Jyrgalan, the coal valley
Jyrgalan (Жыргалан) is a valley in the Tian Shan Mountains, far east of Kyrgyzstan, near to the border of Kazakhstan. The Jyrgalan River flows through the valley, next to the town of the same name. It is about 60km from Karakol and can be easily reached by taxi or marshrutka.
Coal has been mined in the valley since 1932. The town of Jyrgalan was founded to provide the miners with a warm home, especially in winter. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the industry almost completely disappeared, leaving the miners without a job. Difficult years for Jyrgalan, considering that it is cut off from the rest of the world. Many went to seek their fortune elsewhere and moved to Karakol. Only the huge fields of snow were left behind.
Then it became summer again. Those who stayed behind co-founded Destination Jyrgalan Management Organization (DMO) in 2016. The DMO is an organization that invests in sustainable tourism, a new economy that benefits the local population and creates more opportunities for the future. Since then, DMO has succeeded every year in bringing the region to the attention of modern explorers. And we are more than happy to contribute to that.
Nowadays, the village is inhabited by about 1,000 people and sees more and more growing possibilities: new guesthouses and yurt camps were set up and new hiking and mountain bike trails were built. Winter also attracts more and more tourists and adventurers. Snow cats take experienced and slightly less experienced winter sports enthusiasts into the mountains, to a freeride mecca were you can dream away from.
Winter in Jyrgalan
The snowfall here is considerably higher than in many other places in Central Asia due to the unique location of the valley: a perfect combination of a high mountain climate with the micro-climate of the Issyk Kul. On average, more than 10 meters of snow falls each year. Meters and meters of fine, dry, and drifting powdered snow. Enough snow to enjoy!
The terrain alternates between slopes in forests – mellow runs– and challenging, steep couloirs. In the same area, the tree line starts here at 2,900m. The largest open area can be found in the south of the valley. Jyrgalan offers more than 10,000 hectares of virgin powdered snow – and yes, we cannot wait to leave already!