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When people think of Central Asia, Kazakhstan and the Silk Road, skiing isn’t usually the first thing that springs to mind. However, Almaty in southern Kazakhstan is home to Shymbulak Mountain Resort; one of the only two places you can hit the slopes in Central Asia.

Shymbulak is a great destination for lovers of winter sports and the great outdoors given its close proximity to the centre of Almaty. So, let’s explore all there is to do at Shymbulak!

The resort at Shymbulak is located 25km south of Almaty in Southern Kazakhstan, close to the border with Kyrgyzstan.

 

Top things to do at Shymbulak

  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Hiking
  • Horse Riding
  • Paragliding
  • Buggy Rides
  • Tracked Vehicles Rides
  • Eating and Drinking

Shymbulak Ski Resort

Shymbulak Ski Resort is the largest such resort in Central Asia. The resort lies at 2,200 metres (7,200 feet) above sea level in the Zaiilisky Alatau Mountain Range (part of the Tian Shan) above Almaty in Kazakhstan. Shymbulak was the first downhill ski run in the former Soviet Union.

There are three ski lifts at the resort which culminate at Talgar Pass (3,200 metres) with great views to the city below. If you do not ski, it’s still possible to buy a ticket for the ski lifts to take in the views. The resort is easily reachable by cable car from nearby Medeu (home of the world’s highest ice-skating rink). See below for exact information on getting to the resort.

The resort has many other activities available including horse riding, tracked vehicle rides, paragliding and more. See their website for more info.

Ski Passes

 

A weekend single-day* ski pass costs 9,500₸ for adults and 3,500₸ for children under 10 years old.

A weekday single-day* ski pass costs 6,500₸ for adults and 3,000₸ for children under 10.

*10am to 5pm

It’s also possible to purchase a 4-hour pass or night pass. See the resort’s website for more details and to book online.

Cable Car (Gondola) and Ski Lifts

 

Trip Adult Child
Cable Car (one way) 2,000₸ 1,000₸
Cable Car (round trip) 3,500₸ 1,500₸
Cable Car + Ski Lifts 1 and 2  (rt) 4,000₸ 2,500₸
Ski Lifts 1 and 2 (rt) 3,500₸ 2,000₸
Shymbulak 360 (glass floor) 4,000₸ 2,500₸

 

The cable car leaves from the penultimate bus stop on routes 6 and 12 (the stop before Medeu Ice Rink). Don’t worry if you miss the stop as the bus terminates at the ice rink and it’s a 5 minute walk down to the gondola station.

Operating Times:

Monday to Friday: 10:00 to 17:30

Saturday & Sunday: 10:00 to 18:30

The cable car operates year-round.

Equipment Hire

 

 

You can hire all the equipment you need for a day on the slopes at Shymbulak from skis and snowboards to boots, gloves, goggles and helmets. It is cheaper to hire equipment in Almaty, but unless you have a hire car it will be a pain taking everything on the bus, and other passengers won’t thank you for it (speaking from experience).

See table to the right for a breakdown of prices. Equipment is graded from 2 to 5 stars and priced accordingly. There is equipment for both adults and children available.

There are lockers on site for a fee of 500₸ (2,000₸ deposit required).

 

Rental Prices

 

Equipment Adult Child
Package w/ boots 5,000₸ 3,000₸
Skis/Snowboard 3,000₸ 2,000₸
Boots 3,500₸ 2,500₸
Helmet 2,000₸ 2,000₸
Poles 2,000₸ 2,000₸
Goggles 1,000₸ 1,000₸
Trekking Poles 3,000₸
GPS Tracker 3,000₸

 

Hiking at Shymbulak

 

For those not interested in winter sports, Shymbulak is a great starting off point for hikes into the mountains.

There are many trails in the area and it’s possible to do anything from day hikes like the Four Peaks Trail (7 hours) to multi-day hikes such as Shymbulak to Big Almaty Lake (3 days).

Be aware that altitude sickness can affect anyone at over 2,500 metres (8,000 feet) and to plan accordingly.

Packing list for Shymbulak

Be sure to be well prepared when heading into the mountains and tell hotel staff where you are going and when you expect to be back. Better yet, rent a GPS tracker from the resort (see above)!

 

  • Extra (warm) layers of clothing
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Sturdy boots
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Food and water

Food and Drink at Shymbulak Mountain Resort

 

There are many dining options at Shymbulak from bakeries to fine dining. You can even enjoy lunch or dinner in a traditional yurt or igloo.

You can enjoy a range of cuisines from traditional Kazakh to European and Russian. Obvisouly prices will be higher than in the city. Also consider taking a picnic to cut down on costs. 

