Caucasus highs: newborn skiing haven heats up for snowy winter

An ambitious tourism plan has taken off in the North Caucasus, with the first brick laid in the construction of a cable car.

With winter’s unavoidable approach, it is a time when many start thinking less about ice creams and more about icy-cold slopes on a ski vacation.

Winter is certainly on many people’s minds in the southern Russian republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessiya, where there are high hopes for significantly increased domestic tourism.

Hidden in the mountains of the Great Caucasus Range, the republic will be home to the first tourist complex in the North Caucasus. Local officials say the project is a milestone in the economic development of the region.

“The project includes five ski resorts that have the status of free economic zones with special regulations for taxation and other things,” Aleksandr Nevsky, head of North Caucasus Resorts, told RT. “The project requires nearly $20 billion. Russia is investing around $2 billion into the infrastructure development, which is not very attractive to private investors.”

Business analysts say that this project is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Europe, and will bear its fruits as early as the 2011-2012 skiing season, when the first three hotels and a cable car will be built.

The Karachaevo-Cherkessiya project is part of the federal government’s plans to turn the North Caucasus into a haven for skiers.

Tourism specialists say the region has the potential to give even the most popular European resorts a run for their money. The project is also expected to create about 300,000 jobs in Russia’s most turbulent region.

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