skiier looking out in karakol ski resort kyrgyzstan Karakol Ski Resort: The Complete Guide To Kyrgyzstan's Best Skiing
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Karakol Ski Resort: The Complete Guide To Kyrgyzstan’s Best Skiing

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Thinking about skiing in Kyrgyzstan? Then you may have come across Karakol Ski Resort, the country’s largest and most popular ski resort.

While Karakol is unlikely to win any awards as the most expansive or most modern ski resort in the world, it has plenty to recommend it for skiers and snowboarders looking for a new skiing challenge in an off-the-beaten-path destination.

Karakol’s variety of challenging runs through thick pine forests make it an attractive option for advanced skiers and snowboarders while a number of gentle slopes toward the base of the mountain provide a great area for learners and families to practice their skiing.

Without the extensive coverage of modern snowmakers found in many resorts, the Karakol mountains are heavily dependent on snowfall. After a few weeks without snowfall, the resort can become very icy and unenjoyable. Conversely, following a good dump of snow, skiers will find some fantastic opportunities for interesting runs amongst the trees and few people to share them with as well as incredibly affordable prices.

Nearby, a number of small ski bases offer free riders ample access to the pristine Kyrgyzstan backcountry wilderness waiting to be explored with cats, snowmobiles, touring skis, or split boards.

Here is everything you need to know before you go to Karakol Ski Resort, Kyrgyzstan’s best skiing.

When is the Karakol Ski Season?

Karakol Ski Resort Chairlift running through a coniferous forest
The best snowfall typically happens between December and early March at Karakol Ski Resort

The ski season in Karakol runs from November to April however the best conditions are typically between December and early March.

The best place to get up-to-date info about the snowfall in Karakol as well as detailed forecasts and historic data is

What Can I Expect Skiing in Karakol?

A skiier and a snowborder amongst the trees in deep snow.
After fresh snow, you can find untracked runs through the forest at the Karakol Ski Resort

Skiing in Karakol can be a fantastic experience for both beginners and advanced skiers. However, if you have primarily skied in North America, Europe, or other parts of Asia, you might need to check certain expectations at the door.

Some things you can expect when skiing in Karakol

  1. Low prices. Like other resorts in Central Asia, Karakol offers some of the cheapest skiing anywhere in the world. Ski lift passes cost around $20 USD and services on the mountain are equally affordable. Ski rental costs less than $15 USD a day, and transport costs are extremely affordable with return shared transport back to Karakol town around $5 USD. Restaurants on the mountain serve hearty meals for just a few dollars and beers are less than $2 USD. There is even ski-in ski-out accommodation starting from $75 USD per night. Prices that are pretty much unheard of anywhere else in the world.
  2. Varied terrain, interesting tree runs, and beautiful views of the Tien Shan. While the number of groomed runs may be limited here at only 20 kilometers, the opportunities to pick your own line through the coniferous forests are endless. The views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking and the resort offers a wild and unique ski experience.
  3. Quiet slopes. You won’t need to wait in long queues or navigate down busy runs in Karakol. About 5 hours from the capital Bishkek and not widely popular amongst national tourists, Karakol remains uncrowded. Even at its busiest during peak holiday periods and weekends, there is rarely a crowd and weekdays are particularly quiet on the Karakol mountains.

Some things you can’t expect when skiing in Karakol

  1. Consistent snow. Our experience skiing in Karakol was one of feast or famine. When we first arrived in mid-February, the resort hadn’t seen snow for over a month. Without extensive modern infrastructure like snowmakers, the mountain had become icy and slick. A week later after a few days of heavy snowfall to break the drought we experienced fantastic skiing.
  2. Customer service. While the customer service in the town of Karakol itself is quite good, we found it to be almost non-existent on the mountain amongst the resort staff selling lift passes and renting gear.
  3. Modern infrastructure. A series of slow 2 or 3-person chairlifts transport skiers to the top of the Karakol Ski Resort, we didn’t see any snowmakers during our visit, and onsite facilities were dated and basic.

Overall, skiing in Karakol and skiing in Kyrgyzstan can be an excellent experience for skiers looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination with challenging slopes, stunning scenery, and affordable prices, however, visitors should be aware of the limitations of this post-soviet ski resort.

Karakol Ski Resort Map

An aerial map of the lifts and ski runs at Karakol ski resort
The Karakol Ski Resort map

Where is Karakol Ski Resort?

