SHEREGESH: A SELF-MADE SKI RESORT
It neither staged the Olympics nor received any state funding, yet Sheregesh, thanks to its miners, transformed from a depressed region into one of the best resorts in the country. PAGE IV A Special Advertising Supplement to the International New York Times This special advertising supplement is produced and sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia) and did not involve the reporting or editing staff of the International New York Times.
Monday, December 21, 2015
Russians usually go to Europe for optimum skiing and services. Yet the fall of the ruble and the development of new worldclass ski resorts in Russia has led many people to choose a domestic option. See our guide on where to ski and stay in Russia.
While Russia is known for its extreme winters, its hardy people are accustomed to the climate and economic activity does not slow down in the cold season. In fact, winter presents many opportunities to develop a new business niche. Read about the interesting prospects for winter business opportunities.
Russian Christmas — celebrated in January — is still a noncommercial family occasion. December is now the main month for holiday shopping. hristmas, as it is celebrated in Western countries, has recently become a major opportunity for retailers in Russia, as it has in many parts of the world. While 75 percent of the Russian population belongs to the Orthodox Christian denomination — which marks Christmas according to the Julian calendar on Jan. 7 — in late December, the country sees a surge in outdoor merchandising, with a large number of Christmas fairs and markets springing up. “In recent times, a holiday in itself has become a great business idea,” says Yelena Zheleznova, a managing partner of an analytical agency specializing in customer services.“Weddings, birthdays, Valentine’s Day and Christmas are very profitable occasions,”she explains. ”The main thing is to bring them into fashion.” Zheleznova, says that Western Christmas for most Russians is “a beautiful holiday with a magical allure, while Orthodox Christmas has a more spiritual nature.” Foreigners, and Russians who traveled to Europe, brought Euro-
pean traditions — such as street markets — back with them. In 2015, almost every major Russian city will have a Christmas fair. In St. Petersburg, celebrations will begin on Dec. 18. Thirteen Russian regions and 15 foreign countries are expected to present their New Year traditions at the city’s fair. Thirty-eight venues in Moscow will participate in the Journey to Christmas festival. The Russian capital’s premier fair has already opened. It set up on Red Square Nov. 29. More than 400 stalls selling Christmas and NewYear gifts will be installed throughout the city as part of the Journey to Christmas festival. This year, to promote the event, the city has published a Christmas market guide, though for the moment it is only available in Russian. “The Christmas holidays form the so-called peak season in retail,” says Timur Nigmatullin, an analyst at Finam investment company.“With a difficult economic environment and falling real incomes, businesses in the consumer sector cling to any opportunity to increase sales.” The holidays, says Nigmatullin, are just a
convenient occasion to sell more products and services, with companies stepping up their marketing efforts around the Western Christmas calendar. “For them, as for any private business, the peak season is extremely important,”says Nigmatullin.“They are ready to spend a large sum from their marketing budgets during national holidays.” Christmas markets in Moscow have already evolved, adds Zheleznova.“Windows, displays and participants have changed over the past two years. Now it is not just about souvenirs, but the desire to showcase their country. These fairs tend to become places to celebrate and have fun, rather than just points of sales.” According to her, Russia does not have a strong tradition of celebrating Christmas at home with the family, as is typical in North America. Fairs became really popular, but, in my opinion, most people perceive them as New Year, rather than Christmas markets,”says Irina Dobrokhotova, chairwoman of the board of di-
rectors of the BEST-Novostroy construction company. “This is just a good opportunity to walk around town with your family, buy some interesting handmade things (including Christmas tree decorations), buy farm products, taste mulled wine and freshly baked pastries.” Such festivals are especially important in generating revenue for the city. Moscow’s 2014 anti-crisis plan includes increased tax revenue for the capital’s treasury, as well as optimizing costs. To develop festivals and fairs in the city. as part of the anti-crisis plan, the authorities created a special commission featuring representatives of the Moscow government, as well as those from small and medium-sized businesses. According to the city’s press services, festivals and fairs are one engine of development for tourism, business activities and small businesses all over the world. The Moscow government estimates that the numbers of Russian and foreign tourists vis-
iting Moscow have increased in recent years by almost a third. In 2014, Moscow attracted a record number of tourists, with 16.5 million visiting the Russian capital. Moscow stages seven major commercial events a year, including the Christmas fair. Soon, the Moscow city authorities plan to increase the number of such festivals. In comparison, Paris with a population of 2.3 million people, stages more than 400 trade fairs and festivals each year, while Leipzig in the German state of Saxony (with a population of 530,000) organizes 12 fairs annually. In 2014, 8.5 million people visited the Journey to Christmas festival in Moscow, according to city authorities. At a glance, one can see that such events are lucrative. On average, each visitor spent 300 rubles (about $5) at the festival, bringing the total revenue to some 2.55 billion rubles ($36.7 million). ■ALEXEY LOSSAN RBTH
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Have you ever thought about skiing near Lake Baikal?
