The most popular destinations in Russia are Moscow and St. Petersburg. But personally, I think that Moscow doesn’t have much snow and St.Petersburg has a humidity of 80%. So in order see “real” cold and snow, you have to go further – the Ural mountains – that is the destination I picked for my Christmas trip.
I flew from Prague through St.Petersburg, so the whole one-way trip took me about 9 hours in total with check-ins, luggage claims and stop-over in St.Petersburg (without sightseeing). The second I stepped out of the plane, I felt cold dry air – exactly what I was looking for. I stayed with Airbnb for a couple of days in the city center, exploring the treasures of Russian culture. And I was quite surprised by what I saw: when you live for a long time in Europe, you get used to the snow cleaned out from the streets, but here in Perm, you can walk on the main street and fight 20 cms of snow on the pavement!.. And that seems like a normal situation for everyone – people calmly cross the streets trying not to fall, and the cars drive around carefully, managing the traffic situation. Public transport was quite complicated for me at first, you always have to consult locals before catching a bus, because you will not find any information on a bus stop itself.
The city itself is quite easy to explore, as it is full of strictly parallel and perpendicular streets, so if you get lost, go down in the direction of the river, and you will get to the center. I loved the main street called Esplanade a lot, during christmas time and new year the government organized an “ice-town” for the children, which is full of ice figures, slides and figure-skating area. There is a Christmas tree right in the middle of it, so in the evening, with the lights on this place attracts a lot of romantic couples.
The food in this Russian city is quite interesting, I have never seen so many kinds of porrige on the shelf! And the prices for food are relatively cheap, however I wouldn’t advise tasting the beer..
After a couple of days I headed outside of the city, to the mountains. There are three famous places for snowboarding in that area – Polazna, Zhebrei and Gubaha. Among those, Gubaha is considered the largest one, with better infrastructure and relatively not far from Perm. To save some time, I used the services of this company, according to locals, that one provides, transport, accomondation and discounts for ski-pass. The whole journey there is 250 kms from Perm and it takes about 4 hours by bus. There is a great opportunity to enjoy the miraculous Russian nature on your way there, honestly, I haven’t seen anything more beautiful in my life! The whole forest is dressed in white, and what really blew my mind, when we stopped and a gas station, I came closer to the forest, and when I stepped away from the track, my leg half-sank in the snow!
The resort itself is not big, but the tracks are huge and various, an amateur snowboarder will find a lot to do there – from blue and red wide mountain tracks to black slopes with the stones and special freeride green roads going through the forest. For those people, who don’t have their own equipment, there are 3 rental places right next to the slope and the hotel is quite close there too (it is simple, but all the aminities are included). If you don’t have much skiing experience it doesn’t matter as well – there are instructors available in the main building, who can patiently explain you everything you need to know for a reasonable price.
There are no snow generators at the resort, as the nature itself generated enough snow for the winter. In certain days, evening skiing takes place, you will need a seperate ski-pass for it, however, it is worth trying, as the slopes look differently under the lights. During work days there are not many people, so there is more than enough space at the slope – perfect conditions for beginners to learn their maneuvers. I was snowboarding for 2 days, and I would have stayed longer if I had more travelling time!
More interesting places:
There are a couple of more interesting snowboarding places to explore for the next time:
Sheregesh – a large resort, which is considered “Russian Alps”. It has a smart infrastructure, and offeres all the amenities right next to the slope.
Eurasia – which is 1.5 hours further away from Chelyabinsk, but is amazing for freeriders.
And my favourite Helli-ski& helli-boarding at Manaraga – one of the best destinations for adrenaline-addicts!
More surprises from mother-Russia!
The rest of my trip I spent with couchsurfers in the suburbs of Perm, with a lot of skiing, jumping through the forests on a snow-scooter, and getting an actual live Christmas tree from the forest! Hosts also showed me an actual Russian sauna (called Banya), which is a humid hot sauna (90-130 degrees) where you are massaged with a Banya broom (might be made of any tree: birch, pine-tree, eucaliptus, etc.). I was scared of it at first, but I have to admit that it is an extremely invigorating procedure. Some people jump to the snow afterwards, but I am not that reckless..
For many people Russia is a huge and mysterious country, but I found it unusually friendly and interesting, and what is most important – perfect for snowboarding. The whole budget of my trip was about 600 euros for the total time of 2 weeks (including plane tickets) and, I have to admit, the information and experience I got is unforgettable!