Fabian Lentsch and Julian Zenzmaier on top of the Snowmads truck © Florian Breitenberger / Red Bull Content Pool
Reminiscent of the late Anthony Bourdain’s global food safaris that paired a love of food with cultural immersion, Austrian pro skier 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.”
Lentsch grew up in the idyllic mountain city of Innsbruck in the Austrian Alps, and by the age of 15, he was already taking on the might of Mont Blanc with his father and winning his first two competitions.
In 2015, shortly after securing a spot on the Freeride World Tour, Lentsch pulled out of the competition to forge his own path. 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 led 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.
“As a professional athlete, we’re always travelling,” said 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.”
Lentsch described Tehran as “the most underrated ski town in the world,” and shared: “Tehran is the skiing hub of Iran, and there are four world-class ski resorts within an hour’s 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.”
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 and embrace 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, 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.
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.”