France to Help Russia Build New Ski Resorts in Caucasus

Deauville, France – Following talks between their two Presidents, France will help Russia build a number of new ski resorts in its restive Caucasus region, both countries announced in a joint statement released last week.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sees development of tourism infrastructure in the Caucasus as the solution to increasing insurgent violence in the region, and has been actively seeking investors to help build a $15 billion network of ski resorts. The Russian business daily Vedomosti reports that France will contribute at least $2.84 billion in funding via its state-owned bank, Caisse des Depots et Consignations, following talks between Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a G8 summit in the seaside resort of Deauville in northeastern France. Together with Russia’s state-owned North Caucasus Resorts Co., the developer of the resorts, the French bank will help to drive foreign investment to the project.

The Caucasus region from the summit of Mt. Elbrus. (photo: Gergely Pirovich)
The Caucasus region from the summit of Mt. Elbrus. (photo: Gergely Pirovich)

The two “agreed to list the creation of a tourist cluster in the North Caucasus as a priority … in the strategic partnership between the two countries,” according to the statement. “France has unique and varied experience and knowledge of full-scale development of highland regions … and is ready to share its experience with Russia.”

The North Caucasus is an area of big mountains and deep snow perfect for alpine skiing, but also deep poverty as it includes three of Russia’s poorest regions: Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan. Although there is already skiing offered in the region surrounding 5,642-meter Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest summit, the facilities are mostly primitive and therefore attract few foreign visitors. But any new development will also need to quell the almost daily attacks from Chechen and other Muslim separatists who claimed responsibility for the gunning down of three Russian ski tourists and the bombing of a ski lift near Mount Elbrus last February.

The western part of the Caucasus region will be home to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

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