Skiing In Kazakhstan With Elan’s Shanty Cipolli

Shanty Cipolli has skiing in his blood. Originally from the Aosta Valley, he has been skiing since childhood on some of the best terrains on the old continent. He lives in the shadow of the south side of the Matterhorn, known in Italian as Monte Cervino. Back in 2020, Shanty impressed us with his project ArroSKIcini, which explored the Apennines in Italy.

Shanty is also an avid ski traveler. He has always wanted to ski from Mount Belukha, which at 4,506 meters, is the highest peak in Altai Mountains. It is a beautiful and rugged mountain yet to be skied and also a sacred peak for many religions. It is located on the border between Russia and Kazakhstan, just a few dozen kilometers north of the where the Chinese, Russian, and Kazakhstan borders intersect. It is in an extremely interesting geographical point, as it is almost equidistant from the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Last winter, he was finally able to put together a ski adventure with his friends Francesco and Mattia. They set off for faraway Asia, where an extraordinary skiing and cultural adventure awaited. "I am often asked how skiing in Kazakhstan differs from the skiing I know back home. My answer is that on the one hand it is completely different, but on the other hand it is similar. The people, the culture and the lifestyle differentiate from ours. The locals are connected to nature and therefore much more original. And the snow is amazing. It reminds me most of Alaska or Japan".

Shanty always wanted to ski from Mount Belukha, is the highest peak in Altai Mountains. Last winter he and two friends set off for faraway Asia, where an extraordinary skiing and cultural adventure awaited.

After landing in Almaty, the team took a domestic flight to Urs Kamenogorsk. There, they rented a car with four-wheel drive and set out on a twelve-hour drive over narrow, snowy and unpredictable roads to the Belukha Valley. "The avalanche danger changed our plans a bit and we drove another ten hours to the Russian border, where the avalanche situation was more stable. The journey was particularly challenging. Orientation is not easy and almost no one speaks any foreign language, so we communicated with the locals mainly with our hands. We set up camp by a frozen lake where the temperature was around 35 degrees Celsius below freezing." No one goes to Kazakhstan in the middle of winter, so the team was completely alone there. They enjoyed a sort of winter version of Shangri-La, with all the snow and mountains all to themselves.

Shanty plans to return with his clients as a mountain guide and perhaps one day ski the mighty Mount Belukha, which remains on his checklist.

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