The winter sports complex Medeo (or Medeu) in Kazakhstan, located only 17 km (10.6 miles) from Almaty, is famous for its outdoor ice skating rink. Surrounded by a breath-taking landscape, it is the largest open-air ice skating rink in the world, surfacing around 10,500 m2 and nestled at 1,691 m (5,548 ft) altitude.
Put on your skates and try out this ice, where many historic world records were made.
Back in history
The legend says that the valley takes its name from Medeo, a traveller who chose this picturesque site to lay his grounds. In the 1960s, while tourism is at its peak, the Soviet authorities decide to build a sports complex and ski base at Shymbulak, just above the valley. This is part of the strategy to develop winter sports in the USSR. A new, huge ice skating rink should replace the old one that was built in 1951.
The project plans to have an entirely open-air ice skating rink, which means that, in order to keep it open all year round, the site would have to produce artificial ice from 8 to 12 months per year, and ensure its high quality. The goal was to compete with the best ice skating rinks in Europe and attract international competitions.
1,300 young men and women from the Komsomol (Union of the communist youth) joined themselves to the thousands of employees to help build the majestic rink. The construction was completed in 1972, two years earlier than expected.
Thanks to the sophisticated system of the rink and to its ideal location, it benefits from high quality techniques and climate that quickly got it a good reputation. The pressure, temperate and humidity are always ideal, making for a perfect and pure ice.
In 1974, the sports complex welcomed the European women’s speed championship and became known as the ”world’s fastest ice skating rink”. It then was nicknamed the **international record factory”: over a hundred historical sports records were made there. In 2011, it hosted the *7th Asian Winter Sports Games*. Kazakhstan then became a candidate for the *2014 Winter Olympics*, but lost the race.
The Medeo ice skating rink is still seen as the ** « Mecca » for speed skating** and the best spot for bandy, the ancestor of hockey also called Russian hockey.
The Medeo rink is open to the public in summer like in winter, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., except during competitions. Put on your skates or rent them and enjoy this ideal ice in a magnificent environment. You can even skate at the night thanks to the many lights.
If you’re not into ice skating, go for a hike. The mountains are beautiful all year long. Medeo is also at the feet of the Shymbulak ski base, where you can take a lift up to the station at 3,500 m altitude (11,483 ft) and enjoy winter sports or go for a hike or biking tour, depending on the season.
How to get there ?
From Almaty, take the bus 39, 6 or 2 at the station near Abai metro stop. You can also take a taxi. Make sure to take an official cab, which can be ordered in advance. You can negotiate the price at the beginning of the ride.