President Mikheil Saakashvili wants to turn Georgia into a skier’s paradise. For a leader who has presided over a cabinet meeting in neon green ski pants, the idea seems natural enough. But the plan’s high price tag is raising concerns that this dream is more of a vanity project than part of a sound blueprint for economic growth.
The campaign kicked off last fall in the remote high-mountain town of Mestia, the picturesque seat of the Svaneti Region that officials hope will become a year-round resort that rivals Swiss ski areas as a tourist destination.
Then, in January, with no snow on the ground in Mestia, and still no reports on sales revenue for the town’s first official ski season, plans to build a second ski resort were announced – this time, in the remote mountains of Achara, a Black Sea region south of Svaneti. In addition, officials expressed the intention to build a factory to manufacture Georgian skis.
A few weeks later, Tbilisi Mayor Givi Ugulava, a Saakashvili confidante, showed that he, too, had caught the ski bug. Work is now underway on a ski resort about 15 minutes outside of Tbilisi.
To read the full story
Molly Corso is a freelance reporter and photojournalist based in Tbilisi.