Medeo - The highest skating rink in the world
Medeo (also known as Medeu) is an outdoor skating rink near Almaty, located at the high-altitude of 1691 meters above sea level. It is the world’s largest high-mountain and Olympic-sized skating rink. The skating rink was named after a well-known entrepreneur Medeu Pusurmanov who first explored the picturesque nature in the foothills of the Trans-Alatau mountain range. The gorge, in which the skating rink is located in, carries the same name. The skating rink of Medeu is special, mainly because of the high level of solar radiation, low pressure as well as calm wind conditions, making it ideal for both training and records. The ice of the rink is also made from the clearest mountain water of the Malaya Almatinka River with the help it’s own water treatment system.
In the history, before Medeu was built, most of the skating competitions in the USSR were held in Siberia due to the long winter. The head coach of the Soviet National Team saw by coincidence the Kazakh athletes – particularly players from Almaty showing better results during the games in Siberia. When he asked the Kazakh skaters what their secret is, they said that the ice in Almaty is “faster”. The Soviet coaches were truly surprised to see that the athletes set new records in high areas nearby Almaty. Therefore they chose to build a new skating rink in Almaty which is now located in the Trans-Ili Alatau gorge to provide better conditions for the preparation of sportsmen in the highlands. In 1951, Medeu opened its doors and there were immediately two world records and six All-Union records set. With the help of the Medeo rink, the USSR national team become one of the leaders in speed skating and Medeo became a popular destination all over in the Soviet Union. Soviet sportsmen practiced here not only speed skating but also figure skating and ice hockey.
After the fame during the USSR, Medeo got quiet in the 1990s. The sports complex gradually fell into decay, until finally at the beginning of the 2000s, the Almaty authorities took over it. Since then Medeo has gone through two major renovations, the last one in 2009 in preparation for the Asian Winter Games of 2011. Today this legendary skating rink, not only attracts professional athletes, but hosts large-scale sports events and various cultural events and is also very popular among ordinary skating enthusiasts and tourists alike.
In order to protect Almaty from a potential threat of a mud flow, a dam was decided to be built next to Medeo and it has actually already stopped at least one fatal landslide that happened in the 1970s. Next to the dam there is reservoir holding almost 6 000 000 cubic meters of water. Additionally, at the end of the mountain gorge there is a ski resort of Shymbulak at an altitude of 2200 m above sea level.
What to do in Medeo?
In general Medeo and Shymbulak are the easiest mountain destination from Almaty. There is a station in Medeo from where you can purchase cable car tickets to travel straight to the Shymbulak ski resort. Alternatively, it is possible to hike to Shymbulak and to enjoy the very long stairs over the reservoir on the way. There is also a free hot spring destination about midway to Shymbulak. There are also many different level hiking routes on the Medeo area and further in the mountains with some that are very well suited also for beginners of mountain hiking.
Medeo is still an important center for the training of winter sports athletes from Kazakhstan and elsewhere in the region from November to April depending on the weather. The rink stays open until the evening and renting a skates cost about 1000 tenge for adult and 500 tenge for children and requires a deposit of about 5000 tenge or a driving licence. During the summer time you can rent roller blades in absence of the ice and still enjoy Medeo. The surroundings are also beautiful and having a day trip to Medeo from the summer heat from Almaty is a great idea.
Travel to MEDEo
Medeo is located 16 km south-southeast from Almaty and it is an easy to reach by the public transportation or by taxi. You can get to the bus 12 along Dostuk Avenue or in the stops across the street. Medeu is the end of the line. There is also parking place at Medeo but it can get crowded during the peak times. Three hundred meters north from Medeo, there is the new 4,5 km cabin cable car that leads to the tract Shymbulak is popular ski resort.