A skiier looking out over the mountains in karakol ski resort kyrgyzstan
Kelli looking out over the Tien Shan Mountains from the Karakol Ski Resort Kyrgyzstan

Karakol is a town located in the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan, a landlocked country in Central Asia. The town is situated on the eastern end of Lake Issyk-Kul, the second-largest alpine lake in the world. Karakol is located approximately 400 kilometers east of the capital city of Bishkek and is accessible by road or air.

From the town of Karakol, you can see the Karakol National Park and the imposing Tien Shan Mountains about a 10-kilometer from town.

Getting to Karakol Ski Resort

A man walking up a snowy hill using touring skis
It’s easy to reach Karakol Ski Resort

The nearest airport is the Karakol Airport which serves domestic flights from Bishkek and other cities in Kyrgyzstan.

You can easily travel by road to Karakol from major cities in Kyrgyzstan either in a shared minibus or by private transfer. Marshrutka, local shared transport, is extremely affordable with tickets from the Bishkek bus station costing just $5 USD. Private transport starts at around $20 USD per hour of travel.

It is also possible to reach Karaol from Kazakhstan leaving from major cities such as Almaty and passing over the border. Be aware that some borders may be closed due to poor weather in winter.

It is easy to arrange private transport by contacting tour agencies. Information on shared transport can be more difficult to find but asking locals (such as accommodation hosts or at major bus stations) is the best way to find current information.

From the town of Karakol, there are two ways to reach the ski fields just ten kilometers away. Private transport or shared marshrutka. It is not recommended to take a local taxi or rideshare like Yandex as the road is in poor condition and particularly treacherous when it snows. You can organize shared or private transport from either of the Ski City ski stores located in Karakol town.

Ski Rental in Karakol

ski city ski rental kyrgyzstan Karakol Ski Resort: The Complete Guide To Kyrgyzstan's Best Skiing
Pick up rental skis and organize a lift to the ski fields at Ski City

There are many ski rental stores in Karakol, mostly located on Karasaeva Street.

Ski rental is affordable between USD $10 and $15 dollars a day for a set of skis, poles, and boots or snowboard and boots. Other gear is available for rent including jackets, pants, goggles, gloves, and avalanche kits for those planning to do some backcountry skiing in Kyrgyzstan.

Karakol Ski Resort Accommodation

the Kapriz Karakol hotel on the slopes of the Karakol Ski Resort
The Kapriz Karakol Hotel on the slopes of the Karakol Mountains

There is a variety of accommodations to suit different styles and budgets although those looking for modern, high-end, or luxury accommodation might be disappointed.

Kapriz Karakol

Located on the ski slopes, the highlight of Kapriz Karakol has to be its location and absolute convenience. Located directly on the ski run, guests can enjoy the included hearty breakfast before skiing directly down to the first chair lift.

Despite being a little dated, the hotel still offers all the amenities you would hope to find in a ski lodge including an onsite pool, sauna, and bar. Rooms start from around $75 US per night.

Ordo Hotel and Hostel

This clean, comfortable, and bright hostel offers homecooked breakfast and warm helpful owners. The hotel is located in Karakol town and private rooms start around $45 USD per night. The hotel also offers dormitory-style accommodation for those traveling on a budget.

Green Yard Hotel

With breakfast, comfortable rooms, friendly service, and an affordable nightly rate of around $50 USD, the Green Yard Hotel is a well-recommended hotel in Karakol town.


A great guest house in a central location in Karakol. Matsunoki offers a delicious daily breakfast and a warm welcoming atmosphere from the lovely host family that runs it.

How Much Does it Cost to Ski Karakol?

people exiting a chairlift in Karakol Ski Resort
Karakol offers basic infrastructure and affordable skiing

Skiing in Karakol is extremely affordable.

The total cost of skiing in Karakol starts from around $80 per person per day and goes up to around $180 a day. Additional tours or activities like backcountry skiing will cost more.

Here is a breakdown of some of the most common expenses you might expect.

