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Photo: Mitt

Ski market in Russia:

More ski areas, limited infrastructure

The number of ski areas in Russia has increased significantly since 2012. But many of them still have limited infrastructure and lifts that require renovation.

 

According to the 2018 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism, 75 of the Russian Federation’s 83 regions or other federal subjects currently offer one or more ski areas – over 350 in total.

 

However, many of these still have limited infrastructure and lifts that need to be renovated.

 

”There are about 40 small ski areas around Moscow and a few around St. Petersburg, even though neither city is located in a mountainous region. The country’s main ski resorts are located in the Ural and the Caucasus Mountains,” explains Laurent Vanat, author the 2018 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism.

 

With its long winters (longer than those in the rest of Europe) and the opportunity to ski on glaciers and at high altitudes, the Caucasus, a mountainous region and one of the snowiest locations in the world, has the natural potential to compete with the Alps.

The ski tourism landscape in Russia. Photo: Mitt

With its long winters (longer than those in the rest of Europe) and the opportunity to ski on glaciers and at high altitudes, the Caucasus, a mountainous region and one of the snowiest locations in the world, has the natural potential to compete with the Alps.

 

“A large regional project is currently being designed to build, through a public-private partnership, five resorts extending between various semiautonomous Russian republics in the region under the name Northern Caucasus Resorts, “continues Vanat.

 

These resorts will offer a total of 179 lifts and 879 kilometers of ski runs; the goal is to provide accommodation for 150 thousand guests per day. “Once this multi- billion-euro project is completed, over ten million tourists per year are expected to visit the mountains,” elaborates Vanat.

 

The largest of these planned resorts, Mamison, will feature 220 kilometres of runs and 60 lifts. In Elbrus, a new recordholding gondola was recently added to three already existing gondolas and two cable cars.

Thanks to them, skiing on Mount Elbrus now offers 35 kilometers of runs on 21 slopes all the way through August. “One problem is that waiting lines at the lifts are very long. The lifts in the ski area of Cheget are aging and their maintenance is sub-standard,” emphasizes Vanat. Arkhyz, another of the planned resorts, has already received its first three lifts (one gondola and two chairlifts). The project for a new, all-year resort of international standing in the Nizhny Novgorod region with new infrastructure and accommodations for 1,900 people is in its planning phase.

Figures illustrating the Russian ski market. Photo: 2018 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism

The Russian outbound ski tourism market is showing clear signs of growth thanks to a broader economic recovery. (c) Mitt

More Russians ski at home

The driving force behind the growing ski market in Russia has been the ski resort development in connection with the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. And this market has much future potential.

 

According to one presentation delivered at the 2019 MITT, Russia’s leadings travel and tourism exhibition, only three percent of Russia’s 140 million inhabitants ski: “The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi were a milestone for winter sports in Russia, driving demand and leading to the development of new domestic ski resorts.

 

In the years following the Olympics, the market expanded at an accelerated pace with the number of domestic skiers growing and domestic ski resorts’ visit rate improving,” explain the authors of the MITT presentation.

 

Over the last decade, more than a hundred new lifts were installed in the country. “A trend towards domestic skiing, triggered by the establishment of new, top modern resorts, has been evident since the Sochi Olympics,” says Vanat in his (free-download) report on the world ski market.

Russian ski tourism: a market overview. Photo: Mitt

Evolution of skier visits in Russia. Photo: 2018 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism

Rouble down - skier visits up

The dramatic drop in the rouble‘s value due to recent political issues, too, has resulted in Russians skiing more at home. Between January 2014 and January 2016, the Russian rouble lost half of its value.

 

“The financial crisis of 2014-2017 gave a boost tothe domestic ski industry as Russian tourists who would ordinarily spend their winter holidays abroad chose closer and cheaper ski destinations,” report the authors of the MITT presentation.

 

And Vanats adds: “Tours to Russia have become much cheaper for foreigners while travelling abroad has become more expensive for Russians. Therefore, many Russians who previously spent their winter holidays in European resorts skied at home.”

 

According to recent surveys, the number of Russian tourists travelling abroad decreased by some 30 percent during the 2015/16 season.

 

However, the subsequent economic recovery lead to a 25 percent growth of general outbound tourism in 2017 and the outbound ski market is set to flourish as Russian skiers look further afield to satisfy their taste for mountains. ts

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