I am Tornike Matsaberidze, born in 1996, and I live in the capital, Tbilisi. I studied at the German-Georgian school and I am currently a psychology student at Ilia State University. Despite these facts, I would not consider myself a “city boy” at all. I spent a serious time of my life very close to nature. When I was little, every year my family went to our village home in western Georgia, where we stayed for several months. I, my family and our dog spent entire months running in the woods, fields and rivers exploring new trails and places.
That must be why I love being in nature. I have a 2-year older brother who was like a guide in developing my interests. We have a lot in common, which is why we have a few small businesses together. I have loved extreme sports since childhood, and as with almost any extremity, I cannot settle for one type of sport.
I started rock climbing when I was 9, and came backpacking, downhill mountain biking, enduro motorcycling, rock climbing, skiing and freeride skiing. One of the biggest reasons I love these sports is that it somehow connects you to other individuals. I am really lucky to have childhood friends with whom I can enjoy these great activities. I would definitely say a big part of me is connected to my friends. With my friends, I go out of town every chance we get. The days are always a mixture of active and relaxing.
What was your first encounter with Ryce Travel like?
Peter (Hofman, ed) and I have a good friend named Taylor. Taylor is from the U.S. and also worked as a ski instructor in Gudauri. So when Peter was looking for a local guide in Georgia who could speak in English and ski well, Taylor happily recommended me. First, we exchanged a few emails, making sure we had the same goal. And when Peter came to Georgia for a trip with a group of friends, we met in person and I was very excited about future plans. The first meeting was actually the beginning of organizing trips. From the beginning it was clear to me that these would be fantastic trips. And they were.
How did you feel about organizing winter sports trips with Ryce Travel?
When Peter suggested organizing ski trips to Georgia, I didn’t have to think about it at all. I was totally on board from the beginning. I always had something like this in my head. I like everything. I love road trips, I love skiing, I definitely enjoy powder skiing, I love meeting new people, I love organizing things (I even studied at the logistics faculty, before switching to psychology). Also, some of the places that would be included in our tours are definitely among my favorites. And what’s also really important to me is that I like the whole idea that Ryce Travel uses. The fact that we choose non-commercial activities and places. The fact that guests do not have the exact program and are overwhelmed every minute, etc.
What did you do for work before joining Ryce Travel?
From my early teens, I tried to match my interests with the different types of jobs. For example, when I was 16, I worked as a Rock Climbing Instructor in the gym. During the university years, I wanted to support myself, but I was also pretty sure that an office job was not for me. So three years ago I went to the ski resort of Gudauri, obtained an international license and started working as a ski instructor. I also do other seasonal freelance jobs, from guide to pine cone picker from 30-foot tall pines.
Why is Georgia unique for travelers?
Georgia is interesting to tourists because it is unique in so many ways. Geographically, culturally, with its climate including semi-desert, tundra, alpine meadows and really high mountains, and subtropics where lemon trees stand in wild forests. The best way to explain why it is interesting is to come here and join the “I love Georgia” fan club yourself 😉
What is the state of tourism in Georgia?
Tourism in Georgia is developing quite rapidly. But that is more in numbers than in quality. I believe Georgia today is more focused on quantity than quality. For example, I don’t think it’s a good idea to build ski elevators in other mountainous regions. Which, in my opinion, is oriented toward quantity. For me, it is more important to leave a lot of space for people and animals. If we want to focus on skiing, we can probably start ski trips to develop.
How can Ryce Travel contribute to tourism development?
A good example that Ryce Travel is helping develop processes is that a family in Goderdzi is expanding its business with more confidence. Knowing that we will be here next season, too. We also like to tell certain business owners in which direction they can improve service. Ryce Travel also has many ideas about Georgia that are still in development. But they will certainly help tourism take a small step forward.
What moment with Ryce Travel has stayed with you the most?
This one is easy. There were many remarkable moments during our travels, for example, the first catski day in Goderdzi. I will always remember the deep and unlimited snow we skied. But the most remarkable moment was the last day of our last group this season, the snow was good, the weather was perfect and everyone was full of happiness. I can still remember the strange and funny sounds coming from happy people in the Goderdzi Mountains. Only we could hear them.
What dream do you have for Georgia?
My ultimate dream that my country would become like Switzerland is a standard response. But no. Switzerland is great, but I want my country to develop in its unique and individual way. The dream for my country is to be fully independent. United with the regions occupied by our non-loving northern neighbor. I want all new middle and old generations to have the opportunity to express themselves and show their maximum.