New readers to this blog and the uninitiated will be unfamiliar with the ongoing saga, now some three years long, regarding the acrimony and ongoing controversy attached to the planned Bohinj 2864 ski-resort project, now almost certain to go ahead. Based in Bohinjska Bistrica and therefore as close to the Triglav National Park that it can get away with, 2864 is undeniably a bold, if somewhat risky scheme designed to bring world-class skiing to an area rich in natural beauty but with a dubious snow record.
Disputes with landowners have dogged the project from its nascent stages, many being opposed to the destruction of areas of forest and land used for grazing livestock, two features that predominate in an area so heavily reliant upon agriculture and the sympathetic cultivation of timber for commercial purposes. Critics of the scheme will point to the obvious drawbacks the construction of a ski area can have on the local environment; further along the valley at Vogel being an obvious and local reminder of how denuded the landscape now looks, all for the benefit of the winter economy.
To be completed over two phases, there is though a large economic price to pay for the construction of 2864. Costing a total of €50 million over two tranches, this amounts to a significant investment which for the first phase costing €30 million, half will come in the form of grants. When I see the existing tourism infrastructure in places needing an overhaul, I feel it is there that such a large amount of the country’s money should be diverted and not on a potential white elephant project such as this.
Slovenia has long held itself up as exemplar of putting the environment first, continually resisting the blandishments of developers wishing to industrialize the countryside in the name of tourist euros and progress. Sitting on a financial precipice since the global downturn it now concerns me that by waving through expensive and potentially unnecessary large-scale infrastructure projects such as this – thus following the ridiculous economic model of David Cameron and George Osborne who believe Britain can build its way out of trouble but at the expense of the countryside, specifically by sanctioning extraneous housing to be built in the countryside and on the green-belt, carving a large swathe through pristine and ancient countryside for the financial bottomless pit that is the HS2 and perhaps most alarmingly of all, the enthusiastic embracing of fracking for Shale gas, potentially locating thousands of wells predominantly over the countryside of Northern England – Slovenia will enter territory alien to it in hope over expectation that such a risky economic-driver will herald a brighter future. Should the environment be raped in Britain by the aforementioned triumvirate the green and pleasant land the country used to pride itself on being will be no longer; once it has gone the game is over, just in time for Messrs Cameron and Osborne to retire to their areas of unaffected greensward.
I am therefore making the point that prior to the global recession, Slovenia would have been less likely to entertain such a scheme as 2864. Apologists for the project will no doubt posit that is signals a new economic confidence that such an amount of money can not only be raised for the scheme but also that a return is envisaged from such a significant financial outlay, albeit in the medium to long-term, especially for a country still mired in economic and unemployment issues. The facts though remain that the country has ample ski resorts, many of which are struggling with the ongoing costs of infrastructure and the perennial problems of a lack of snow. Slovenia either gets too much snow or not enough, although, Vogel has had several snow-sure seasons of late. This development might be a success, especially with its artificial snow-making capabilities but will it complement the winter-sports roster the country currently has, or only succeed in hastening the demise of rival resorts? Perhaps the key to success will be what can be offered in the summer months; if a realistic all year round viability for the scheme proclaimed in the glossy promotional literature can be backed up with an aesthetically appealing option for hikers and those seeking views of the Adriatic(only really possible with great clarity in the spring, autumn and winter) then 2864 could be a resounding success.
Nevertheless, I would still prefer to see inward investment going into the likes of the Zlatorog in Ukanc, the Bellevue above Ribcev Laz and as part of a bolder vision for the Ski Hotel at Rjava Skala. Whilst there has been a welcome introduction of a ‘hop on hop off’ bus connecting Bled, Bohinj and Pokljuka I would like to see greater attention paid to public transport in the area, giving hikers a more regular service to the likes of Slap Savica and other areas from where day and hut-to-hut hikes commence. If the Triglav National Park sticks rigidly to its mission statement of protecting its numerous natural assets and resisting developments within its inner core it nevertheless must not make the mistake of allowing neglect to what is already there i.e. resisting the Zlatorog and Bellevue from being sympathetically overhauled. I conclude that Slovenia is not in a position to make bold and brash statements such as 2864 but will find more long-term value in making the most of what it already has and being true to the wonderful surroundings it fortunately finds itself within. The fate of 2864 and the wider-context will be awaited with keen interest.
Further details courtesy of Gorenjski Glas can be found below: