Three likely lads outside a Tsaghkadzor restaurant (Tsaghkadzor; Armenia)
Hello, and welcome to Tsaghkadzor....yes, you heard it Tsaghkadzor, and if that proves too enigmatic, then feel free to try its alternative name Tsakhkadzor. Well, as ski resorts go, they surely don't come much more shrouded in mystery than this gem tucked away in rural Armenia, but scratch the surface, and the charms of this little-known-to-the-outside-world resort town might hopefully reveal its teeth in appealing ways. Roughly a 50-minute ride from the Armenian capital city of Yerevan, Tsaghkadzor is Armenia's only developed ski resort, and an enclave of hotels to represent most rungs of the luxury scale, sewn together with a few bits and pieces which make up the urban fabric.
Kecharis monastery in a truly enchanting lit-up state of being (Tsaghkadzor; Armenia)
The town's man-made centrepiece is the appealing allure of Kecharis monastery, which also appears to be the one spot which tourists will stop by at more than any other for photo options. Kecharis is also the name of the town's most centrally-located hotel, and during the ski season at least, it is worth stopping off at on an evening time when fairy lights appear to adorn the whole of the hotel's facade. One or two mini-markets are also centrally-located, as are a bank or two and a scattering of eateries, the quality of which ranges from sub-standard to impressive. Size-wise, Tsaghkadzor is best described as 'compact', and as an urban area, it nestles immediately alongside the considerably larger urban area that is Hrazdan city, which is essentially an industrial zone with barely a tourist attraction to boast of, save for one or two cracking stores which will allow you to 'shop like a local', a real boon considering the reasonable cost of living in Armenia.
The ski slopes and surrounding nature (Tsaghkadzor; Armenia)
So, onto the resort's main draw card (at least, in season), the ski area proper, and the question which the uninformed might ask themselves is whether or not the ski terrain can hold its own in the realm of international ski resorts. The answer will more than likely depend on the kind of ski terrain you're looking for, as a rapidly-advancing skier would benefit greatly from looking elsewhere, whereas the leisure skier not looking for fast and frantic ski action, such as myself, will actually find genuine worth in Tsaghkadzor's slopes. Furthermore, for those who have visited the place from further afield, this is most certainly real travel, and a pioneering kind of ski trip destined to at least spark off curiosity in the mind of a skier / traveller who constantly seeks out the unfamiliar as a means of keeping the dream alive.
A handy town map on a sizeable poster board (Tsaghkadzor; Armenia)
For sure, this is no alpine terrain, but then again, these aren't alpine prices either, and if cute, compact, esoteric and friendly ski areas appeal, then this kind of ski trip might well be worthy of a few points of consideration. Coupled with the fact that a daily bathing session at a nearby hotel's spa and pool really helped lighten the load after a body-pumping time on the slopes, my overall conclusion is that Tsaghkadzor is well worth the asking price, and provided a few memorable moments along the way before the time came to head on out and sample life in the Armenian capital city.