Want to know some places that are even better? JOE CRESCENTE SPECIAL TO RBTH
Now that you’ve found some good slopes for skiing, it’s time to meet the second challenge: Where to stay, where to eat and what else to do for leisure and pleasure.
Russia is famous as a winter wonderland, and nowhere is this more apparent than on its ski slopes. Over the last decade the options near its largest cities have exploded and those seeking relaxation are spoiled for choice. Some of the country’s newest and most impressive ski facilities can be found in and around Sochi, unsurprisingly, considering its role as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Most skiing can be found in Krasnaya Polyana and environs, a resort town 39 kilometers (24 miles) from Sochi in the Western Caucasus Mountains. Rosa Khutor, the most important year-round alpine resort, is located about 30 minutes from central Sochi. The highest peak here extends 2,320 meters (7,612 feet) above sea level, with a vertical drop of more than a mile. These are among the best and most picturesque slopes in the country, with most trails facing the Caucasus Mountains. In addition to staging many of the alpine events for the 2014 Winter Olympics, the 2012 Skiing World Cup was also held here. Once you’ve skied all the trails at Rosa Khutor, you can head over to nearby Gorky Gorod, with its variety of snowboard and skiing paths. Gorky Gorod features three mountain peaks with the tallest reaching 2,200 meters above sea level. In operation for more than a decade, its cable cars offer skiers an unparalleled views of the surrounding area on their way to the top. › http://en.rosaski.com/ › www.gorkygorod.ru/
city is Igora, which aims to recreate an atmosphere reminiscent of an Alps ski holiday. Being so close to the city (54 kilometers), Igora is busier than other area resorts, but features fast cable cars that can whisk up to 7,000 skiers per hour to the top of its trails. Located just 20 minutes from the edge of St. Petersburg — which is known as the Venice of the North — Tuutari Park offers a variety of winter sports activities, making for a convenient day trip.
Sochi — home of the 2014 Winter Olympics — has some of the best and most picturesque slopes in the country, with most of the trails facing the Caucasus Mountains.
› http://snegny.ru/ › http://zoldol.ru/
est diversity of terrain near Moscow with more than 20 trails. For those that are too busy to go far afield, there are indoor trails at Snezh, which is located just beyond the Moscow Ring Road and is accessible via Moscow’s public transportation. › http://shukolovo.ru/ › http://ya-park.ru/
Despite not being a particularly hilly area, St. Petersburg is continuously expanding its ski options. Snezhny Resort offers a wide range of slopes of varying difficulty, lessons for groups and individuals, and a wide range of equipment for rent. The resort is located in Korobitsyno (96 kilometers from the city), a village featuring two other ski resorts including Zolotaya Dolina, which offers more options than Snezhny and is more upmarket. Zolotaya Dolina is also known for organizing large private events. A little closer to the
Russia’s third-largest city, Novosibirsk, offers little that is very close, but there are numerous options for winter escapes. For something resembling a “Switzerland in Siberia” experience, the resort town of Belokurikha, about five hours south of the city. features dozens of resorts, spas and hotels, plus several ski slopes. Most visitors take a cable car (or climb) to the summit of Tserkovka Mountain, which features a cross embedded in a stone at the top. The slope is 2,600 meters long, far longer than others in the area. Other ski slopes in Belokurikha include Katun, which is split into two parts with two cable lifts. Above the top of that slope, another lift whisks visitors up to Severny, a narrower and more challenging trail. These and two other slopes form the Blagodat ski resort. You can also try Yurmanka, which is 144 kilometers away from the city. › http://blagodat22.ru/ › http://urmanka.com
