Uzbekistan’s €100m new ski resort already in trouble before it’s even open
Plans to open a multi-million-Euro ski resort in Uzbekistan are already in jeopardy as the country’s fragile infrastructure poses problems for organisers, despite the ski season being about to start.
Amirsoy Mountain Resort, which advertises itself as a world-class all-season mountain resort on its website, was due to open the first gondola, chairlift and drag lift, as well as accommodation, later this month. However, according to local media building a resort set to span 900 hectares (approximately 9 square kilometres) in a mountain range with very little other infrastructure has proven difficult.
According to Uzbek media a lack of electricity and roads in the area has put the brakes on the project. Uzbekistan 24 TV reported that the only road to the resort ‘turns to slush’ when it rains. A new road was commissioned by the government but only one third of the work has been completed.
According to Azernews, an English newspaper in Azerbaijan, Shukhrat Dauletov, the head of the State Committee in charge of the work, said the delay was caused by geological studies being carried out at the same time. The studies discovered weak soil in several places, which could lead to landslides.
The resort is set to have seven cable cars, but the lack of electricity in the area has caused problems for the operation – 31 new utility poles have had to be installed. New companies have also been brought in to finish the roadworks, to try and ensure the project, which is being seen as a major representation of the country’s tourist facilities, opens on time. The planned open date is reportedly December 15 2018, just nine days away.
The new resort is being built in the mountains of Uzbekistan’s Bostanlik district, to the east of the capital city Tashkent, and close to the border with Kazakhstan to the north and Kyrgyzstan to the east. The total costs of the development is estimated to be more than €100 million.
Work on the resort began last year, with the full project due to be finished by 2022, after which there will be chalets, hotels, restaurants, bars, equipment rental shops, a spa and concert area. A total of 28 pistes are planned, covering 21km, along with a terrain park, tobogganing, tubing and a night skiing operation.
In October, Andorra-based PGI Management signed a contract to manage the resort. Since then, the company has recruited an international team of managers to work on it, bringing with them experience from other established ski areas.
Despite no formal confirmation of the opening on December 15, the social media accounts for the resort are full of updates from the site, including pictures of new lift stations, snowmaking machines and hotels. If the regular updates are to be believed, work is very much in full swing.
PGI has a reputation as one of the world’s largest ski resort consultancy firms, working on everything from design and construction to operation and growth, and has worked on other projects including the Grandvalira ski area in Andorra. Amirsoy is also set to receive the world-class treatment with snowmaking systems from TechnoAlpin, the Italian company behind The Snowfactory. Its technology has been harnessed by resorts in Europe to make snow regardless of air temperature – it can operate at up to 32°C – and has also brought a new lease of life to Scottish ski resorts.
While Amirsoy is set to be the most heavily-invested and eventually the largest ski resort in Uzbekistan, it isn’t the country’s only winter-sports destination. Chimgan is the most well-known ski resort in the country, located 80km from Tashkent in the Chatkal mountain range, close to the border with Kyrgyzstan.
Apparently known as ‘Uzbek Switzerland’ the resort’s slopes are lined with replica fir trees and snowfall is common from December to April, thanks to cold fronts from Siberia and Russia to the north. There are six lifts as well as a number of hotels, shops bars and restaurants. Reviews on Tripadvisor suggest the area is ideal for beginners and families.
Just 5km away from Chimgan is Beldersay ski resort on Mount Kumbel, the highest resort in the country, at 2,350m. It is home to Uzbekistan’s longest run as well as a number of off-piste areas, all largely undiscovered by European skiers and snowboarders.
However the society of freeriders in Uzbekistan posts regular videos on social media that show what conditions are like, and it looks like this sovereign state might just be a hidden powder paradise.
A seven-hour flight from the UK, and with a number of travel advice points currently issued by the foreign office, Uzbekistan might never be a top destination for a British family’s ski holiday, however, skiers and snowboarders with a sense of adventure might still have a new addition for their ski bucket list. Whether it will be Amirsoy this season remains to be seen.