Success story in Kyrgyzstan
In the beginning was a vision
Kyrgyzstan may not exactly be known as a skiing nation by the rest of the world but it does indeed have a tradition in alpine skiing. The training facilities in the state north-east of China were popular in the Soviet era with many athletes. For 40 years the country has had the ski resort of Orlovka, located about 100 km south-east of the capital Bishkek. In 2006 the owner Vladimir Kuzmin applied to the European Development Bank for funds to give the resort a makeover. Hans-Peter Pleisch from Davos, who had years of experience in running Swiss mountain railways, was asked to process the application. Despite his positive assessment, the application was turned down in the fall of 2006. Pleisch decided to put his own hand in and invest in Orlovka with Kyrgyz businessman Alimjan Tashmatov. Together with Vladimir Kuzmin they set up Jet Ski GmbH which is the owner of the ski resort to this day. The aim of the company is to develop Orlovka into a winter sports resort of European standard. This includes lift systems, slopes, accommodation, restaurants and sports facilities.
The three visionaries have made great progress with the modernization of the resort in the past few years. One strategy adopted in Orlovka is to buy used machines and systems from Central Europe. A two-seater chairlift was acquired from Flumserberg AG (SUI) in 2006, for example. The ski resort now has two chairlifts, one T-bar lift and one baby lift. The slopes are prepared with two Kässbohrer snowcats. They even bought a Kässbohrer pipe shaper to build a half-pipe.
Guaranteed snow thanks to TechnoAlpin
The climate in Kyrgyzstan is dominated by hot summers and cold winters. It is very dry all year round in the mountainous country. So the resort managers in Orlovka could not rely on natural snowfall. In terms of snow-making technology, therefore, they have found a reliable partner in TechnoAlpin. The first snow-making system was built in 2006 with 1200 m of pipelines and seven snow guns. The system was expanded in 2009 by another 1800 m, and six more snow guns were purchased. Investments were also made in the infrastructure. The car park and access road were extended, the restaurant was refurbished and an open-air bar opened. There are ski hire facilities which are very well kitted out with used ski and snowboard equipment from Switzerland. There are 300 pairs of skis and 80 snowboards altogether plus accessories. A shop selling sports equipment has been built, the existing sauna and swimming pool have been refurbished, and accommodation has been constructed for staff and tourists.
Moving on up
The ski resort now has nine slopes of varying degrees of difficulty. Night-time skiing has also been possible since lighting was erected in 2009. Orlovka boasts a toboggan run and the first half-pipe in Central Asia. A racing school for children aged between 6 and 12 was opened in 2010, offering professional childcare facilities all year round.
Orlovka has blossomed into an attractive ski resort in just four years. The resort is open from the beginning of December until the middle of March thanks to the snow-making system. The number of overnight guests is increasing due to the improvement in the accommodation and infrastructure. Jet Ski GmbH already employs 50 people year round. The region also benefits from the economic value added by the resort. Meanwhile the operators are already making further plans. Another two-seater chairlift and two rope tows are in the pipeline. Plans are also on the table for a mountaintop restaurant, a new hotel, shops and apartments. As they hatch their plans for the future, the visionaries are not limiting their sights to Orlovka. They want a company which builds chairlifts and the transfer of expertise in Kyrgyzstan.