While most quality ski resorts in Russia’s Far East are quite remote, Comet Resort near Vladivostok is an exception. Just a half hour drive from the city, Comet is a full-service ski resort featuring individual and group ski lessons, ski and snowboard rentals and sales, and racing trails for advanced skiers. Additionally, Comet offers a variety of services to please both children and adults. › http://www.kometasport.ru/
Moscow is not traditionally associated with alpine skiing, but the 21st century has been kind to the residents of Russia’s largest city. There are numerous ski runs within two hours of the capital, although the quality and value of the resorts vary greatly. With approximately 10 trails and located just 39 kilometers from Moscow’s Ring Road, Leonid Tyagachev’s Alpine Ski Club (named after Tyagachev, a Soviet ski champion and former head of Russia’s Olympic Committee) features 10 trails, plus a special path for tubing, a children’s club and individual and group lessons. Seasonal ski passes offer good value for Moscow residents, who can take advantage of the slopes on a regular basis. Yakhroma Park, located 46 kilometers from Moscow’s Ring Road, offers a VIP experience for skiers, with its numerous amenities designed with the business leader in mind, including a helicopter landing pad. While the ski slopes are hardly steep, the park is accessible to the city and offers an extraordinary range of entertainment options and other services. The slopes of Volen and Stepanovo, which are adjacent to one another, offer the great-
Winter resorts are spread across the length and breadth of the country. With this handy RBTH guide, discover more about Russia’s best slopes.
The quality and selection of facilities throughout the country vary widely. In some places, such as Sochi, skiers have a wide choice, while other ski destinations lack decent facilities adjacent to the slopes. Generally, Moscow and St. Petersburg offer good places to eat, stay and be entertained, with some destinations approaching European standards. Several hours from Novosibirsk, the resort town of Belokurikha has a wide-ranging selection of resorts, hotels and restaurants. In a few of the more remote ski areas there are often few options, although everything mentioned here should meet the needs of most foreign visitors. It is usually not difficult to find a room in Sochi near the ski resorts, and facilities exist for most tastes and budgets. Rosa Khutor Resort has 10 hotels including more than 1,600 rooms. Solis Sochi Hotel & Suites, the Hyatt Regency, Swissotel Resort Sochi Kamelia and the Rodina Grand Hotel and Spa — all great options for comfortable stays — offer a wide range of services including spas, saunas, fitness facilities and treatments for health and well-being. One of the more unique options is the dolphin-assisted therapy programs available at the Morskaya Zvezda Dolphinarium. Sessions include touching or swimming with the dophins, others include a ball game. For those with disabilities, such tactile experiences can help in the healing and recovering process. Many visitors also flock to AJ Hackett’s Sky Park, featuring challenging and extreme attractions including the SkyBridge, a sky-high crossing over a valley at an altitude of 207 meters (679 feet); the SochiSwing, a 170-meter-high (558 feet) zip line; and bungee jumps of varying heights. Most hotels feature top dining spots, but recommended are Traktir Trikoni for Russian comfort food; Achishkho, featuring traditional dishes from nearby Abkhazia; and the Old Boys Pub for a great selection of pub favorites and an extensive selection of beers. In addition, Sochi is one of the world’s rare destinations where people can visit the beach and the
If visiting Lake Baikal or its largest nearby city, Irkutsk, head to Sobolinaya Mountain (150 kilometers from Irkutsk). With 12 trails and eight slopes of more than 15 kilometers in length, this ski area has been popular with locals and tourists since opening in the mid-1990s. Today it is one of the largest ski resorts in Siberia, featuring an extraordinarily long season from the beginning of November until the beginning of May. › http://www.baikalski.com/
Several world-class resorts dot the Russian landscape.
