies if you have downhill ski boots, you will need to rent ski touring boots.

    Skis

    This winter our lead guides are using Elan skis. Praised by magazine testers and professional skiers alike for its unique blend of lightweight performance, the Ripstick 96 is proven to be the ultimate freeride ski in all snow conditions. The Ripstick 106 is the ultimate freeride ski for any terrain. From boundary line to the base lodge, peak to the parking lot, and trailhead to tailgate this ski excels in all conditions. The new Ripstick Tour 94 is designed on a wider platform, enabling the skier to float better, ski faster, and turn easier in backcountry conditions.

    It is built to blend high performance at a low weight, for the perfect mix of freeride downhill performance and efficient ascending capability. With Ripstick Tour 94, the confidence to conquer long ascents and charge challenging descents is the name of the game.

    There are many ‘all-mountain/freeride’ skis to choose from and we also recommend skis from Salomon, Dynastar, Movement, Black Crows, Trab Skis, Scott and Volkl.  Look for a ski that is the right size for your height, typically the tip of the ski should be somewhere around your nose height.  As for the width of the ski or “side cut” a mid-fat ski – 90-110mm under the foot is a good place to start; this offers plenty of flotation off-piste while remaining suitable for day tours and they should also handle reasonably well on piste and mixed terrain.

    Elan Skis: www.elanskis.com

    Dynastar Skis:  www.dynastar.com

    Movement Skis: www.movementskis.com                                       

    Black Crows Skis: www.blackcrows-skis.com/

    Trab Skis: www.skitrab.com/en-us/

    Scott Skis: http://www.scott-sports.com

    Volkl Skis: http://www.voelkl.com

     

    There are plenty of other great skis to choose from so if you’re planning on buying skis for ski touring or general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us, or Lockwoods, to discuss the options available.

    If you are planning on buying skis for ski touring and general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us to discuss the options available to you.

    Boots

    It is essential that you have ski touring boots for these trips as walking uphill is much more comfortable in these types of boots with a walk mode and great flex; a dedicated touring boot or a hybrid hike & ride boot is best. 

    Our guides are using ROXA boots. They recommend R3 ski boots, the lightest high-performance alpine ski boot in its class. The 110 TI is geared for big mountain chargers who may use “Tech” and/or Alpine bindings and often hike or skin to find their lines. The RX Tours is targeted toward skiers who prefer to blaze their own trail and leave the lift lines behind.

    Scarpa has led the way in touring boots for many years but they have been joined by other manufacturers like Dynafit, Salomon, Scott, Black Diamond, Dalbello and K2; all producing their own versions of ski touring boot.

    ROXAR3 and RX Tour ski boots provide a range of models suitable for all sorts of terrain and snow conditions. It is a family-owned company located in Italy, focused on advanced materials, and ultralight compounds and one of the first companies to use

    • Scarpa’s Freedom boots are their Hybrid offerings, with great ski performance, a walk mode and Vibram sole. Their Maestrale (men’s) and Gea (women’s) boots are also highly recommended.
    • The Scott Celeste and Cosmo boots have stood the test of time and are good all-around choices.
    • Salomon’s Quest Max series offer boots with a walk mode in various flex’s with good downhill performance.
    • Dynafit offer the Mercury or Vulcan boots plus a range of lightweight options like the TLT6.

    The best of the rest are:
    Fischer - Transalp
    Black Diamond – Quadrant and Factor
    K2 – Pinnacle boot
    Dalbello – Lupo or Sherpa
    Langue – XT series offer a ski boot with a walk mode in various flex options

    Boot Liners
    These days many manufacturers offer ‘thermo-fit¹ liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner as these are heated and molded to your foot and boot for a perfect fit. They can make all the difference especially if you have trouble finding really comfortable ‘off-the-shelf’ boots. Zipfit liners are a great option for anyone seeking total customisation in fit and comfort. They will replace the original liner.

    Custom Footbeds
    Essential kit – to provide additional comfort and ski control. If you want to get footbeds made or a pair of new boots fitted then we suggest you visit somewhere like Profeet for a professional fitting. Don’t forget if you have footbeds in your downhill boots but need to rent touring boots then you can bring the footbeds with you and put them in the hire boots.

    Bindings
    For all ski touring trips ski touring bindings are essential. Fritschi and Marker both make excellent ski-touring bindings and you have a few different options to choose from. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the “pin” binding system now offered by a number of manufacturers as these are light and offer ever-improving security despite their minimalist looks!

    It’s essential you have ski touring bindings on your skis. Although Pin bindings have been around since the Dynafit Low Tech bindings over 30 years ago since their patent expired the technology has advanced substantially. Salomon, with their Shift Binding, are at the forefront; they’re ‘multi norm compatible’ so fit a selection of boots and are lighter than most freeride bindings. Our lead guides are using the Shift binding this winter, so if you’d like to know more about them give Lockwoods a ring.

