One of the highest ski areas in Turkey with some of the country's toughest skiing, making it a venue for international competitions (FIS approved pistes). The resort stands above one of the world's oldest cities, 6000 year old Erzurum. Recently redeveloped with new chair lifts and Turkey's first gondola (new in 1998) greatly increasing the skiable area. There are gfour hotels slopeside, including four and five star options with all amenities and excellent value.
Palandöken's ski area is amongst the highest in the world, rising to nearly 3200m (about 10,500) feet at the summit. The precise height of the summit is disputed by the various interested parties, but its generally agreed that the vertical drop is around 1100m (about 3,700 feet) - which would be equivalent to one of the top 20 resorts in North America on that scale. Most of the skiing is on wide open slopes, divided by a central ridge, with north and north-west facing terrain all well above the tree-line (one of the many differences from Turkey's other major ski areas to the West, which have forested lower slopes). Most f the lifts here are double chairs, with Turkey's only gondola, which was opened here in 1998, running almost the full vertical over its 3.2km (2 miles) length. Beginners have nursery slopes by the main hotels and should be able to quickly progress on to one of the seven blue runs. Intermediates have an additional eight reds, whilst experts have two blacks, up to five marked off-piste itineraries and a heli-skiing option. The usually windy summit of Mt Eider is reached by a double chair and there's excellent steep bowl skiing from the rim off the descending red run. The powder snow reputedly stays in good condition for powder skiing for longer than the Alpine norm after a storm because of the dry conditions here. Three mountain restaurants to choose from if you take a break.
Facilities for families are remarkably good with free daycare for children aged from six months to eight years when their families are staying in the Dedeman and Polat Renaissance hotels. Ski school is available from three years and snowboarding from six years - again either free or at reduced prices (depending on whether you qualify for any special packages, depending on where you stay), as are childrens' lift tickets. Child age is up to 12. Buffet meals, short airport transfers, wide safe trails, chairlifts and gondolas all add to the family-friendly atmosphere; as does the positive and friendly attitude of resort staff and locals.
The resort's hotels have multiple restaurants ranging from two a la carte choices in the five star Polat Renaissance to extensive Turkish buffets. Most resort guests opt to visit Erzurum during their stay where traditional Turkish restaurants, some of them centuries old, are to be found. Here meals are served on low tables in ancient, windowless rooms.
Après ski is centred on the various hotel complexes which each have several bars. There's also the option of going down the mountain to Erzurum to check out the wide variety of entertainments available in the city where ancient and modern meet, as do half a dozen different cultures. On the slopes the Polat Renaissance has a choice of six bars and restaurants and the Dedeman has its own night club as well as more bars. It's at the Dedeman that the after-snow action usually begins with mulled wine provided from 4 until 5pm and the traditional Alpine style 'Tea Dancing' often getting underway if conditions are good (dancing on chairs and tables in ski boots). The hotels also organise traditional entertainment evenings with shows including belly dancing. In the resort hotels and on the slopes, there's a different cultural mix to that in Erzurum, whilst about 50% of the on-snow population is Turkish, the remainder have arrived on package tours from the likes of Holland, Finland and the UK - the opposite end of Europe to Turkey. Russians are also here in force, attracted by higher quality and lower prices than is on offer from their domestic resorts and a comparatively short flight, and better value than they'll find in the Alps.
This is arguably Turkey's best destination for boarders - the biggest terrain, the biggest vertical, off-piste powder stashes (many of which are on marked routes if not bashed piste - cutting out the danger-of-death-factor a bit) and a half pipe are all on offer. There's also the added bonus that unlike in other Turkish resorts where T-bar is the dominant lift type, the majority of Palandöken's lifts are either chairs or the gondola. Locals recommend the off-piste terrain between the trails on the wide face of Mt Eider as being the best on the mountain for boarders, and heli-boarding is available.