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mountains in one day. At the end of the season, it is possible to hit the slopes in the morning and swim in the Black Sea in the afternoon. Moscow’s resorts are generally not located close to one another, so when researching the ski facilities, visitors should also consider what additional services and entertainment options a resort offers. Leonid Tyagachev’s Alpine Ski Club features a wide range of services, including snowmobiling, two hotels, comfortable cottages, four café-bars and a banquet hall, More leisure activities include bowling, saunas, billiards, horseback riding, a karaoke bar, a grill area and daycare facilities for children. Yakhroma Park, offering more highend facilities than most of its competitors, is a good option for organizing business meetings and conferences. With in-house catering
services and eight bars and restaurants, Yakhroma is a great choice for a weekend getaway or a wedding. Additionally, it offers a tobogganing course, an aqua park and spa and paintball facilities. Of the three ski resorts in the village of Korobitsyno, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the center of St. Petersburg. Snezhny Resort offers classic Scandinavian-type accommodations (such as light colors and wood furniture) in its cottages and on-site hotel. It features the Gorka Bar, a casual restaurant accommodating 200 diners and featuring live entertainment and guest chefs. Snezhny also has an elevated park with swings, bridges and other installations designed to take one’s breath away. Some skiers choose nearby Zolotaya Dolina for its extensive sauna complex, which features Russian and Finnish saunas, pools and grilling facilities for do-it yourself dining. Zolotaya Dolina’s restaurant options
include the atmospheric Suontaka, featuring a menu emphasizing Georgian cuisine as well as a pizzeria, bar and banquet facilities. For a business break, its conference center can help a company plan a weekend retreat. Igora Resort, much closer to the Venice of the North (St. Petersburg), is about an hour’s drive, tempting many corporate clients with four conference halls accommodating events of more than 400 people. Belokurikha, some five hours south of Russia’s third-largest city, Novosibirsk, is a bustling spa town with resorts, various spa facilities, restaurants, nightclubs, outdoor activities and plenty of fresh mountain air. It has been called the Davos of Siberia, as the atmosphere resembles that famous Swiss resort town. Since Belokurikha offers more than 20 major resorts, skiers are advised to do their research and choose carefully. The Altai West sanatorium is widely considered to have the best service in town and the most atmospheric rooms, while the Business Hotel Rossiya is more geared to business meetings and corporate gatherings. The town features numerous casual restaurants, but for those looking for something fancier, the Pyatoye Koleso fits the bill, while offering an extensive vegetarian menu, To unwind at day’s end, the Aquapark Belovodiye, attached to a hotel bearing the same name, features several water slides and attractions, two heated pools and a solarium. Near Vladivostok, the Comet Resort offers six different themed accommodations consisting of cottages and mini-hotels. While the dining facilities are limited, the resort offers an extensive array of grilling and do-ityourself options for those who like to throw parties catering to their individual taste. Some two hours from Irkutsk, Sobolinaya Mountain features three hotels, including Hotel Baikal, set just 300 meters (984 feet) from the famous lake. Ice skating, swimming, different kinds of saunas and a spa round out the range of activities available here.
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When temperatures drop business opportunities rise
Businesses help make winter more comfortable YEVGENY LARIONOV CO-OWNER OF THE COFFEE AND THE CITY CAFÉ CHAIN
espite the cold, snow and short daylight hours, business in Russia does not freeze in the winter. On the contrary, the more problems that people experience, the more opportunities there are to solve them. Here are five industries that thrive in the cold, creating business niches.
1. Home delivery
Potential exists in the areas of e-commerce, domestic tourism and the wellness and fitness industries
Few would want to go outside in minus 20 degree Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) weather, though some tough Russians, who live mainly in Siberia, eat ice cream even at minus 50 degrees. In the winter, people are more willing to pay for the services that let them stay at home, especially in the large cities such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan,Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Vladivostok. Besides home delivery, there is money in dog-walking as well.
2. Clearing snow RBTH looks at some interesting and potentially lucrative opportunities for businesses to tap into in the winter.
Online retail From late December through early January is the peak retail season in the country, as it marks the New Year break. With 80 million Internet users in Russia, there is huge opportunity for e-commerce, particularly around the holidays. Research conducted by MotionPoint.com in 2014 revealed that Russian e-commerce traffic for fashion peaks between December 30 and January 10.
Domestic tourism Six million Russian citizens visited Egypt or Turkey in 2014. Now, with both countries off the tourist map because of terrorism concerns and geopolitical tensions, the Russian government is encouraging citizens to visit destinations within the country. With an increase in demand for winter rec-
reation facilities across Russia there is opportunity for those in the hospitality industry to cash in on a rising number of Russian visitors. Oleg Safonov, head of Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency, told reporters this month that domestic tourist numbers are expected to rise by 30 percent in 2016.
