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1 Feb, 2008 12:54

Ski parks cash in on Moscow's wealth

Moscow's ski parks are booming. Over the past decade several city's developers managed to turn the region's easy slopes into profitable business, providing Muscovites a downhill skiing experience close to home while charging them no less than popular Euro

Just 50 kilometres north of Moscow, the hilly Dmitrovsky district has become a key destination for Moscow's skiers and snowboarders.

Sorochany ski resort invested $US 60 million in developing infrastructure and building slopes. The snow on most of the hills is artificial, at least for half of the season.

To rent skis and boots for a day, plus a ski pass, will cost more than $US 100. A chocolate bar in the canteen in Volen ski resort costs more than two dollars. The owners say they need a return on investment and this comes with the crowds lining up to use the facilities at weekends.

Analysts say that maintenance alone costs these parks about $US 250,000 per month, but in winter time revenues can reach four times this.

The business is underpinned by the growing popularity of skiing – its one of President Putin's favourite pastimes – and rising incomes. But there is one looming problem – winter is getting warmer every year, the snow making machines work only if it's not more than – 2. So the ski parks are absolutely dependent on the weather.

But despite climate change, the organisers are optimistic. They say the number of skiers is growing by 20% each year. And with the ten million plus inhabitants of Moscow just down the road they are expecting to continue cashing in on demand for some time yet.