If you think your current situation surrounding the global COVID-19 outbreak is crazy, consider that of skier Fabian Lentsch. Late last year, Fabi packed up the Snowmads van with the goal of the ultimate adventure – spending a ski season in the mountains of Iran, exploring what it meant to be a big mountain skier in a country that’s not really known for its skiing.
Fabi has always been one keen for a good adventure, spending the last decade traveling the world skiing, riding his bike, paragliding, and learning the ways of faraway cultures. He even spent last summer at a Kung Fu school in the mountains of China.
Well, given the current worldwide situation, we checked in with our Austrian friend, who is currently happily stuck in Iran. What’s significant about that? Not only is Iran politically isolated from the West, it currently has the second highest incidence of cases of COVID-19 worldwide. Talk about an experience. We caught up with Fabi (remotely) and he shared some thoughts on his current situation. Servus Fabi!
Iran or Alaska? Fabian Lentsch photo.
Give us a little background on your mission to Iran - what's special about the country and its mountains, and what did you expect to find there?
Fabian Lentsch: After traveling around the world for the last ten years I figured that I’ve never stayed in one place for more than 2-3 months. Since I always was drawn to Iran, I decided to try and live there for one year and learn the language, find great places for skiing and dive into this mysterious culture. This country is huge and you’ll find mountains wherever you go. Many of these have never seen skis before. It’s almost like being an adventurer 50 years ago. Next to living here, it’s our mission at Snowmads to make a documentary about my time here.
Who did you go with and how did you get there?
FL: A handful of friends and I left Austria with our Snowmads Truck in October and started a two-month road trip east towards Iran. Along the way we went biking, spearfishing and flying in the Balkan States, Greece and Turkey. Once we arrived in Tehran, it was just me and Marco, one of our filmers, staying with me. I found myself an apartment, bought a little pickup truck and started to settle in for a life in Iran. I live directly next to a bazaar in Tehran and already made lots of friends there. Lately, we’ve mainly been on the road with the Snowmads Truck though.
Nothing but good vibes during a crazy crazy time. Fabian Lentsch photo.
In a normal world, what is the ski community in Iran like?
FL: It’s quite extraordinary. Tehran has about 15 million inhabitants and four ski areas within an hour and a half drive. One ski area even starts straight from the city and goes up to 4000 meters. So especially on weekends it can be really crowded and good vibes all around. Everybody is happy to be outside and ski, and the girls love to take off the hijab for a while! The ski areas don’t groom too many slopes so there’s lots of powder runs to be enjoyed and the locals love it.
What are the visible effects of the Coronavirus for you in Iran? How has it impacted what you can/can't do during your trip?
FL: Until now, we haven’t been affected by the virus too much except lots of media madness. Some shops were closed, they closed some of the roads from time to time, and we had a hard time bringing athletes and media crew out of the country when the whole situation picked up about two weeks ago. Right now, it’s almost impossible to leave the country and we also couldn’t bring filmers here anymore. My buddy Moritz was brave enough to stay here a bit longer so we can continue shooting and might be with us for some more time now that Europe goes into lockdown. So, we are still rolling here and traveling around. The truck turned out to be the perfect quarantine vehicle!
How has the local ski community reacted to the pandemic?
FL: They closed all the ski resorts about two weeks ago which I found strange at the time. Now Europe and America closed them too. Crazy times and not just in Iran. But it’s for sure a Corona hotspot here after China and Italy and you can witness the country struggling with the situation. People scan your body temperature in bigger buildings and on some roads but I feel like this is not helping a lot. So far, there are no city lockdowns and we feel relatively safe.
How do you see the next few weeks going? Do you plan to stay? Can you even return to Austria right now?
FL: I think if I really wanted to, I could leave the country in some way, but I anyways planned on staying for one year and more importantly I couldn’t leave with my truck since the land borders are closed. I’m sure the situation will calm down towards Fall. We have some more snowfalls in the forecasts, some more terrain to ride and mountains to climb before the winter is over. Now it’s just me, one filmer and my local Iranian friends and we are still having a great time in nature. Hope it stays that way. Iran is always ready to spring a surprise.
We might be living in unprecedented times, but that doesn't mean you can't stay stoked while practicing social distancing in the comfort of your own home. We recommend staying inside, curling up with a nice cup of hot chocolate (or your favorite Sierra Nevada beer), and digging deep in TGR's library of films from the past years. Don't worry, the mountains will still be there when this is all over. Stay healthy, stay safe, and most of all stay stoked.Full TGR Films: - Check out the
Accidents in the mountains don’t just take a toll on the athletes involved, they weigh especially heavy on the friends and bystanders who witness and respond to them. When Sam Smoothy took a particularly heavy tumble while filming in Austria for TGR’s Winterland last year, the experience shook his film crew (who were the first responders and saved Sam's life) to the core. Learning from events like these is unfortunately part of the game we play, but provide valuable moments to look back on
Tragically, Kimbosessions 2020 has been cancelled due to, you guessed it, COVID-19. While not a surprise, and assuredly the correct decision, it's still a heartbreaking announcement for fans of park skiing. Entirely organized and run by athletes, Kimbosessions has emerged over the past few years as one of the most consistently creative and progressive annual events in the sport. RELATED: Stay Stoked- Your Guide to TGR's Best Content While it's cold comfort, we can take some