Eyes on eastern Europe’s potential 

Russia isn’t the only eastern European country that’s getting into the ski resort business, and people in the industry are taking note.

Whistler-based Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners is working on three resort projects in the Ukraine, two in Romania and two in Serbia. One of the Ukrainian resort developers spent 92 million euros last year, which included seven new lifts, infrastructure and housing.

“North America and Europe are mature markets,” Ecosign’s Paul Mathews said. “Every skier that leaves the sport is replaced by one new one right now. But in (eastern Europe) the markets are brand new.”

Lift manufacturers and equipment suppliers are all active in eastern Europe, according to Mathews, whereas in North America and western Europe they are primarily servicing existing resorts, providing replacement sales.

Mathews is bullish on eastern European ski business, given the population, the growing wealth and the mountain culture.

“If they ski like Europe, half a skier visit per capita, they’ll be doing 140 million skier days in a generation,” Mathews said.

Currently, eastern Europe has between 5 million and 7 million skier visits annually, but there are a lot of mountains in eastern Europe, and a lot of potential for growth.

“And… they all live in the mountains,” Mathews says. “These countries are mountainous, with snow — even with global warming.

“It seems a very interesting potential to me.”

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