    Ski Poles
    We recommend telescopic poles. They must have wide powder baskets (4-5 inches/100-120mm diameter) otherwise you’ll be up to your armpits on the ascents. Go for an alloy rather than carbon poles which are lighter but have a nasty habit of snapping near the basket due to ski edge nicks.

    Rucksack
    For most ski tours especially multi-day hut-to-hut tours you will need a 35 - 40 litre rucksack. You might get away with a big 30 liter pack if you are an experienced ski tourer and know what to pack. Most people will find a 35-40 liter pack is a good size for touring.

    Key features of a good ski touring pack:

    • a method of attaching your skis in either an A-frame (one either side) or both together on a diagonal ski carriage
    • easy access into the main compartment without having to empty the sack to get something at the bottom
    • separate pocket for avalanche shovel, handle and probe
    • small top pocket for items like wallet, sunglassed/goggles etc; an ice axe loop
    • built-in rain cover and a secure method of attaching/stowing a ski helmet 
    • good hip/waist belt and adjustable shoulder straps

    Ortovox Haute Route 40 rucksack will be a good choice for ski touring trips. 

    Avalanche airbag rucksacks can be used for touring but they are heavy, adding somewhere between 5-8kg just for an empty pack plus canister. So unless you are sure you can carry it and fit all you need in, we do not recommend you use one. 

    Over a long multiday tour, every gram of weight is important as you have to carry and move it yourself. Carrying a heavy pack will hinder and tire all but the most experienced and fit ski tourer.

     

  • When choosing clothing for ski touring you want to think light, warm and versatile. During the trip weather conditions will change and you’re likely to go from warm afternoons where you’ll be carrying most of your gear in your rucksack, to icy-cold mornings when you’re wearing everything to keep warm! Getting hold of the best and lightest kit available is always worth it and most of the major brands will be able to supply a suitable kit.

    This season, we’ve partnered with Ortovox to provide us with the very best safety kit and clothing. Our guides will all be decked out in the latest Ortovox jackets and trousers and will keep warm, dry and comfortable thanks to their technical wool base- and mid-layers. Our guides couldn’t recommend their kit more highly.

     

    • Roll neck rather than a scarf. We use and recommend the ‘Buff¹ ¬ a light, stretchable tube. Excellent despite the name! They do both a fleece/cotton version for warmth or just a cotton one (to keep the sun off).
    • Headwear to include warm hat and sun-cap or wide-brim hat for extra protection from the sun. Mountain Tracks fully supports the wearing of helmets for skiing, although not mandatory for any of our trips we do recommend them.
    • An outer shell jacket made of waterproof and breathable material like Gore-Tex or similar with a built-in hood. The lighter the better and so a shell is recommended rather than an insulated jacket.
    • 1-2 thin fleeces - rather than a thick layer between your skin and the outer shell - an approach which gives better heat retention and good flexibility. These tops are known as ‘mid layers’. The principle of ‘layering’ e.g. allowing you to easily add/remove layers depending on the temperature and the activity is recommended to ensure comfort on the mountain.
    • Insulation layer like a down or Primaloft jacket is a good item to have ready to wear in the event of cold weather, it can live in your rucksack as a spare layer and can come in very handy for sudden changes in the weather.
    • For the lower half it’s essential that you have a pair of thermal base layer pants (long johns).
    • These can then be combined with either:
    • (a) a good pair of ‘technical shell’ pants in a waterproof and breathable fabric like Gore-Tex (b) a pair of mountain or alpine pants in a softshell material together with a pair of lightweight, breathable over trousers with long side zips.
    • Top and bottom underwear made of a synthetic, wicking material. Very popular at the moment are the wool based layers from companies such as Ortovox. They are comfy, breathable and warm when needed and can be worn for days without your friends catching a whiff!
    • Good quality Gore-Tex gloves or mitts and a thin pair of softshell or fleece gloves for when it is hot and for ski touring in. Silk inner gloves can be useful if the weather is cold and you suffer from cold hands.
    • Technical Socks - Investing in good quality ski socks will improve fit, warmth and feel when skiing for long periods. Bring along a few pairs.
  • The “Safety Trilogy” - required on all our ski tours and off-piste courses.

    • Avalanche Transceiver/Beacon
    • Snow shovel
    • Avalanche probe

    We recommend Simple and intuitive ORTOVOX AVALANCHE RESCUE KIT 3+ 

     

    Remember it is not enough just to carry this equipment; you have to know how to use it. 