Fitness and wellness According to the Russian Business Outlook magazine, the growth percentage of personalized fitness services is about 40 percent a year. There is an increased demand in Russian cities for indoor fitness activities during the winter months. Personal trainers, who are in demand throughout the winter months in Moscow, charge from $50 an hour to $300 an hour for the super-wealthy. According to Yoga Journal, the yoga industry in Russia is believed to be worth around 41 billion rubles ($600 million), with 1.3 million practitioners in the country,
national reported that Russia’s sporting equipment market was worth $942.3 million in 2014. Some 20 percent of the market can be attributed to the winter sports segment, says Roman Bayandin, a Vladivostok-based procurement specialist who supplies retailers across the Russian Far East. While no direct sanctions have been imposed on imports of sporting equipment in Russia, the fall in the ruble’s value has had an adverse affect on sales of high-end products such as snowmobiles. The total sports equipment market is likely to fall marginally over the next few years, depending on the value of the ruble. The market’s worth by 2017 is estimated to be about $913 million, according to Bayandin. With more Russians staying in the country instead of traveling abroad in the winter, there is a great opportunity to tap into the market for skis, skates and even ice-fishing equipment, Bayandin says.
Winter sports equipment
Research conducted by Euromonitor Inter-
SPECIAL TO RBTH
There is an opportunity for those in the country’s hospitality industry to cash in on a rising number of Russian visitors
Another promising niche is in clearing and removing snow from the entrances of homes, office buildings and parking lots as well as removing icicles from roofs. Snow also increases the demand for anti-slip coating solutions and for shoe-safe, anti-ice mixtures for the streets. Services for motorists include pulling cars out of the snow, supplying fuel, towing, charging batteries and mobile tire services.
3. Smart clothes Smart clothes make life more comfortable in the cold. The most popular winter smart clothes are caps with built-in headphones and smart gloves.
In Russia, unlike in China and Japan, flu masks are not popular, but since nobody wants to get sick, antiviral scarves can be smart substitutes for masks. These scarves, which help block germs and viruses, are infused with active carbon and bamboo charcoal. Sweatshirts, gloves, socks, slippers and blankets can be equipped with a heating element that operates with wires, USB devices or batteries.
4. Tummy warmers One of the most promising, but competitive, niches is in street food and drinks. When you are freezing all the way down to your toes, you really want to get warm inside. People will definitely want to consume warming drinks like traditional coffee, mulled wine and punch.
5. Assistants galore Russians love holidays and celebrate them in style. The country’s favorite national holiday is New Year and the subsequent Orthodox Christmas. Those who prefer to go away on vacation are looking for people to take care of pets and water indoor plants. Interior decoration services for the winter holidays are also in high demand. An interesting, but still novel, idea in Russia is hiring a gift assistant, who selects the most unique and relevant options for a customer and helps to order and deliver them. There is an ever-popular demand for all manner of handmade items, custom toys and jewelry. These are sought as gifts for loved ones and colleagues.
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Hot technologies to survive a cold Russian winter MARINA ROSS CEO & FOUNDER NANOBARRIER
ame-changing innovations provide solutions to the cold and good business opportunities in Rus sia.
1. Drone patrol Winter, when accidents and outdoor injuries increase, is the most dangerous time of year. Drones can provide autonomous aerial tracking and safety control for traffic and playgrounds for children and hard-to-reach areas. They can also help save billions of dollars by inspecting large infrastructure such as pipelines or electric power lines. Security of oil and gas pipelines is an everincreasing concern in the largest country in
the world. Gazprom Group and its subsidiaries, for example, own and service more than 716,000 kilometers (445,000 miles) of pipelines, which is nearly twice the distance from Earth to the moon. Today the pipeline corridors are monitored by regular foot and vehicle patrols, and by air using small fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. These existing methods are not only timeand money-consuming, but also dangerous, especially in winter. Flying remote-controlled robots made of durable carbon can become a good and reliable substitute that can be used in almost any condition and are a fraction of the cost of existing monitoring options. Yet currently, the marketplace for drones is practically empty. Only one known company has already developed a ready-to-market system for multipurpose flying drones to be managed from one flight control center. Fewer than 20 other drone startups of varying levels of expertise operate in the country. Yet this technology is in high demand in Rus-
sia, so many newcomers are expected to enter the marketplace in the not-too-distant future.
