Chechnya may be the next ski resort destination

Posted By: The Ski Channel on February 3, 2010 6:25 am

For those of you who know much about the Russian republic of Chechnya…what are some of the first thoughts you have about it when it’s mentioned?

Perhaps terrorism. Maybe wars, violence, Islamic insurgency. Oh yea, and definitely ski resort destination.

Sorry, what? That’s not what you think of when you hear Chechnya? Well, get used to the idea of there being a luxury ski resort in the Russian republic. President of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov believes it the best way to revamp the area’s image.

“These areas are perfectly suitable for setting up a tourist resort,” Kadyrov said in a recent interview with a Russian Web site. “The climate is wonderful, there’s beautiful nature. If the infrastructure were established, then we wouldn’t be worse than any of the resorts in France or Switzerland.”

Yea, except for the whole Doka Umarov thing. He’s the self-proclaimed “Emir of the Caucasus” who wants to unite the Muslim republics in Russia under an independent flag and Sharia law. He was responsible for the November bombing of a passenger train between Moscow and St. Petersburg…and he’s believed to be hiding in the very same mountains Kadyrov wants to convert into a ski resort. Would that affect your vacay?

Kadyrov is set on controlling these Muslim extremists and turning tourism into a booming Chechen business. Nikolai Petrov, expert on the North Caucasus region at Moscow’s Carnegie Center, doesn’t find that idea so feasible. “I’m afraid that in the foreseeable future there is nothing which can be done by the Chechen government to attract skiers, tourists from the rest of the country or even the rest of the world,” he told ABC News. “It doesn’t mean they can’t invest huge money, it doesn’t mean they can’t spend some money for the purposes of constructing something which can attract [the likes of Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin or [President Dmitry] Medvedev.”

While this may be a Chechen dream for right now, it does improve many people’s opinion of President Kadyrov, a tough-as-nails leader known for kidnapping and torturing his opponents. While far from stable, this desire to boost tourism and get some money flowing through the region is certainly a light spot in the dark image of the current Chechnya.