An offbeat destination for winter snow sports

Even if you don’t ski (and I don’t), you’ll recognize the names of the top ski resorts in North America: Whistler, Aspen, Whiteface and Smuggler’s Notch, to name but four. Now, an upmarket travel company wants to add the name “Dizin” to that list.

While it may not be familiar to North American skiers and snowboarders, Europeans have long valued the easy access Dizin provides, inasmuch as it is only two hours from (wait for it…) Tehran, Iran.

Dizin offers world-class skiing and boarding, according to Steve Kutay, CEO and founder of Iran Luxury Travel.

View from Dizin Hotel
In addition to its location, Dizin offers a long season from November to late May, a high elevation of 9,000 feet at the base and boasts some of the best powder in the world. Lifts to 12,000 feet, above the tree line, reach an array of up to 20 green, blue, black diamond and double black diamond runs, providing abundant choices for everyone but particularly for intermediate and experienced skiers.

English-speaking instructors are available for a day at less than the cost of an hour’s instruction at most North American and European resorts. Lift tickets range from US$20 to US$25 or CA$26-32.

The ski-in, ski-out Alpine-style Dizin Hotel is at the base of the slopes, just a few steps from the lifts, and was built for the former Shah, who was an avid skier. The hotel has earned a Three-Star rating, its rates include breakfast, and English-speaking staff are on hand to assist.

There are other skiing opportunities nearby as well. Mogul lovers may want to add a few days at Shemshak. Nine miles from Dizin, it offers more adventure in the form of steeper runs, some of which are rated triple-black-diamond.

Iran Luxury Travel can custom-plan trips of any length, but recommends their five-day, four-night “Ski/Snowboard Iran” package. For a minimum of two people, it is priced at $US950 per person, double occupancy. Air fare is additional. The company can also add sightseeing tours in other parts of Iran. Their one-week “Highlights of Iran” tour is $US2,400 per person, double occupancy.

While visas are required for U.S. citizens to visit Iran, Iran Luxury Travel will assist with the arrangements.

The travel company was founded by Steve and Pat Kutay. Steve fell in love with Iran and its people on his first trip there in the 1970s, and returned with Pat in 2014.

“This is an exciting moment for US travelers to Iran,” Steve Kutay said in a statement announcing the ski packages. “Interest is high, and Americans are warmly welcomed.”

While I'm encouraged to hear that, I have some issues to overcome before I could consider visiting Iran.

As a young reporter, one of my first big stories revolved around the taking of American hostages at the American Embassy in Tehran. Two of those hostages lived within striking distance of Phoenix, Ariz., where I worked for a radio news department. Covering the story closely from the takeover of the embassy on Nov. 4, 1979 to the release of those hostages on Jan. 20, 1981 left me with some uneasy feelings toward Iran that linger despite the passage of more than 35 years and several regime changes.

Just as many of my contemporaries, who grew up during the years the Vietnam War was raging, can’t envision Vietnam as a vacation destination, I would have a difficult time contemplating a relaxing vacation in Iran. That, despite former hostage Robert C. “Bob” Ode telling me about how the Iranian people were wonderful and about how Tehran and Tabriz were beautiful cities that, honestly, he hoped to return to some day. Bob died in 1995, and I don’t know if he ever got back.

However, if you are a snowboarder or skier and don’t carry that particular baggage, a ski vacation in Iran could be just the adventure you seek. After all, how many people can say they have skied Iran?

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Dizin Hotel view photo by Emesik - Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons