Eva Walkner recently hunted down her dream sweetspot in Iran for Nike ACG. While she got a plethora of powder and culture in this unsung snow spot, she also encountered plenty of unwanted obstacles along the way. We get the low-down on shredding one of the globe’s most remote spots…
Interview by Cooler
In the mountains, it is just the rich people who go skiing. A ticket costs $13 and the average person earns just $250–$300 in a month so for most people skiing is too expensive.In the ski areas the girls don’t wear headscarves which is illegal. It is not easy to force people to wear headscarves on the slopes: they could control it if they wanted to but it’s a matter of time and money, as they have to spend a lot of resources training skier police and bringing them to the slopes. The police probably prefer to spend that effort and money on putting the police in a place where they will get more noticeable results, such as on the streets of Tehran.
In the city, the girls only wear dark clothes, with the exception of colourful headscarves. However, the girls in the ski resorts wear colourful ski clothes from the same brands that we wear in Europe. They also wear a lot of make-up and get really tarted up to go out to the pub and meet friends!
In Teheran the girls are more liberal than the girls in the country. They don’t wearing headscarves and sometimes the city girls provoke the moral police because they disapprove of the regime. If they go into the mountains, they can feel free for a short time. No moral police, no headscarf, no dark clothes, no rules: boys and girls just have fun together.
Do they ski/snowboard fast or are they quite timid?
They are really good skiers and snowboarders! I hardly saw any beginners on the slopes. But they do just stick to skiing on the slopes; they don’t know much about freeriding. They like doing some jumps on the slope, playing around – but they don’t have a freestyle park and they are scared of skiing off-piste, which is pretty understandable considering they’ve never even seen an avalanche transceiver.
Did you get stopped by the moral police? Were you scared?
We got stopped in Chaloos – at the Caspian sea. It was my fault as it was so hot in our old car that I didn’t keep my head covered. The moral police spotted us in the car and asked us to follow them to their office.
We ended up sat on these old uncomfortable wooden chairs in a dingy little room at the police station, all next to each other with sweaty hands like pupils on a school bench waiting for the mistress! None of us dared to speak while the two policemen checked our passports under UV light, while armed men were patrolling outside with machine guns. The policemen fired odd questions at us once in a while with our guide Mohammad translating for us: “What does your government think about our nuclear plans?” “What’s the name of your president?”
After our very diplomatic answers, they asked Peter if he was married. When he replied “No”, the two men started to laugh and offered to find him some local women! Finally, the ice was broken and suddenly the two Iranian policemen seemed to be quite nice. Luckily, we got off easy with just a record in their diary and a one-off experience. It was a valuable experience for us. As soon as thoughts like “it’s getting more relaxed” or “it’s not so strict here” creep in, reality would catch up with us and bring us back down to earth. It wasn’t as easy as we thought in the beginning, and from that moment on, the headscarf stayed firmly on my head!
How else was it different from a Western ski resort?
Definitely the ski lift. They have very old chair lifts and bubble lifts that are built in a super-simple style and move ridiculously slowly. Of course, the ski resorts aren’t as modern as the western ski resorts, and they are much smaller than anything you’d find in Europe. But the people in the ski resorts are always dressed up; they have cool ski clothes and look very modern. They also have a lot of fun: hanging around in a deckchair at the fast food restaurant in the middle station, drinking a coke and flirting with the boys and girls. They enjoy their life, and skiing allows them to feel free for a few hours. You can see in their faces that they enjoy a piece of independence, if only for a few hours. In a western ski resort, everybody can go skiing if they want, whereas in Iran you’ll see just the rich people.
How did the local men treat you?
They were very nice. We got lots of invitations for dinner and they asked us if they were handsome enough for the European girls! Of course, we said “Yes, you are very handsome men,” which they were really happy about! People were keen for us to tell the people back home what the Iranians are really like. Many of them feel that Europeans have the wrong idea about Iran and the people there. Everybody was interested in us and wanted to know everything about us and our trip.
Would you recommend people go skiing/snowboarding in Iran?
I would not recommend Iran JUST for skiing but I can recommend it for anyone who is ready for a great experience. You need to be open and willing to form your own opinion about Iran and the people there. Not everything is bad in Iran; it’s a very interesting country with wonderful people. A trip to Iran is an amazing adventure. So I can definitely recommend it to anybody!