Talking Turkey: Turkish Delight

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Talking Turkey

Getting There Turkish Airlines flies to Istanbul from New York in winter for around $600, and you can fly on to Erzurum for another $100. Palandoken is only a 10-minute taxi ride from the Erzurum airport. The best way to get from Istanbul to Uludag or Kartalkaya is by rental car or by hiring a car and driver. Either way, make sure that the car has chains. It's about two hours to Uludag, three hours to Kartalkaya.

Skiing Skiing in Turkey is like returning to the Seventies. T-bars are still the most common lift type, although some larger resorts are planning upgrades and adding chairlifts. Resorts have ski patrols, but to a large extent, when you ski in Turkey you are on your own. Obstacles are often unmarked, and there are generally no barriers marking out-of-bounds lines. Since few skiers venture off-piste, those sections are often unskied. The major resorts offer ski schools and ski rentals, and though the rental equipment may not be the latest, it is generally of good quality and condition.

Hotels and Food Life in Turkish ski resorts centers around the hotels. The lodges usually provide guests with a complimentary ski pass that is good for its own lifts, but not for others. To please entertainment-loving Turks, the hotels usually provide plenty of après-ski offerings. There are few restaurants at the resorts outside of the hotels. Room charges often include three daily buffet meals, and lodges are situated close enough to the slopes that it's easy to duck in for a quick lunch, or even a fast Turkish coffee. Turkish cuisine is delicious, a cross between Mediterranean and Arabic food, with offerings like shish kabob-a Turkish original-or turnovers stuffed with spiced lamb. As anywhere, the food is much better in some hotels than others. The buffets were generally excellent at the Kartal Hotel in Kartalkaya and the Dedeman Palandoken, but not at the Grand Yazici Hotel in Uludag. Although Turkey is a Muslim country, drinking alcohol is not only permitted, it is an indispensable part of life. The Turkish national drink is raki, a powerful, anise-flavored liquor usually mixed with water. Turkish beer is hearty-Efes is a favorite brand-and Turkish wines are surprisingly good. A delicious hot slopeside drink is sahlep, a combination of heated milk, sugar and sahlep powder (made from a ground flower root), topped with cinnamon. The double room rate at the cozy Hotel Beceren in Uludag, including daily buffet meals and a pass for its single ski lift, is $110 on weekdays, $153 on weekends; Tel 011-90-224-285-2111; Fax 011-90-224-285-2119. Kartal Hotel: $60 during the week, $120 on weekends; Tel 011-90-374-234-5005; Fax 011-90-374-234-5004. Double rooms at the Dedeman Palandoken are $190, including daily buffets; Tel 011-90-442-316-2414; Fax 011-90-442-316-3607. (One caveat about telephoning: whoever answers the phone may not speak English well, or at all. Faxing often works better. See below.)

Language and People Except for Uludag, where English speaking staff can usually be found, the language barrier can be a significant problem. Turkish is unfathomable to uninitiated English speakers, and vice-versa. (The Turkish word for skiing is "kayak.") Despite that obstacle, Turkish people are warm and hospitable and make visitors feel welcome. That atmosphere is contagious, and there's an unusual congeniality and esprit de corps among the visiting foreign skiers.

Vital StatsNumber of trails: Uludag, 25; Kartalkaya, 19; Palandoken, 21

Number of Lifts Uludag, 13; Kartalkaya, 13; Palandoken, 7, including Turkey's only gondola.

Summit ElevationUludag, 7,616 feet; Kartalkaya, 7,396 feet; Palandoken, 10,253 feet.

Vertical Drop Uludag, 1,821 feet; Kartalkaya. 2,300 feet; Palandoken, 2,950 feet.

Contact The Turkish Government Tourist Office in New York (212-687-2194). Ski trips to Turkey can be arrranged by the New York-based tour operator Megatrails, specialists in Turkish travel (800-547-1211).