Turning Turkey’s Uludağ ski area “into a Davos”

Uludağ ski area: not exactly what most people would picture when you say "Turkish village."

Uludağ ski area: not exactly what most people would picture when you say 'Turkish village'.

The Turkish government seems dedicated to put its country’s best ski resort on the map.

After suffering little new investment for half a century, the Turkish resort Uludağ, located south of Istanbul in Bursa province, should see dramatic improvements in the next few years thanks to a government initiative. The hope is to see it become a rival to resorts like Davos in Switzerland.

The resort is the best known of the dozen or so ski areas in Turkey, but it has suffered from a lack of investment and modernization in recent decades while some other ski areas in the country have installed modern lifts and snowmaking. Uludağ has been hoping to see improvements for more than eight years, but has been hampered by bureaucracy despite Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (the AK Party), making redevelopment of the resort a top priority since coming to power in 2002.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdoğan visited Uludağ in July and promised the delays in the planned $40m of development were coming to an end, so long as no legal actions are launched by objectors.
Initial work has included ‘beautification’ of the resort and the demolition of a public lodge owned by the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, one of several buildings deemed too ugly for the resort’s future. A new conference centre and shopping mall are also in the works.

The aged cable car is scheduled to be replaced by a new lift with much increased capacity (18,000 skiers per day) and ascending up to Uludağ’s highest point, Sarıalan. On the mountain, there are plans to build what the resort believes will be Europe’s longest ski run in Uludağ’s Alaçam region. In contrast to the present situation, there will be absolutely no other buildings or structures allowed on or around the ski runs.

The work was due to be completed last year but conflicts between government ministries prevented this, and they are now aimed for completion in 2010.

“This project was prepared taking its lead from the prime minister,” said Regional State Minister Faruk Çelik. “Our prime minister had a dream regarding Uludağ, and we have been struggling for the past five years to realize this dream. We have met many bureaucratic barriers along the way, but the struggle came to an end during the prime minister’s visit to the region along with Environmental and Forestry Minister Eroğlu and Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay in July. In preparing this project, we have visited both Davos and Zermatt. We have studied other examples of mountain resorts in the world. We will turn this great dream into a reality.”

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