Photographer and friend Nicolas Teichrob just sent word that a story about our trip to Kyrgyzstan last year was published in Outer Edge Magazine in Australia this month… complete with a bunch of awesome photos and full page spread of one of my most memorable runs of the trip- Nic caught this image as I cruised back down to the yurt at sunset after a full day of lapping one of the nearby faces. It was a magical day in the backcountry- one of those ones fueled by blue skies and alpine bliss that you hope will never end. Read Anthony Bonello’s words below:
In the valley below a pony guided by an unseen horseman silently drags a pile of straw across a field, muted white by a frigid cold. As we continue climbing, we reach a slight col that presents a goliath north face wracked with numerous unskied lines. To the east, a broad spine catches a sliver of sunlight, almost beckoning us over to ski. As Izzy Lynch drops in, her contrails billow behind, floating gently in the sun before settling. It’s a first descent – feeble progress in terms of the obvious potential, but progress nonetheless.
Joined by photographer Nicolas Teichrob along with Izzy Lynch, Leah Evans and Mike Hopkins from British Columbia’s powder choked Kooteney region, we’ve been lured here by the opportunity to spend a week in a backcountry yurt—a traditional Kyrgyz nomadic tent—and ski in a country that is 80 percent mountains, many of them unseen let alone skied on by foreigners like us.
When I invited Leah a few months prior, she paused and said she’d call me back. Five minutes after that, the phone rang to confirm she’d indeed like to go skiing. “I just had to look at the map,” she explained. The topography must have made an impression. Landlocked by China to the east, Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west and separated from Afghanistan by Tajikistan in the south, Kyrgyzstan represents a part of the world—Central Asia—that none of us had any idea about, much less the country itself.
Landing in the capital Bishkek, the minus 25 degrees Celsius temperature immediately makes regular stops for a bowl of delicious Russian borscht part of our routine. Mercedes and BMWs crouch low beneath a perma-fog, trapping the city under an icy pallor. Colloquially referred to as the Paris of Central Asia, the city lives up to the moniker with grand architecture – albeit of the Soviet variety – replete with large squares and crisscrossed with wide public thoroughfares. Wandering the streets we stand out – not because of our bright Gore-Tex colors, but because unlike the chic population parading along the sidewalks dressed in tall leather boots, fitted woolen overcoats, silk scarves and big fur hats, we are completely devoid of animal skin haberdashery.
Our immediate impression is in contrast to our notions of what a predominantly Muslim country, recently to have gone through a violent revolution, were. In the spring of 2010, protests over increased heating costs and media censorship ousted the president and left 88 dead and more than 1000 injured. A visit to the Osh Bazaar offers the agrarian aspect to the city we expected. Sheep heads, braided intestines and a range of other unsavory looking by-products are available to shoppers. We’re offered a steaming cup of salty yak milk tea by a group of rotund women each sporting a rack of gold teeth. Despite its belly warming promise, the tea proves too rank for anyone to finish.
A large Marshrutka van arrives early on the third day to deliver us to Karakol where we will join Ryan Koupal, a Colorado native with a master’s degree in Chinese Moshui Hua, or “ink water painting”, who spent three winters exploring Central Asia before realising the potential to develop winter based tourism in Kyrgyzstan. A hulk of a fellow, our driver’s name is supposed to be Sergei, but he doesn’t respond to it. Nor does he respond to our requests to slow down. Only the week before, a group of American’s travelling the same route was in a serious road accident, with one person sustaining spinal injuries requiring he be be duct-taped to a snowboard for lack of a proper spinal board.