The New York Times: “The Rockies, the Alps, the Caucasus? Georgia Plans for the Future“

The village of Kanobi, north of Gudauri along the Georgian Military Highway that leads to the Russian border.Photo: Ola Lewitschnik., Nov 27, 2018, Tbilisi, Georgia

The New York Times has published an article about Georgia’s winter resorts, saying Georgia has beautiful mountains, dependable snow, hearty food and welcoming people and what Georgia needs is to decide how to build a tourism industry.

Author of the article Gabriel Leigh, who visited Georgia to ski, was attracted by images of the towering Caucasus Mountains and reports affordable skiing without the crowds.

Leigh visited Gudauri, Georgia’s largest ski resort, where he enjoyed “mostly fast, modern lifts”, plenty of snow on the ground and “sparkling blue skies, which made for strikingly beautiful days on the slopes — nothing but marshmallowy peaks of white in every direction”.

Leigh also visited another of Georgia’s ski resorts, Bakuriani, which Leigh describes as “a ramshackle place, but one with a certain charm — a place of camouflage-jacketed men on horseback; old Russian trucks and buses; elderly ladies selling the traditional cheese-filled bread khachapuri from hole-in-the-wall shops; and families, mostly Georgian and Russian, slipping around on the icy sidewalks”.

Georgia has few natural resources, a relatively low profile internationally and powerful neighbors that don’t always play nice. It’s no surprise that it’s eager to attract visitors and show the world what makes it special. And as visitor numbers grow and Georgia emerges as a destination, the country is pinning much hope on its mountains. It struck me that this is a country at an inflection point, with a generation trying to start from scratch in many ways, and make a clean break from the past. That’s part of its appeal. It’s got the basic elements covered: good food, beautiful mountains, dependable snow and welcoming people — the rest they’re figuring out as they go along”, wrote Leigh.

On his last night in Georgia, Leigh met with spatial planner and expert George Gotsiridze, who works on development plans for ski areas in the country. Gotsiridze told Leigh about Georgia’s mountainous areas which still are undiscovered as because of the poor infrastructure these resorts cannot receive many skiers. And that lack of infrastructure leads to more and more people moving away, leaving the villages depopulated and dying.

In a country that’s 60 percent mountainous, skiing and other mountain sports present a huge opportunity to correct that — but it’s a delicate balance”, wrote Leigh.

As Gotsiridze told Leigh, “the mountains are our treasure, our opportunity. We should raise our kids, our next generation, on skis.”

Read the full story here.