Our operations in Russia are suspended for an indefinite period.
Last winter, we became a part of a new skitouring project in the Altay Mountains, East Kazakhstan.
Unlike Russia these days, Kazakhstan is a peaceful, hospitable and safe country,
with relatively easy logistics and visa-free for most nationalities.
Being part of Siberia geographically, Altay Mountains provide the same guaranteed powder skiing from early November.
We operate on 25 sq. kilometres of exclusive terrain, with the best tree skiing in Central Asia,
and offer guaranteed first-class skitouring, along with authentic and comfortable accommodation.
To find out more, please visit Altay Mountain Lodge & Yurts website.
Khamar-Daban is one of the most interesting mountain regions near Baikal lake. It stretches for more than 350 km, and creates a varied mountainous land spreading South from the lake. Its south-western part has the greatest precipitation in the region and very interesting terrain. The most inhabited and the most convenient place for skitouring and backcountry skiing/snowboarding is the valley of Bolshoy Mamay river, just 10 km from Baikal lake.
Mamay valley has a special micro-climate; winters here are warmer than in other regions of Baikal. In the beginning of winter (up until January), before Baikal is covered with ice, precipitation is abundant. Combined with stable cold temperatures, it brings a huge quantity of light snow. The main skiing slopes are on a North-West aspect where the valley is protected by mountains on all sides so there are no strong winds at all, which guarantees good snow and excellent riding. The ski season is from November to May, with the biggest snowfalls in November and December. The mountains in Mamay are generally 1600 meters high and the average run is about 700 meters vertical.
In Mamay valley we operate with two types of accommodation - mountain hut called Yamam and classic Eastern Siberia yurts, but in modern style. Please see the following descriptions in Accommodation section.
Saturday: Evening flight from Moscow to Irkutsk.
Sunday: Arrival in Irkutsk, transfer to Mamay village, approach to mountain hut.
Monday to Friday: Skitour/splitboarding – five full days.
Saturday: Half-day skitouring, departure to Irkutsk, Lake Baikal excursions on the way, overnight in the hotel.
Sunday: Morning flight to Moscow.
- Organization of the whole trip from/to Irkutsk.
- 6 days of skitouring and guiding.
- Accommodation, 6 nights.
- All meals in Mamay valley (breakfast, mountain lunch, aprés ski soup and snacks, dinner), cooking service.
- Lunch in guest house on a way to Mamay valley and back
- Banya (Russian bathhouse).
- Hotel in Irkutsk (one night on the way back).
- Group transfers: airport Irkutsk - Mamay, Mamay - Irkutsk.
- Snowmobile transportation from road to the hut.
- Visiting of Lake Baikal reserve museum
- International and domestic airfares
- Meals in Irkutsk
- Personal insurance
- Wine and spirits
- Personal expenses
Cooperation with the visiting guides
We are glad to cooperate with our colleagues from all over the world. If you are a Mountain or Ski Guide and looking for a trip to Baikal lake area with your private group, just contact us and we will be glad to organise your Siberian trip.
There are a few flights per day from Moscow to Irkutsk (IKT), giving a choice of arrival times. We recommend Aeroflot or S7 flights which arrive around 8-9 AM and right after we can take a ride towards Mamay valley. If you arrive earlier, you’ll need to wait couple hours in the airport or book a hotel in Irkutsk. If you arrive later than 10AM you should arrange private transfer for additional cost.
On your arrival, we’ll meet you in Irkutsk airport, then we ride in a comfortable bus to Mamay village (3 hours). There is a guest house where you will have a lunch, change your clothes and get a ride to Mamay valley. basically, snowmobiles take all the guests and luggage to the hut. In case of technical issues or bad road conditions, you might need to skitour to the hut by forest trail for 2 - 2.5 hours. Luggage will be carried by a snowmobile in any case.
We'll spend the next five days in this beautiful Siberian corner, enjoying the powder skiing and exceptional scenery.
On the last day of the programme we pack our luggage in the morning, go for half-day skitour and then ski/skitour back to the Mamay village. You will have lunch in the guest house and then ride for 20 minutes to museum of Lake Baikal natural reserve. In the museum, there is a fascinating interactive exposition about the nature of Lake Baikal and a historical exposition on the Trans-Siberian Railway and the unique part that passed along the lake in winter, by ice!On the way back to Irkutsk, we do a short stop on the shore of the Lake Baikal to enjoy great views of one of the most beautiful Siberian sites.
In Irkutsk you stay in a pleasant hotel in the city centre, and can take an evening walk to the most interesting historical places and restaurants. Irtkutsk was founded in the mid-17th century to serve as winter quarters for traders and collectors. The insurgents against Tsar Nicholay I, exiled to Siberia, made Irkutsk their cultural capital. Nowadays, it is a relatively large city with more than half a million people, a university and number of churches and historic museums.
Morning: Breakfast, preparation and start touring. We'll be touring and backcountry skiing/snowboarding as long as possible, according to the wishes of the group and safety concerns. If somebody wants to finish earlier, there is generally an opportunity to return to the hut.