    How about joining one of our specialist avalanche courses – check out www.mountaintracks.co.uk/activity/avalanche-training

    • Good pair of ski goggles with a lens for low light is essential in the event of snow and poor visibility
    • Good quality sunglasses with 100% UV protection
    • 35 – 40 liter rucksack
    • 1 – 1.5 Liter water bottle – we don’t recommend hydration systems (e.g. camelbak) in winter as they can freeze.
    • Food – bring some of your favorite hill nibbles (chocolate, energy bars)*
    • Suncream and lip salve
    • Camera with a large capacity memory card!
    • Money – most hotels, shops and restaurants accept credit cards, but not all the alpine huts do. You should allow about 30-40 Swiss Francs or 20-30 Euros per day for lunch and drinks (amount approximate and depends on consumption)
    Please note that your guide will have a few “spares” and other safety items that he or she will ask the group to carry between them; so leave a small space in your sack for an item e.g. spare skin, spare ski pole, emergency shelter.

    For a hut night:
    • Lightweight sleeping bag liner – now compulsory in most huts.
    • Wash kit with small personal first aid items – should include:
    • Toothbrush and paste - a mini one is ideal
    • Soap
    • Anti-bacterial hand cleaner
    • Wet wipes – essential to try to maintain hygiene
    • Tissues and toilet roll
    • Plasters – of various sizes and possibly some adhesive wound dressings.
    • Pain Killers – aspirin or Paracetamol/Nurofen
    • Antiseptic cream or wipes
    • Blister kit – compeed and elastic tape to hold it in place (essential)!
    • (Note: Guides will have comprehensive first aid kits and are qualified in mountain first aid)
    • Small light quick dry towel e.g. a Lifeventure Soft fiber towel
    • Most huts have limited washing facilities
    • Earplugs – it can get quite noisy!
    • Headtorch - lightweight and carry spare batteries.
    • Book, pack of cards and or Ipod/MP3 player – It’s nice to have something to read or listen to when you are in the huts or to challenge your fellow travelers to a game of card. These items are not essential but if you have space you might appreciate them.
    What to wear in the hut
    We are often asked by people what they should wear in the hut. It's a good question as you don't want to carry many or any extra clothes with you if they are not required. In the winter you will probably end up wearing your base layer thermals (top & bottom) or you can carry a lightweight pair of loose trousers to wear around the hut in the afternoons/evenings. Your base layer top is what you will probably wear on your top half or you can carry a t-shirt to wear in the hut that can double to sleep in. 

    Food and Water
    We suggest you bring with you or buy in resort snack food that you can take out on the hill with you each day. Things like cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, sugary sweets or your favorite hill snacks. When you’re staying overnight in huts its best to take supplies for the days you are away. Huts do sell food but it’s expensive and sometimes stocks run low.
    If you have any food allergies or dietary requirements especially if you are a Coeliac (Gluten free) or have a dairy allergy we strongly recommend you bring some food with you that you can supplement your dinners with. The huts are fairly good at providing for vegetarians but less so for other dietary needs.
    You have to buy bottled water in the huts as usually any running water is non-potable. Bottled water is expensive in French and Swiss huts; you can be paying upto 12-16CHF per 1.5L bottle of water. So please ensure you budget for this cost.

  • If you think that six days of shredding knee-deep powder in Kazakhstan isn't enough to justify a flight, then consider extending your trip and adding 3 more days of ski touring. You can stay in an off-the-grid yurt, located in the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains at an elevation of 1,750 meters. It's just a three-hour drive from the city of Almaty.

    The yurt offers exclusive access to a variety of ski-touring terrain with vertical drops ranging from 700 to 900 meters. As you explore, you'll be treated to breathtaking views of majestic peaks reaching 5,000 meters in the distance.

    Inside the yurt, you'll find a cosy wood-burning stove for warmth, bunk beds for comfortable sleeping arrangements, and delicious half-board cooked meals. Additionally, there's a power generator and even a steam sauna to relax after a day of adventure. Plus, there's no 4G signal, providing a pleasant opportunity to disconnect and enjoy an internet detox.

    The yurt touring extension is only offered for the February departure. If you want more skiing in January, you can arrive in Ridder a few days earlier and have more ski touring days. Please enquire.

    The price is £600.00pp and will run with a minimum of 3 passengers (prices will change for 1 or 2 passengers requesting for extension).

     

  • It is a condition of booking that you are insured for your chosen activity and the cover must include medical expenses, personal accident, personal liability, third party risks and rescue (including helicopter rescue). You are strongly advised also to take out cover against cancellation and curtailment.

    For UK residents Ski Club Travel Insurance may be a suitable option.

    For more details and to purchase a policy online visit http://www.skiclubinsurance.co.uk/
    If you need assistance arranging your personal insurance please let us know.
     

