Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, Georgia © Agency of Protected Areas

The mountainous Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park in central Georgia is offering visitors a chance to experience the park’s stunning winter landscapes with a new snow-shoe trail—the first of its kind in Georgia.

It is believed that snow-shoes were invented as long ago as 4 000 BC in mountainous parts of Central Asia. The most common form is a light-weight frame fastened to the foot which spreads the wearer’s weight enough to allow them to walk on top of snow. They are commonly filled with lattice-work of some kind – historically rawhide – to prevent them from accumulating snow.

The use of snowshoes in Georgia dates back at least until early 1st century AD, when the Greek historian Strabo noted that the inhabitants of the Caucasus mountains above Colchis got around using “shoes as wide as drums, made of raw hide, and furnished with spikes on account of the snow and ice.”

A 19th century pair of snowshoes from the mountainous region of Svaneti is preserved in the Georgian national museum, and according to Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park director Levan Tabunidze, there are villages around the park where locals still fashion their own footwear for use on the heavy winter snows.

Although Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is better known for the stunning multi-colored autumn foliage of its mixed forests, visitors can now follow a millennia-old tradition, by donning snow-shoes to experience the park’s dazzling winter landscape. The new trails offer hikes through pristine coniferous forests covered with snow and views over the park from 1 800m.

“With snow-shoeing activities in the park we give out visitors the chance to enjoy the winter season in the vast wilderness of Borjomi-Kharagauli.” Says Tabunidze. “Our main slogan for this activity is: You’ve seen it green, now come and see it white.”

Although many of Georgia’s mountainous tourist hotspots close for the winter due to heavy snow and treacherous roads, tourists do still visit Georgia in the winter months, with 433 660 foreign visitors to the country this December. “Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is the first national park in the country offering winter activities” says Tabunidze. “Diversification of our offerings to tourists is one of the main ways the park is seeking to fulfil visitors’ fast-growing interests.”

The snow-covered mountains offer some fantastic opportunities for winter nature photography, as well as the chance to follow animal tracks in the fresh snow. With the park’s resident populations of long-horned, black-bearded bezoar goats and chamois in breeding season, there is plenty of movement to look out for.

The park is offering both a single-day snow-shoe trail and a longer trail with an overnight stay at a one of the park’s shelters. Visitors can rent the snow-shoes and organize a guide through the park’s visitor center in Borjomi, which was refurbished in recent years with the assistance of CNF.

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Joseph Alexander Smith is Communications and Visibility Assistant at CNF. Originally from the United Kingdom, Joseph is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Tbilisi since 2012. He has a weekly show on Radio GIPA 94.3 FM and is actively involved in local environmental and urban issues, as well as other media projects.