On our return to the hut there is aprés-ski soup and snacks, then rest time and Banya (Russian bathhouse).
Evening: Dinner and free time.
In Mamay valley we operate with two types of accommodation - classic mountain hut called Yamam and also classic Eastern Siberia yurts, but in modern style.
Our brand new mountain hut was built in 2018. The hut has spacious dining room/lounge and three guest's bedrooms (2 beds per room, with bed linen), as well as drying room for clothes and gear.
The hut has en-suite shower and toilet, which is absolutely luxury option for the place! Hut is heated 24/7 and has electricity from generator.
Also the new type of accommodation in the valley, built in 2019. These are a modern version of classic historical huts of local native people. We use two yurts for our program. One spacious yurt for the guests (6 beds with bed linen, total 56 square meters) and second yurt accommodates the staff and got a kitchen/dining room. The yurts are heated by wooden stoves and got wash basins inside. Toilet is a separate heated building. Yurts have electricity from generator.
The Banya (Russian bathhouse) is the best way to warm up and relax after a long skiing day. The banya is in a separate building, where a large amount of hot steam is created with the help of water and hot air. Inside the banya, there are wide wooden benches along the walls, built up one above the other like steps. You can sit or lay on the benches - the higher up the bench, the hotter the air is. Having warmed up enough, you leave the steam room for a break. You can pour cold water over yourself from a tub, or follow the Siberian method and jump straight into the snow. You can use a tub to mix hot and cold water and have a wash. It's as easy as taking a shower, but this traditional process is a more "natural way”. Overall, the banya is not just a place to warm up and wash; it is a real Siberian experience and will become a great memory! We will have 4-5 Banya sessions during the stay in Mamay valley.
Staying in Yamam hut, you will have 3-4 Banya sessions per week (simply cause there is a shower in the hut), and staying in Red Yurts you have a daily Banya.
We do our best to make the food, as well as the skiing, a remarkable part of your trip. This includes traditional Siberian and Russian dishes with premium local ingredients, but also modern cuisine. There are three hot meals a day. Here are some examples of the menu:
- Breakfast: cold breakfast with milk/yoghurt ans cereals; hot breakfast - scrambled or fried eggs, bliny (Russian pancakes), syrniki (fried quark pancakes, garnished with sour cream, jam or honey). Tea, coffee.
- Lunch: Soups (chicken broth, chilly soup, etc.) and hot snacks such as home-made pies with meat and vegetables.
- Dinner: Salads; dishes with meat or fish; sides (pasta, rice, potato etc.); stewed vegetables. We use local meat and fish, whenever possible. Dessert: Traditional Russian sweet pies with berries.
- Snacks during the touring: Dried fruits/nuts, chocolate bars, sandwiches.
Our chef can accommodate special dietary requirements and food allergies. Our guests are asked to complete a registration form, and mention any dietary needs so we can be fully prepared for your arrival. Please note that all food is purchased before the trip starts and we don't have another opportunity to buy anything or change the menu after reaching Mamay.
Hotel in Irkutsk
On a way back, you spend one night in Irkutsk city. Our hotel is a 3-star "Ibis". It is situated in the centre of the city, has a restaurant as well as some restaurants and bars in walking distance.
Guiding &Group Size
Unlike many other skitour operators, we keep group size relatively small, to provide best possible skitour and skiing experience. Maximum group size is 6 persons. There is one guide per group, plus a tail-guide if required.
Because of the nature of the backcountry terrain, we ask our guests to meet a certain level of fitness and skiing ability. To join our groups, you should be:
- Intermediate or higher level of skiing/boarding, including in deep-snow conditions.
- Healthy and in good physical shape.
- Able skin up at least 1200 vertical meters per day.
Mamay valley has great opportunities for skiing in treeline zone as well as in alpine. Terrain is variable and has everything to fulfil wishes of good skiers and snowboarders - long open lanes through the trees, pillows, steep open fields, tiny couloirs and even more. To see how great the riding there is, check the "The Great Siberian Traverse" movie in Media section.
Runs are from 300 to 800m vertical with slopes from 25 to 40 degrees.
On an average day the vertical drop is 1200-1300m, but of course varies according to the group's abilities.
There is only one type of snow in Siberia in the winter - powder. So, we are definitely looking only for powder skiing/snowboarding, and even don't think about other snow conditions. In past years all our guests were satisfied with the snow quality, check the Testimonials section.
The climate in Eastern Siberia is continental: In winter the temperatures from north to south range from -10 to -40 degrees Celsius, and in the summer they range from +15 to +35. The average day temperature in Mamay in December is minus 10-12 Celsius (about 10 Fahrenheit). With low humidity, no wind and the strong sun, it feels no colder than winter in the Alps. Even on the slightly colder shaded sides of the mountains it is still comfortable for skiing and boarding. However, this is Siberia, and occasionally (1-2 days every few weeks) morning temperatures can drop to minus 25-30 Celsius (minus 13-22 Fahrenheit). Once the sun's up it gets warmer, and our guides will chose sunny terrain for skiing. Plus, skinning up is always quite warming and runs will be shorter in such days. Although such days are rare, it is a good idea to be ready for these cold temperatures.