2. Smart textiles When most people think of textiles, fashion comes to mind, not technology. Smart textiles, however, represent one of the biggest technological advances that is going to change the way we think about and use clothes. On a global scale, the fitness industry will be the prime consumer market for e-textiles. In Russia, however, this will be different. With nearly nine months of bad weather each year (up to 11 months in some regions), people need protective clothing to shield against extreme environmental conditions. One of the newest technologies, called far infrared fibers, may be used as textile heating elements and can also be applied for therapeutic purposes. These fibers convert body heat into far infrared rays, reflecting it back to the human body. Wearing these clothes can help improve blood
WHAT DOES A RUSSIAN WINTER REALLY LOOK LIKE?
Find out in our interactive photo album
Best winter pictures from the snowiest country in the world Interactive postcards in iBooks version Travel routes to the most picturesque places rbth.com/winter_is_coming
circulation and energy levels. They are also therapeutic for people with arthritis and similar health conditions, making them ideal in Russia, where senior citizens account for one third of the population. Few companies worldwide are developing such functional fabrics and portable wearable devices. Yet gloves, socks, jackets, shoe insoles and other e-clothes for cold weather are still unavailable in Russia — a clear call to action for entrepreneurs to develop this technology here and access its many applications. Thanks to smart textiles, it is likely that soon Russian winters will not be greeted with trepidation, but with smiles.
3. Nano-coating Russians, concerned about how they look, are often willing to spend substantial amounts on trendy clothes. Unfortunately, the country’s weather conditions make it almost impossible to wear Louboutin shoes, Brioni suits or other hi-end fashion items, let alone simply colorful
and less-practical ones. Freezing temperatures, wet snow, slush, dirt and puddles are all damaging to clothing and footwear. Thanks to the German botanist Dr. Wilhelm Barthlott, who discovered and described the so-called lotus effect in 1990s, clothes and shoes can now remain dry and clean in any condition. Barthlott’s discovery is based on the high water repellency (superhydrophobicity) that the lotus flower leaves exhibit. Since this property has many industrial uses, the scientific community managed to find various applications for wood, plastic, metal and glass. Applying this effect on textiles, however, proved to be hard. One of the few scientists who succeeded lives in Russia and created a superhydrophobic selfcleaning nano-coating that protects against rain, snow, dirt, mud and almost any type of liquid. His coating is also eco-friendly, hypoallergenic, extremely durable and allows fabrics to breathe. One treatment of that coating lasts for at least three months.
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From iron ore mining to alpine skiing How some enterprising Siberian miners turned Sheregesh in the Kemerovo region into one of the largest ski resorts in the country.
its first ski lift,” recalls Artur, the son of a former miner. The director became enthusiastic about holding the Spartakiad games of the peoples of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (one of the 15 Soviet republics that constituted the U.S.S.R.) in Sheregesh. His competition preparations consisted of two parts. The first was to form a construction crew from the miners and build two ski lifts on the mountain of Zelyonaya. The second part was to trample the track. To do this, just before Spartakiad, all students, doctors, teachers, even prisoners from the local prison were sent to the slope. Those who had skis had to trample the track with them, those who had not had to do it with their valenki (traditional Russian felt boots). “It is now that we have lots of snowcats here, but then we had a better idea of a moon rover than of a snowcat,” says one of the founders of the resort, Adam Adamych.
Unique puffy snow Speed records are broken easily in Sheregesh. Even for someone who has skied in the Alps, the Balkans and the Caucasus, Sheregesh’s snow is a discovery. The first feeling is as if you swapped your cheap Russian Lada for an Audi. Low humidity makes the sliding soft and your moves are impetuous, In addition, dry snow does not roll into heaps quickly. The track remains flat until the evening, even if the ski crowd is large. Even if you fall frequently, your clothes will remain dry. Dry snow rolls away like water off a duck’s back. Sheregesh’s puffy snow is so unique that it is not even suitable for professional athletes. You get used to good things quickly — but records are set in different conditions. Eventually, the authorities had to allocate a separate hill for professionals and bombard it with snow cannons to make the snow worse.
Mantra: Change to survive
© ALEXANDR KRYAZHEV / RIA NOVOSTI
Sheregesh is a huge ski region, which sprang up in the Kemerovo region (300 kilometers, or 186 miles, from the Mongolia-Kazakhstan borders) in just 15 years. For a long time, the Siberian resort even had more visitors than Krasnaya Polyana, which was a venue for the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Yet it has never welcomed the Olympics, nor benefited from multibillion dollar government investments. What it does have is snow — so unique and of such quality that it cannot be found even in the Alps. Reviving old mining towns is an acute problem for many countries, even developed ones. A depressive atmosphere and poverty reign there. Former miners are considered to be inert and rigid, finding it difficult to change. In this context, when Russian miners — who started skiing down artificial hills of spent ore, then turned them in a real ski resort — it broke all stereotypes.
