Reminiscent of the late Anthony Bourdain’s global food safaris that paired a love of food with cultural immersion, Austrian ski pro Fabian Lentsch journeyed to Tehran to immerse himself in Iran’s rich culture. On the year-long adventure, he learned Farsi and how to play the Kurdish Tanbur and discovered the region’s unique ski culture and untouched slopes in the new documentary film series Snowmads – A Foreign Native.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Big mountain freerider Lentsch grew up in the idyllic mountain city of Innsbruck in the Austrian Alps and was already taking on the might of Mont Blanc with his father at an early age before winning his first two competitions aged just 15.
- Shortly after securing a spot on the Freeride World Tour in 2015, professional freeskier Fabian Lentsch pulled out of the competition to forge a path of his own. He refurbished an old fire truck, filled it with skis and friends, and headed East to explore less vaunted mountain ranges and document his travels along the way.
- This career-altering decision gave way to Snowmads – a film project that follows his wildly nomadic adventures. Alongside longtime friend Markus Ascher, the duo has since travelled to Greece, Georgia, and Iran in pursuit of perfect powder and newfound cultural experiences.
- ‘Snowmads – A Foreign Native’ is his fourth Snowmads film showing his nomadic adventures in a converted fire truck – an epic tale of perseverance, friendship and plenty of powder.
- “As a professional athlete, we’re always travelling,” said Austria-born Lentsch. “But despite all these travels, I’ve always had this feeling of living abroad somewhere, going one step further, and becoming more than just a foreigner.”
- During his previous trips to Iran, Lentsch had already made a few friends and explored the sweeping landscape of this culturally rich country. Lentsch explained: “This time, I really wanted to lose my role as a tourist. I wanted to settle in Iran, get an apartment in Tehran, get a car and become as local as possible.”
- The Austrian found a flat, bought a car and navigated the challenges faced when starting a life in an entirely new country and culture. His home base was the Iranian capital – which he describes as “the most underrated ski town in the world” – where he hooked up with his friends and fellow adventurers Sina Shamayani, Reza Saharkhiz and Shideh Farahpour.
- The 28-year-old revealed: “Tehran is the skiing hub of Iran, and there are four world-class ski resorts within an hour drive from the city. There’s also Tochal: a massive gondola in the northern outskirts of Tehran that climbs 3,800 metres to an alpine ski field. In a mega-city, you would never expect this type of access.”
- Outdoor enthusiast and fellow adventurer Shideh Farahpour revealed her experience growing up in Iran, and illuminated the persistent dichotomy of life in Iran, providing context to the news humming in the background.
- The crew’s journey was quickly thrust into doubt before it began, as the news of the value of the Rial plummeting and global political tensions ramped up, drawing a dark cloud on their plans amidst the unease resonating through the country.
- Undeterred, Lentsch’s crew packed the legendary Snowmads fire truck and ventured to Namak Darreh, a small village in the Mazandaran Province that straddles the northernmost mountain ranges alongside the Caspian Sea, exploring new untouched tracks.
- However, the trip was abruptly halted as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold across Iran. His friends returned to Europe, but Lentsch preferred to stay. He revealed: “It was a strange time seeing Tehran totally empty; there was a lot of uncertainty, but, in a way, it was the start of something new.”
- With COVID-19 grinding the adventure to a standstill, Lentsch embraced life in Tehran – learning to speak Farsi and to play the Kurdish Tanbur, an instrument with over seven thousand years of history.
- After gaining more confidence speaking Farsi, and with the Tanbur by his side, he decided to hit the road together with Shamayani and Saharkhiz when snowfalls arrived in the south of the country.
- At Chelgerd in the Zagros mountain range – 700km southeast of Tehran – without another soul in sight, Lentsch and his friends took on the region’s spectacular big mountain lines.
- In the summer, Lentsch’s journey took him to the Persian Gulf, learning the region’s fishing techniques and paragliding in the mountains as he enjoyed a unique adventure in the heart of Western Asia.
- Fabian explained ” Without Farsi, I never would have met my good friend and Tabor teacher, Hamza, who was the only guy I just spoke Farsi with. By the end of my ten months in Iran, I travelled to Queshm Island with Hamza and an all-Iranian crew. We visited his hometown of Kerend, dove in the Persian Gulf, and really embraced life in Iran. I’d gone six or seven months in Iranian culture without European friends by the point.”
- Reflecting on his journey, Fabian revealed, “I’ve stopped counting how many people have asked me the same question why Iran? Often I answer, why not Iran? In the end, it’s the culture and the landscape and the warm-hearted people that fascinated me from day one. This experience has shown me that we’re all just human beings with the same fears and joys, just growing up with different environments and perceptions of the world around us. It’s not something that should separate us but bring us together. I think we can learn a lot from each other.”
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