See below for a list of all cafes bars and restaurants.

Restaurants

Assorti; European & Kazakh cuisine with a speciality in kebabs.

Meal for one 4,500₸

Open: 10:00 to 18:00 7 days

Base Camp Yurt; Kazakh cuisine served  at 3,200 metres in a traditional yurt. 

Meal for one 4,000₸

Open: 10:00 to 16:00 7 days

Chalet; a restaurant specialising in venison and beef so avoid if you are vegetarian.

Meal for one 5,500₸

Open: 10:00 to 22:00 7 days

Igloo Food & Drinks; Upmarket European cuisine in an igloo!

Meal for one 6,000₸

Open: 09:30 to 17:00 7 days

S.N.e.G; a boutique hotel and restaurant serving international cuisine with veranda overlooking the mountains.

Meal for one 5,500₸

Open: 09:30 to 17:00 7 days

Cafes

Marrone Rosso; gourmet coffee shop selling hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, salads and pastries.

Snacks & drink for one 3,000₸

Open: 09:00 to 17:30 7 days

Paul Café; world-renowned French café and bakery.

Meal for one 3,000₸

Open: 09:00 to 18:00 7 days

Bars

Bar 3200; the highest bar in the former Soviet Union serving hot and cold drinks and snacks.

Meal for one 4,000₸

Open: 09:30 to 17:00 7 days

Saray Bar; a homely bar serving a selection of European and Eastern dishes.

Meal for one 5,500₸

Open: 08:00 to 02:00 7 days

Shymbulak Hotels

 

There isn’t too much need to stay overnight in Shymbulak given that Almaty is so close, but if you feel you would rather stay in the mountains then there are two hotel options within the ski resort.

Shymbulak Resort Hotel

The main hotel of the resort complex. Doubles from $79

S.N.e.G Boutique Hotel

An upmarket log-cabin style hotel with onsite restaurant and veranda overlooking the mountains and Almaty below. Doubles from $92

If you would like to stay in Almaty then I can recommend the following options:

Budget: Sky Hostel

Why this hostel? The roof terrace has some of the best views in Almaty!

Dorm beds from: $10

Mid-Range: Hotel Astana

Why this hotel? Walking distance to the centre and good option for those on a budget but not wanting to stay in a dormitory.

Twin/Double Room from: $44

Luxury: Hotel Kazzhol

Why this hostel? Pool, gym and the best buffet breakfast in town!

Twin/Double Room from: $89

How to get to Shymbulak Mountain Resort

By Bus:

 

Take bus 12 from opposite Hotel Kazakhstan on Dostyk Street to Medeu. Journey is approximately 30 minutes.

From Medeu you can take the cable car or shuttle bus from the ice rink.

Alternatively, you can hike from Medeu (around 2 hours, all uphill). Walk behind the ice rink and follow the steps.

By Taxi

 

A taxi to Shymbulak from central Almaty should cost around 5,000₸ and take 45 minutes. Just flag down any passing car and negotiate the price.

 

How to get to Almaty

 

Almaty is easily reachable from the rest of Kazakhstan by air, train and bus.

From China: Take a weekly train or daily bus from Urumqi. Journey time is 25 to 30 hours.

From Kyrgyzstan: There are daily marshrutkas (minibus with a fixed route) from Bishkek in Almaty.

From Uzbekistan: From Tashkent take a taxi to the border, cross on foot and then take a taxi to Shymkent. From Shymkent take the overnight train to Almaty.

When is the Best Time to visit Shymbulak?

The skiing season runs from November until late March, but Shymbulak is a great destination all year round. Outside of winter the area is perfect for outdoor activities from hiking and picnics to horse riding.

Remember that the temperature will be a lot colder than in the city, even in summer. 

Health, Safety & Insurance Shymbulak

Due to the elevation even in summer the weather in the mountains can deteriorate quickly. It may be beautiful and sunny down in Almaty, but a snowstorm could be blowing further up the mountains with zero visibility making it very dangerous.

Always check the weather forecast before setting off for the mountains and ensure you have enough layers to keep warm, drinking water and food.
Read this guide on mountain safety for more!

If hiking in spring and summer there is a danger from ticks carrying encephalitis and other diseases.

Our partners at World Nomads specialise in insurance for adventurous destinations and you can get a free no-obligation quote on their website.

More Kazakhstan Guides

Traveller Resources for Central Asia

 

Accommodation

Booking.com
Trip.com

Transport

Cheap Flights & Trains: Trip.com

Insurance

World Nomads

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