10 Reasons Why You Should Skip the Alps and Ski in Iran

While you probably won’t spot Salman Rushdie waxing down his Burton Custom X board at the top of a run anytime soon, Iran’s Dizin ski resort — an under-two-hour drive north from Tehran, up in the Alborz mountains — could be the next Alps.

Yes, this gorgeous, altitudinous part of the Middle East is the skiing world’s best-kept secret.

The place hosts thousands of powder junkies annually — both locals and foreigners alike — starting around the middle of every fall, when the gorgeous high-elevation resort’s extraordinarily lengthy ski season kicks off.

Just not Americans.

Unsurprisingly, there aren’t too many North American companies arranging custom ski trips to Persia. Only one, in fact: Asheville, N.C.(!)-based Iran Luxury Travel, just a year old.

“This particular trip is a bit of a novelty,” says ILT CEO Steve Kutay, a “Jewish, native New Yorker” who runs the company with his wife, Pat.

The timing couldn’t be better — if lifting sanctions is the first step toward rekindling America and Iran’s love affair, a perfect second date is a weekend ski trip together, obviously.

Kutay calls it the Skiing & Snowboarding Tour in Iran (four nights for two, with guide, car and breakfast, from $950 per person).

Of course, there are definitely some caveats: That price doesn’t include the approximately $1,000 round-trip airfare; you’ll have to procure an Iranian visa (good luck with that if you’ve ever worked for the US State Department or possess an Israeli passport stamp), which means a little paperwork and contacting embassies; there are no ATMs and credit cards are a no-go, so bringing cash is a must; and the après-ski in the lodge will undoubtedly be a bust, as alcohol is (mostly) illegal.

But, while you’re sitting there under that humid sun today, melting in a sweaty stew of your own juices and fantasizing about an exotic winter getaway, just remember Iran can even out-Alp the Alps.

Here, 10 reasons why:

Length matters

Dizin’s ski season runs from late November until late May — nearly an NHL season’s worth of snow to enjoy. The reason? The base sits 9,000 feet above sea level (making it one of the 40 highest in the world, dwarfing many Alpine resorts) with lifts running as high at 12,000 feet. Where better to keep tabs on Iran’s uranium enrichment below, I ask you?

They’re so flaky

The resort faces north, so the powdery snow quality rivals that of Europe and the Rockies.


Dizin’s 20 lifts and 15 pistes (most of which are empty during the week) run the gamut, from friendly green circles to A-hole double black diamonds. Overall, however, the place skews difficult, given the tremendous 3,000-foot vertical drop. For even crazier runs, head to the nearby Shemshak ski area, nine miles from Dizin.

World star

This is no off-the-radar resort. Dizin is recognized by the International Ski Federation and hosts its fair share of global competitions (don’t hold your breath for the Maccabiah Games).

Shah-ty craftsmanship

What the shah of Iran lacked in the ability to quash insurrection, he more than made up for in mad slalom skills. In fact, Dizin was created under his watch in 1969 (encouraged by German pals of his, natch), building it up with proper chairlifts, gondolas and the like.

Do you even lift?

Ticket prices run a humane $20-$25 per day, depending on the pass.

Get on board

Unlike a couple of Utah resorts we won’t mention, Dizin is 100 percent tolerant and accepting of snowboarders. Go figure.

Three’s company

While the three-star hotel you’ll inhabit at Dizin’s base is the definition of modest, it does the job comfortably and is ski-in, ski-out (the shah had himself a probably very un-three-star presidential suite).

Go beyond

Come to Iran for the snow sports, stay for the “Oh yeah, this was once the greatest empire in the world” stuff. Tack on additional tours of Tehran and beyond, UNESCO sites, mosques, bazaars, etc. You’ll maintain the same guide and driver; you’ll just cough up more rial for extended tours. Keep in mind, this is all infinitely customizable.

It’s got action sports filmmaker Warren Miller’s seal of approval

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