Four snowboard pros, a legendary mountain and a metropolis wedged between the seashore and snow-capped northern slopes. – by Hartwin Kostron, photos by Roland Haschka
It’s the beginning of February and we have just arrived in the north-western part of Turkey. Billy Morgan, Celia Miller, Šárka Pančochová and Tim-Kevin Ravniak – names well known among the international snowboarding scene – are on their way to the city of Bursa, where they will host a pro coaching session and contest with locals during the resort’s ‘International Week’.
Mount Uludag, the “Sublime Mountain” is also known as the ‘Mysian Olympus’ with an elevation of 8,343ft and it’s where Greek legend says the gods went to Trojan War. On a clear day, its summit can be seen from Istanbul almost a hundred miles away and in a few days, Turkey’s first-ever slopestyle contest will take place at Uludag.
More on that later. Mount Uludag towers over the city of Bursa and the region is well known for hot springs, historical sites and its famous silk bazaar. Our crew started their adventure in Istanbul, which is relatively close, but proved to be nearly inaccessible for a bunch of snowboarders with loads of stuff to carry and hardly… well, actually no local knowledge at all.
Eventually, they grabbed two cabs – one for the guys, one for the boards – then got stuck in the traffic of Istanbul for ages, before finally getting a ferry and arriving in resort too late for dinner. Fortunately their contact had some Iskender Kebab – a traditional and much loved dish from the Bursa area – ready and waiting and it was so good they eat little else during the trip.
Getting to the hill involved a 5.5-mile-long cable car that connects the city centre with the Uludag National Park and one thing became clear when they were swinging in the gondola: Uludag is one of the most important, largest and most visited ski resorts in Turkey. Despite it’s size, you can find untouched nature and heavily snowed-in slopes off the beaten track. “The view from the gondola is unique – a special mix of nature and megacity. Where else can you look down onto a city with two million inhabitants on the one side and see bear and wolf-tracks in the snow on the other?” said Photographer Roland Haschka, obviously stoked. “It’s a very special experience. In the Alps, no one really thinks about Turkey as a winter sports destination. But there are amazing resorts all across the country which are as high, snow-reliable and up-to-date as the ones we know in Europe”.
Not everything was simple about this trip: a week before they arrived, a Saharan sandstorm swept over the resort, covering everything in yellow dust, melting the just-finished snow park. Undeterred, the park crew started to shape again, but then the shovel of the snow groomer broke. “Once we got the piste basher repaired, we couldn’t get any fuel for it. Finally someone helped us out and then the chain broke. So we went for tea.” Turkish çay is definitely an inherent part of every-day life in the metropolis. “If something breaks, you try to fix it. If you can’t fix it, you can’t work, you have to wait. So you have some tea. The Turks are very hospitable and welcoming, so you end up drinking tea anytime and anywhere“, said park designer Ricky, visibly amused.
But where there’s a will… within a day the crew rebuilt the park and everything was ready in time for the big event. “The QParks crew and the pros got stuck in and with Ricky’s experience as a park designer – and long shifts – we were able to make it in time. It was insanely motivating how everybody helped to make it happen“, local guide Levent said, grinning from ear to ear.
Against all odds, the hard work paid off: “The weather was’t ideal but the mood was overwhelming“, cameraman Sebastian Funk thinks back. “The snowmobiles available for each and everyone in the resort were a very special treat. Even the ‘spoiled’ pros were stoked. The locals were incredibly excited that pros were visiting their resort, teaching them new tricks and hosting a contest. No matter what went wrong, everyone was totally thrilled.”
As Mount Uludag disappeared into the white of the fresh snowfall and the tension of the past few days drained away, the crew headed slowly westwards again, taking a lot of cultural experiences, new friends and heaps of footage with them.The video gives us a deeper insight about the encounters the riders had in Turkey. Let’s get infected by the mysticism surrounding Mount Uludag! Find all info and news about Uludag on this website and on Facebook. Görüşürüz!
P.s: After all his backbreaking efforts, park designer Ricky managed to miss the whole event. After 24 hours of hard work, he slept away the contest day in the lobby.