Skimpy suits on balmy slopes Three beautiful bikini-clad girls slide down the slope to Shakira’s song“Loca,”while toughlooking Siberian men capture them on camera. The video went viral on the Internet. It was a typical amateur video. It was April 16, the temperature was plus 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) and the snow depth, 1 meter. Yes, it happens here. The video stars are a cheerful
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bunch from Novosibirsk: businessman Alexei Kamerzanov, his friend Vadim, his daughter Karina and her two friends, both named Tatyana. After a day, there were 1,000 hits, after a month 100,000. As of today, together with all cover versions, it has been viewed by more than 10 million people. “We called this video ‘A Very Hot Day in Sheregesh’,” says Kamerzanov. “But no one believed that it was a really hot day at that time. Everyone Googled it and saw that the average winter temperature was -40, and decided that we were ordinary Russian madmen.” After all the media attention, the resort caught interest in Moscow, St. Petersburg and abroad. The video was shown by every national TV channel, the British tabloid Daily Mail devoted an entire spread to it, and American bloggers went hysterical. One viewer wrote,“Damned NATO! Damned Pentagon! Why did you lie to us all these years that we won the Cold War?” Even when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Sheregesh on an official visit, he realized the potential and immediately ordered to transfer ownership of the adjacent area from the federal government to the mu-
nicipality to enhance further development in Sheregesh.
Authorities see potential The region produces 60 percent of Russia’s coal and 14 percent of its steel and rolled products, while Sheregesh is one of three fields where local steel giants mined ore. In Soviet times, local miners’ relations with the outside world were based on the following principle: Your business is steel and coal – the Motherland will take care of the rest. A ski resort? There wasn’t even a properly paved road to get here. The resort was the result of a quirky chain of events. “It all started with Valentin Melnikov. There was nothing to do after the shift, and so he began to ski from the hill. He put on his skis, trampled down the track — and here we go,” said a former miner. The said Melnikov and a dozen of the other Sheregesh founders belonged to the Soviet generation of local investors. They approached the mine’s director and convinced him that the conditions for skiing from artificial hills should be improved.There were real mountains around, they said, but there wasn’t a single ski lift in their village. “In 1978, after that meeting, Sheregesh got
When Russian miners started skiing down hills of spent ore, then turned them into a ski resort, it broke all stereotypes.
Few locals from Sheregesh became famous. They include two-time world snowboarding championYekaterina Tudegesheva and 10-time world boxing champion, Yuri Arbachakov. In school, Arbachakov had a classmate, Marina Kazulina. Wen he won his first title, Kazulina was fired from the mine because of the onset of “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe (as Vladimir Putin described the collapse of the U.S.S.R.).” People like Kazulina began to work in whatever way they could, simply out of despair. “Two ski lifts, which had remained from the times of Spartakiad, a two-story cabin – that’s what the resort was like then,” says Kazulina. “Well, I took a wooden box and began to sell everything that came my way. Honey, pine nuts, hearts made of hare fur, wooden plates. I have this characteristic — when the situation is hopeless, I start to advance on all fronts just out of fear.” Today, Kazulina no longer has a wooden box. She has a big cedar yurt, 70 square meters (754 square feet) of retail space selling hundreds of items. At first, when her competitors continued to hang around in the cold, the local authorities drove them behind similar counters to sell their wares. Local souvenirs gradually began to take shape as a cottage industry. Struggling artists suddenly remembered they were artists, and the endangered Shors (a local ethnic group) suddenly realized the worth of their traditional Shor goods. They showered traders with taiga forest products — fish, game, herbs, honey and jam. Sheregesh remains one of the world’s few places where nearly all the souvenirs are locally made, Kazulina’s next dream is to build a workshop and pay the artists to work there, so that it develops into a small souvenir factory. The competition is so high among the sellers that the women have quit smoking, because a cigarette break could mean a few missed buyers. ■DMITRY SOKOLOV-MITRICH RUSSKY REPORTER
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