  • Lift Pass: $20 USD per day.
  • Ski Rental: $15 USD a day
  • Shared Transport to the Ski Resort: $5 USD
  • Meals in a Restaurant: $3 – $10 USD
  • Beer: $2 USD
  • Accommodation: $30 – $100 USD per night
  • Transport from Bishkek: $5 – $100 USD

Restaurants and Bars in Karakol

restaurant karakol kyrgyzstan Karakol Ski Resort: The Complete Guide To Kyrgyzstan's Best Skiing
There are some great restaurants and bars on the mountain in Karakol Ski Resort and in the town of Karakol

Restaurants and Bars at Karakol Ski Resort (On the Mountain)

In total there are four restaurants, cafes, and bars within the Karakol Ski Resort.

Kapriz Hotel Restaurant

Part of the Kapriz Hotel, this onsite restaurant offers a formal dining option with table service and a variety of local and international dishes.

Kapriz Coffee Bar

Located under the first chairlift, on the home run and bunny slope of the resort, the Kapriz Coffee Bar has a limited amount of outdoor and indoor seating and offers casual dining and a wide selection of hot and cold drinks (including alcoholic drinks), snacks, and meals.

Across from the cafe is another informal eatery with really good pizzas, shashlik cooked fresh on the outdoor grill, and a variety of other fast food options and drinks.

Verkhneye Kafe

meat grilled flame kyrgyzstan karakol Karakol Ski Resort: The Complete Guide To Kyrgyzstan's Best Skiing
Grilled shashlik is a popular lunch choice on the mountain

Halfway up the mountain, reachable from the second chairlift (down and to the right from the lift ticket and ski rental office) is the Verkhneye Kafe. The cafe offers casual dining serving hot and cold drinks and a limited selection of hot food including pizzas and grilled-to-order shashlik (shishkebab). The cafe no longer serves beer or alcoholic drinks aside from hot mulled wine.

Karakol Ski Resort Restaurant

Below the bottom lift, lift ticket, and ski rental office, a large red a-frame building offers another restaurant featuring local and international cuisine. Prices are reasonable with main dishes costing around $5 USD.

Restaurants and Bars in Karakol

There are lots of options for dining in Karakol town and these were some of our favorites.

The Hut

the hut bar karakol Kyrgyzstan Karakol Ski Resort: The Complete Guide To Kyrgyzstan's Best Skiing
The Hut is a great bar in the town of Karakol to meet after a day on the slopes

Locals and visitors frequent this friendly and cozy bar. Good drink prices, foosball, darts, and a welcoming atmosphere make this a great place to meet after a day on the slopes.

Local Karakol Food

In a small hidden alley behind the Konak cafe, there is a row of tiny and basic eateries serving homemade Kyrgyz food. Pull up a plastic chair and point at various things on the Russian menus, it is all delicious and authentic. Popular traditional dishes include noodle soups like laghman and ashlan-ful as well as dumplings like manti and oromo.

Duet Coffee Shop

duet coffee karakol kyrgyzstan Karakol Ski Resort: The Complete Guide To Kyrgyzstan's Best Skiing
The Duet Coffee shop is great for a coffee or breakfast before skiing or a beer and light dinner afterward

This cafe attached to the Duet Hostel has a modern and comfortable interior, a varied menu, great prices, and delicious food. They offer local and international comfort food such as local favorite azu, as well as burgers and pizzas. The cafe often has events and promotions. Besides coffee, they also have cheap beers and cocktails.

The Lighthouse

Another restaurant attached to a hostel the Lighthouse is a popular cafe with a varied menu covering local specialties through to western classics like smoothies, burgers, salads, and cheesecake.

BackCountry Skiing Around Karakol

A yurt lodge in the Jyrgalan backcountry Kyrgyzstan
A Jyrgalan Yurt Lodge in the backcountry near Karakol.

If you are looking for a greater challenge than skiing the groomed trails of Karakol, you might like to explore the backcountry in and around Karakol.

You can go backcountry skiing in Karakol by touring beyond the marked runs serviced by lifts in the resort. Of course, proper precautions and gear should be taken and at least one member of your party should be a certified guide.

Outside of Karakol, there are also opportunities for ski touring. Ski bases at nearby Jyrgalan and Ak-Suu offer the opportunity for backcountry skiing.

Unlike Karakol, there is no resort, lifts, or other infrastructure found at these bases and skiers will need to come prepared with guides and proper ski touring equipment including avalanche gear.

Accommodation at the backcountry bases comes in the form of cozy but basic yurts, an experience in itself!


Hopefully, you found some useful information about skiing in Karakol and the Karakol Ski Resort but if you have any questions please let us know in the comments below!


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