  • There are a few ways to get to Almaty. Please do your own research to find the most suitable for you. Here are some common routes from London/Manchester:

    • Turkish Airlines  - layover in Istanbul
    • Qatar Airlines – layover in Doha
    • Lufthansa – layover in Frankfurt
    • Pegasus – layover in Istanbul (only available from London Stansted)

    Upon landing in Almaty, there is a 1hr domestic flight you need to catch.

    We recommend you book the below internal flights to ensure you are ready for the group transfer from Oskemen Airport (UKK) to Ridder, with your guide Andrey at 2pm on 11.01.25 or 01.02.25. And upon return to Almaty on the last day, the group transfer from Ridder to UKK will be timed for the 13:55 flight to Almaty.

    Air Astana is the recommended airline:

    • 11.01 or 01.02: Almaty to Oskemen Airport: 11:30 - 12:55.
    • 18.01 or 08.02: Oskemen Airport to Almaty: 13:55 - 15:30

     

    Your departure flight home can be made anytime on 19.01 or 09.02. Transfers will organised after receiving client flight details.

     

    Flight costs are not included in the price.

     If you have any questions on flight details, please contact us for futher information or guidance. 

     

  • ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) 

    1. What is ETIAS?

      • Starting in the first half of 2025, travellers from over 60 visa-exempt countries will be required to have an ETIAS travel authorisation to enter most European countries within the Schengen Area.
      • ETIAS enhances security by checking the details of travellers before they arrive.
      • It is similar to systems like the ESTA (USA) and eTA (Canada).
    2. Who Needs ETIAS?

      • Travellers with British passports or passports from other visa-exempt countries must complete the ETIAS process.
      • Holders of EU or Schengen Area passports or valid EU/Schengen Area visas are exempt.
    3. Application Details:

      • ETIAS costs a 7EUR processing fee, waived for those under 18 or over 70.
      • Validity: Three years from application, tied to your passport’s validity.
      • New passport = new ETIAS.
    4. Application Form Questions:

      • Basic personal details (e.g., passport info, name, address, citizenship, gender).
      • Additional questions during the process (e.g., criminal history, past travel, health).
    5. Application Fee:

      • 7EUR euros.
      • Electronic payment via debit/credit card.
    6. Approval:

      • Most applicants receive approval within minutes.
      • Valid ETIAS visa waiver for three consecutive years.

    Remember to apply for ETIAS approval to explore your favourite European destinations! More details will be confirmed by ETIAS authorities. You can find additional information at the following links:

     


    EES (Entry/Exit System)

    The Entry/Exit System (EES) is an automated IT system developed by the European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems. Its primary purpose is to register travellers from third countries each time they cross an EU external border. Here are the key points:

    1. What is EES?

    2. Who Is Affected?

      • The EES applies to non-EU nationals travelling for a short stay (up to 90 days within any 180 days) to European countries using the EES.
      • Exemptions apply; for example, holders of EU or Schengen Area passports or valid visas are exempt from EES registration.
    3. Advantages of EES:

      • Saves time by replacing manual passport stamping.
      • Automates border control procedures for more efficient travel.
      • It helps identify travellers who overstay or use fake identities or passports.
      • Contributes to preventing, detecting, and investigating serious criminal offences.
     Remember, additional information about the EES system will be confirmed by authorities, including application acceptance details. For further resources, check out the ETIAS and the official EES website. 

      
  • Kazakhstan is considered safe for travel by government authorities such as the British Foreign Office, the USA department of state, and the Government of Canada. It is an independent and rather wealthy country thanks to its own reserves of oil & gas. It does not depend on tourism like, for example, Nepal. Because of that — and because of the Soviet legacy — you might see fewer smiles than you might be used to. Yet don’t take this personally — you are still very welcome and those smiles that you do see are the most sincere! Kazakhstan is open for tourists and is visa-free for most nationals.
  • We will be based at a small recently built luxury hotel with a short walking distance to snowcats and a 20-30 minutes drive to ski touring spots (can be up to 50 mins drive on some days depending on snow conditions). There is a tiny ski resort just 500m away with a button lift and gentle well-groomed pistes suitable for warm-up or fun night skiing.

    The rooms are twin or double, ensuite. We include half-board meals and happily cater for vegetarians and any other food preferences, intolerances or allergies if notified in advance.

  • It may be cold, especially in the beginning of the season in December — down to −20-30 °C.

    Fear not though — thanks to dry air, frost is tolerated better than you are used to. Just check the forecast and pack an extra down layer, if necessary. Consider bringing disposable warmers and neoprene overboots. Of course, regardless of how cold it is outside, our rooms are always very warm inside!

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