Shemshak, Iran

2013-03-11 at Shemshak (7) Shemshak is a bit over an hours drive from Tehran


When we arrived at the airport the first step was to get a visa. This was relatively straight forward although it took over half an hour and cost US$105 each (80 Euro). This was strange as it only cost Sara 70 Euro. We just needed to fill in a form to say where we were staying and the phone number and wait while it was processed.

The next thing was to change money. The quoted rate was 31,000 rial for US$1. The teller said to us “Don’t change here, you get a much better rate, about 34,000 at the money changers in Tehran”. Well, this very helpful advice proved to be a considerable problem as we were not going to Tehran. We told our driver we needed to change money and as he barely spoke english he rang his boss who told us it was no problem we could change at our hotel. When we arrived at the hotel they said they had to use the official hotel rate of 25,000 rial for US$1. I ran after our driver and after considerable hassle and taking by phone to his boss the driver went down to the next town and got sufficient to change US$150 at 30,000. We also changed $50 with a lady in a restaurant so we certainly were not flush with money. Luckily things were cheap.

Probably the most difficult aspect of currency is that most things are quoted in Toman and 1 toman = 10 rial so at first you think that something is ridiculously cheap then realise it is 10x what you thought and still extremely cheap or have you still got it wrong? A bank note has 50 written on it but on the other side it says 500,000 rial. All quite confusing.
When we visited Iran in 2010 the exchange was about 12,000 rial to US$1 so with all the sanctions the Iran currency has devalued by nearly 300%. This means most things are very cheap. We ate at a very nice Italian restaurant where they let us pay in US dollars and with a tip we paid $20. The lift ticket for a day was 300,000 rial or about US$10. Night skiing was 200,000 or about $7. A very nice grilled fish for three with drinks and salad was 500,000 rial (less than $20). A taxi to Tehran was about 5,000 per km or 300,000 in total ($10). Petrol is ridiculously cheep at 7000 rials/litre or between 20 and 25 cents per litre. The government also gives people driving locally made cars a discount voucher for the first 100 litres each month which allows you to pay maybe half.

SATURDAY 9th March 2013
The airport is on the other side of the city and we had prearranged a car to pick us up. Fortunately this was a large mini bus so skis fitted in easily and by the time we had our visa and left the airport it was about 11:30 (nearly 1 1/2 hours after landing). It took 2 hours to drive to Shemshak with traffic. This had cost us US$85 and we probably could have got a taxi for about $20 but skis etc would have been a definite problem and language certainly would have been an issue. The hotel was up a long flight of stairs and it had started snowing. By the time we had checked in and sorted out our money problems it was 2:30 and tho lifts were closing at 3pm. We ate a combined lunch dinner at the Italian Restaurant and walked up the street to hire skis for Sara (40,000 ~ $13 per day).

SUNDAY 10th March 2013
It had snowed all night and was still snowing with maybe 50cm in total falling. For one reason or another the lifts were not open. Maybe too few people or too much snow or too dangerous. We spent the time resting and walking up town. We met an Irish guy, David who was living in Bahrain and he was with a couple from Tehran he knew though a mutual friend. We spent an enjoyable few hours eating a late lunch with them.

MONDAY 11th March
The lifts opened shortly after 8 am and we headed out. There was virtually no one on the slopes and although the numbers did increase there was never any queue and maybe one in 5 chairs were being used at the peak. Annette had an upset stomach and came in around 11:30 so Sara borrowed Annette’s wider skis and we both enjoyed the off piste powder until 3pm when the lifts closed. It was a clear night and the snow was very icy so there was no enthusiasm for night skiing which went from about 6:30 till 10:30pm.

TUESDAY 12th March
skied all day till they closed the lifts at 3pm. We then went up the street to a small restaurant were we met Pouya and Jeff (Jafa), two Tehrani guys who we chatted to and they ended up inviting us to there apparent for tea that evening. We had eaten such a late lunch we were content to just have tea and cake.

WEDNESDAY 13th March
We skied at Shemshak all day and about lunchtime we met Pouya and Jeff. Jeff was a very keen skier and had Volkl skis virtually the same dimensions as mine so we did quite a few off piste runs together. Although I had a lot of trouble (due to my very poor technique) coping with the moguls which were starting to form off piste it was great to be pushed to keep trying.
That night Pouya picked us up at about 5pm and we went to Tehran for dinner at an Indian Restaurant. Due to traffic we didn’t arrive there till about 8:15. The Indian food was relatively spicy and we all ate too much. It was 1am by the time we got back to our hotel in Shemshak.

THURSDAY 14th March
The road was finally open from Shemshak to Dizin so we got our hotel to arrange a taxi up the mountain. It is only 14 km but there were numerous avalanches across the road that they had cut a narrow path through. You arrive at the top of one of the two gondolas at 3010m. The snow was heavy and the off piste was wind effected as well so we stuck to the groomed runs.