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Skiing: the assets of the Russian Caucasus

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“Here, ten years ago, the mountain was virgin. Today, it is one of the ski resorts with the greatest potential for development! » : at the top of the slopes of Arkhyz, in the middle of the impressive mountains of the Russian Caucasus, Djatoev Ayguf, the director of the exploitation of the eight chairlifts of the station, does not hide his enthusiasm, figures in support.

Each year, attendance increases by 20%. The resort’s hotels, which recorded nearly 600,000 visitors for the 2020-2021 season, are already full until next March. The Covid pandemic but also the effects of international tensions have prompted many Russians to visit their own country more. Arkhyz, like many other destinations across Russia, has benefited from this.

The precedent of Sochi

“Clearly this has boosted our station,” recognizes Djatoev Ayguf. By 2030, a dozen additional chairlifts should follow, up to more than 3,000 meters above sea level, in order to double the size of the area currently composed of around thirty kilometers of beautiful slopes through the forests. . Eventually, it will be able to exceed 100 kilometers because, all around, the mountain sides are virgin and majestic, without protected areas.

This success is reminiscent of that of the Sochi resorts which, located further south, on the Black Sea coast, have been full since the 2014 Winter Olympics. “We have the potential to compete with Sochi because Arkhyz is higher, wider, colder… With more stable snow! », insists Djatoev Ayguf. A great admirer of skiing in Courchevel, this engineer has been involved for more than ten years in the development of Arkhyz, which raises little debate locally.

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For a long time, the Russian authorities relied on the actors of the French ski industry to develop mountain resorts in the Caucasus. “In the beginning, Compagnie des Alpes, known for implementing the snow plan in France in the 1960s, helped us design our plans, in Arkhyz and elsewhere. Now it’s up to us to build them! », says Khassan Timijev, CEO of Caucasus. RF.

This new federal structure, housed within the Ministry of Economic Development, finances the construction of infrastructure and then seeks private investors to take over. Its most successful project is that of Arkhyz. With a flagship French company: Poma. The French specialist in cable transport, already chosen for certain Olympic sites in Sochi, is very present in the Caucasus and is even considering setting up a production site there (for mechanically welded parts and assembly, i.e. a third of a final chairlift).

4 times more tourists by 2030

Arkhyz is only one example among others of station construction sites in the Caucasus. “It’s a unique tourist area! In the next ten years, tourism and hotel revenues should reach at least 7% of the GDP of this region ”, anticipates in Moscow Zarina Doguzova, director of the national tourism agency.

“According to our forecasts, the flow in the region will quadruple by 2030 to 7.5 million tourists per year, of which 70% in sanatoriums and ski resorts”, she predicts. Over 110 tourism projects are under development across the Caucasus, from the modernization of old communist-era hotels to new ecological recreation and extreme sports.

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If sites like Arkhyz were born from nothing, others develop from post-Soviet infrastructures. “For the first, it’s easy; for the latter, it’s long and arduous because old mentalities and habits weigh heavily without a coherent long-term vision…”, ironically a source close to the structures investing in the tourist development of the Caucasus.

This is particularly the case of Elbrouz, the summit of the Caucasus at 5,642 meters above sea level. Grandiose, the site struggles to develop, because of struggles of interest. It has now been taken over by Caucasus. RF which plans to install a dozen chairlifts to complete the three current ones, all Poma. With an unprecedented project for the French company: cabins rising to 4,200 meters, a world record.

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