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Olympic ambitions of Bukovel skiing resort
Oleksandr Shevchenko, director of the Skorzoner Company that owns the Bukovel mountain skiing center in the Carpathian Mountains, was instrumental in turning Bukovel into a world-class mountain resort. Mr Shevchenko was interviewed by Yevhen BUDKO, Mizhnarodny Turyzm Magazine senior editor.
Mr Shevchenko, could we go back to the time when the project to transform Bukovel into a world-class resort was launched? How did it all start?
They say that many projects get their start in the hearts of enthusiasts. Bukovel falls into this category of projects. In 2000, I discovered the joy and excitement of mountain skiing but there was also a very unpleasant discovery that ski resorts in Ukraine lagged behind the world-class resorts of this type which I saw in my travels. Going to Ukrainian ski resorts then was like traveling from the civilization of today to the times of the caveman. I could not help wondering why we could not have excellent ski resorts in Ukraine — we have scenic mountains with all the conditions necessary for mountain skiing! And we also had people eager to work and invest, we had considerable number of tourists coming to the Carpathian Mountains. But the next logical step — to create high-end resorts specializing in mountain skiing somehow was not taken.
It was then that I decided to spare no effort in creating such a resort. My friends were very skeptical about my project at first but I went ahead despite all the derision. And six years later we have a mountain-skiing resort of a European level. We continue to improve it, and I’m positive that in the near future Bukovel will become one of the best resorts of its kind in Europe.
What does Bukovel have that other Carpathian resorts do not?
I do not think that to compare Bukovel with other Carpathian resorts is a proper thing to do — it’s like comparing two football clubs — one of which is from the premier league, and the other is from the bottom league. In building up Bukovel, we used the best world standards, and comparisons should be made with other high-class ski resorts.
At present, Bukovel is the biggest, as far as its infrastructure is concerned, ski resort in Eastern Europe. Not a single resort in Poland, Slovakia or Rumania can boast a similar number or variety of slopes, trails and runs. Plus we have state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.
We invited the leading foreign companies to take part in building up Bukovel. The Canadian company Ecosign, for example, is the number-one company in the world in planning and designing ski resorts. This company took part in creating one of the best ski resorts in the world — Whistler in Canada. The Russians hired the same company to do work for them in Sochi which will host the winter Olympic games.
The staff of Bukovel is a group of like-minded, highly professional people who care very much for what they are doing. So, several factors have combined to give us the edge over other resorts in the Carpathians.
What are your expectations for the forthcoming tourist season?
We hope that the weather conditions will be right for mountain skiing and other winter sports. Bukovel is ready for the winter season. We’ve got a lot to offer, and we guarantee comfort and lots of fun. Winter is a sort of test for us and I’m sure we’ll pass this test with flying colors.
Was any work done at Bukovel during the summer?
Yes, of course. We had a new medical centre built, we had a lot of things done to preserve the ecological balance of the territory Bukovel occupies, and we developed our summer sports infrastructure.
Last July, we signed a contract with the Canadian corporation Garvity Logic for building mountain bike and cross-country routes, the first ones of their kind in Ukraine. We’ve already built two downhill trails with the total length of 6,700 meters.
We have enlarged the parking lots and introduced new fast food outlets. We have started planting trees to compensate for those that we had cut down in building our groomed runs. We plan to plant at least 200,000 trees by the end of this year. But it doesn’t mean that we stopped receiving tourists during the summer — tourists continue to come. Among all other things we can offer are roller blades, mountain bicycles and forest hikes.
Are you involved in any kind of charity work?
We surely are. This year we have donated money to the summer camp for orphans which was set up by the charity fund Nove pokolinnya.
We have donated money to a number of families with many children in the Land of Prykarpattya so that they would be able to build their own houses. Ten such families will move to their new houses before the winter comes.
Bukovel provided its facilities for Ukrainian and foreign athletes who could come to Bukovel during the summer and do their training — among them boxers, biathletes, soccer players, and downhill racing bikers. In addition to athletic training, Bukovel is an excellent place for having your health generally improved.
Do you have any foreign tourists coming to Bukovel?
We sure do. Most of them come from Poland, Rumania, Moldova, Russia and Belarus. Bukovel is one of the ski resorts that develops at a great pace, we are one of the fastest developing ski resorts in the world. Last year, we won the top award in nomination Best Tourist Base in Ukraine in a contest organized by the Ukrainian Travel Awards.
What will Bukovel offer the tourists who will come in winter, in addition to winter sports?
They will be able to take part in the traditional Ukrainian celebrations of Rizdvo and Vodokhreshchya (Christmas and Epiphany, or Baptism of Christ), complete with kolyadki, shchedrivki (Christmas carols) and winter season traditional rituals. We’ll organize a contest of winter swimmers on the Day of Vodokhreshchya, and of course our eateries will offer traditional Ukrainian Christmas dishes. Winter in the Carpathians is a magic season — the scenery is fantastic!
How many people can you accommodate at a time?
Last year it was 650, and this year it will be 1,500 people. Of course, the number of people who would want to come is much, much greater, but there are other resorts and tourists centers in the radius of 30 kilometers of Bukovel which can receive up to 20,000 tourists! The prices differ from high to low so that people from various social strata can afford it.
We, at Bukovel, encourage tourists to come over and over again by offering subscriptions and discounts to our regular customers.
Will those who come to Bukovel in winter have chances of going on tours to some other places in the Carpathians?
Absolutely. We offer guided tours to various places of historical and cultural interest. And there is the Carpathian Nature Preserve which is a must-see place for anyone who comes to the Carpathians.
Is it true that in the territory of Bukovel there are springs whose water has medicinal properties?
It is true to such an extent that we could be called a mineral water spa in addition to being a ski resort. Mineral waters, whose sources were recently discovered, have been scientifically proved to have medicinal and generally health-improving properties. We have a medical center complete with equipment at the cutting edge of modern technology. People who have problems with the musculoskeletal system, gastrointestinal or urinary tracts can have their health problems dealt with at our medical center. Massage and various kinds of therapy will be of great help too.
What are your long-term plans?
We are planning to be able to accommodate up to 35,000 tourists at a time at Bukovel in about ten years in the future. We shall have 21 ski and chair lifts, we shall have 116 kilometers of trials and runs complete with equipment for providing proper snow coverage.
We have signed an agreement with the Ministry for Family, Youth and Sports Matters which provides the foundation, upon which we shall create facilities for biathlon competitions, freestyle, snowboarding, figure skating, short track, ice hockey, curling and other winter sports. The government takes upon itself the organization of international competitions in these sports at Bukovel. I’m sure Prykarpattya will be able to handle the winter Olympiad in 2018!
Photos have been provided
by Bukovel skiing center