Tehran is a massive city which sprawls out in all directions except one. It meets its match in the Alborz mountain range. These soar up to 5600m and contain Mount Damavand (the highest mountain in the Middle East) and also four different ski resorts.
The ski areas are some of the most liberal places in the country. Typically only the Tehran liberal elite hit the slopes and the religious police either unable to ski or inept enough that people can get away! The long ski season along with cheap (by European standards) lift passes and rental it’s one of the draws which the government is looking to promote in order to quintuple visitors to Iran by 2025.
The biggest one, Dizin, didn’t have any accommodation free the days I was looking so I decided instead to do a day trip to the Tochal ski area. This is easily accessible from end of one Metro Line 1 (Tajrish station) and a short cab ride or probably a 45 minute walk.
I set off in my ski jacket and thermals and when I got to the metro quickly I realised my error and was completely sweltering. About an hour later and beads of sweat rolling down I decided the cab was the best option to maximise time.
Station 1 is the starting point while station 7 is where the main ski area is. A day pass cost 300k rials ($10) and there is an efficient equipment rental shop just under the entrance to the gondolas.
Board, boots, gloves and ski pants set me back around 1m rials ($33) and was in relatively good condition.
The gondola ride up offers spectacular views South over Tehran covered in a light smog even on a clear day! The gondola is 7.5km long and arrives at station 7 which is close to 4000m and while it was mild when I was there (-3c) in the midst of winter it does get seriously cold.
I arrived just after midday and as I was clipping into my board loudspeakers started playing the call to prayer – starting, as usual, with Allahu Akbar. I can honestly say, sitting there in the middle of snow-capped mountains about to do my first snowboarding run it was one of the most surreal experiences I think I’ve ever had.
The ski area itself is small enough and the slopes quit manageable – green runs mostly and good for beginners but with two chair lifts open there was plenty to keep me entertained for 3 hours or so.
For reasons unknown the last gondola down is at 3pm which does limit ski time – so if you really want to hit it hard then go early – first lift up at 0830 for the early birds.
Half a day skiing in Tochal was a great option to break up the city visits and get away from the relentless traffic and pollution of Tehran.