During snowfalls skiing and boarding is still very straightforward as most of the time we are riding in the tree-line. Even on big fields and couloirs, there are enough reference points to aid visibility. Usually, you will ski the best deep and light powder on such days!
To travel to Russia, most foreign nationals are required to have an Entry Visa to Russia. Russian visas can be obtained at your local Russian Embassy or Consulate. In order to apply for a visa you will need proof of your forthcoming visit to Russia, which will be supplied by Skiing In Siberia on receipt of your final payment. Provided all the documents are ready, the process usually takes no more than 3-10 working days for a Russian Tourist Visa. However, we strongly recommend you apply at least one month in advance of your trip. It is also possible to ask special agencies for a full visa service.
Being adequately insured is a condition of booking a trip with Skiing in Siberia. You must have travel and medical insurance, which covers backcountry skiing/freeriding, skitouring/splitboarding etc. For your peace of mind and to avoid any financial hardship that an unexpected cancellation could cause, we strongly recommend getting Trip Cancellation insurance.
Time in Irkutsk - GMT+8
Telephone and Internet
There is no cellular coverage in the valley and hut, and occasional connection during the day on the mountain ridges. No Internet as well, but this is probably not a bad news, but a good chance to take a rest from email and social networks. Still, we are working on this question with a chance to get it in coming season.
We have satellite phone or satellite messenger in the hut and during the day, for emergency/urgent issues.
Not many people in Russia speak a foreign language (more likely in big towns, less in the countryside). But people are helpful and will easily understand what you need. The alphabet is Cyrillic so reading can be difficult. We recommend you purchase a phrase-book in advance.
During your trip, you will be accompanied by an English-speaking guide. Some of our Ski Guides speak German and French as well, but our general language is English. For private groups, we can try to arrange the guide who speaks your language.
The Russian currency is the Rouble (RUB). No other currencies are accepted for payments. Cards are accepted in most big shops, hotels and restaurants, but this type of payment is still not as wide-spread as in Europe or America. We strongly recommend that you have enough cash with you for the whole holiday. You can change money in banks (closed on weekends and national holidays) or use an ATM (there are plenty in all towns and cities). You might need some cash on the way to and from Mamay valley, and in Irkutsk as well.
There are three international airports in Moscow; Domodedovo (DME), Sheremetyevo (SVO), and Vnukovo (VKO). Depending on your flight plan, you might need to change airports which can be a time consuming. If you do need to change airports, we strongly recommend you allow at least 2 hours for your airport-to-airport transfers.
Please service your skis or board before arrival, or bring pocket waxes as there is no ski-service on our base. We have some repair parts and tools to fix the most common problems which might arise, but we do not have equipment for hot waxing.
We advise you to carefully read the following list. You will not be able to buy or rent the equipment on the spot (except limited quantity of skitouring skis), so do bring everything with you. If you have any questions about equipment or items on (or not on) this list please don’t hesitate to e-mail and ask our advice.
Here is an example of set of clothes that we recommend. You can change it according to your preferences, but be sure that your clothes suit the weather and temperature during your trip.
- Heavy/mid weight socks compatible with your footwear - 2-3 pairs.
Heated electric socks or insoles is a very good option and highly recommended.
- Base Layer Top and Bottom, warm – 2 pieces each.
- Mid-Insulation Layer Top - Polartec 100 or analog.
- Mid-Insulation Layer Bottom – Polartec/Powerstretch pants or analog.
- Warm jacket – Synthetic or down.
- Weather Layer Top - Gore-Tex/Softshell or other waterproof breathable jacket.
- Weather Layer Pants - Gore-Tex/Softshell or other waterproof breathable pants.
- Down jacket warm to minus 25-30°C.
- Hats (warm and light).
- Light gloves
- Insulated gloves
- Insulated mittens
- High snow boots
- Slippers for the hut
- Skis or Splitboard. Skis should be 110mm underfoot or wider.
- Skins. Glue should be in good condition, renew if necessary. Tail clips strongly recommended. No glueless skins, please, it does't work with low temperatures!
- Touring Boots
- Telescopic Poles
- Ski helmet
- Binding/Boot/Pole/Skin Repair Kit - tools and parts to fix your personal gear
- Transceiver (two antenna minimum), extra batteries.
- Backpack, 25-30 litres.
- Waterproof duffel for the transportation your stuff by snowmobile
- Personal First Aid kit (blister kit, your personal medications)
- Thermos or insulated flask, 1L. Good idea to have both.
- Sunglasses (CE rated 3 or 4)
- Ski goggles, plus extra pair.
- Headlamp, extra batteries.
- Sun/Cold and Lip Cream (factor 30+).
Personal stuff for the Sphere Lodge:
- Lightweight sleeping bag
- Inflatable sleeping pad
- Personal toiletries, lightweight towel.