As recent as last week, the future of the ski slopes at Maribor Pohorje looked bleak. The operating company SC Pohorje had been plunged into insolvency proceedings, seemingly brought to their knees by insufficient snow-depths during the previous winter. Whilst it is improbable, but not impossible that one poor season would bring the provision of winter sports in Maribor to the very brink of closure, it would seem unlikely that an operating company with a robust, diverse business plan would allow the vicissitudinal alpine weather to dictate its very health or, as it seems, a chronic lack of it.
Nevertheless and hot on the heels of the positive news that Aerodrom Maribor has been recapitalised by a new majority shareholder, the Maribor region has this last few days been given grounds for it to view the future with cautious optimism. As reported in The Slovenia Times, the Maribor Municipality have stepped in to ensure the Pohorje slopes will this winter continue to receive snow-sports enthusiasts. Such is the importance of Pohorje to the Maribor region, something which cannot be underestimated, it would seem that the the local authority in Maribor couldn’t run the risk of the women’s Golden Fox World Cup slalom race being removed from the FIS itinerary for the 2014/2015 winter season. Being such a major source of revenue and publicity for the area, I presume once a race has been removed from the World Cup roster, be it at the request of the resort in question or at the behest of the FIS, there would then be no going back. This would’ve been a massive setback for the ski area just a few miles south of Slovenia’s second city, something the municipality couldn’t stand back and let happen and fortunately, they haven’t done.
What the long-term future holds is yet to be determined. The deal agreed between the city authorities and the receivers of SC Pohorje, subject to legal approval, has an interim feel about it, buying the area some time and crucially allowing the ‘business as normal’ signs to go up for the forthcoming winter season. The agreement sees the city-owned bus company Marprom, no doubt deemed an appropriate partner through their perceived technical expertise, start the mandatory servicing of the lift-system and thus ensuring all the relevant checks and pre-use protocols have been adhered to. What will happen after the 2014/2015 season has ended remains to be seen. I suspect the Maribor authorities will then seek to offload the operating of Pohorje to a private-sector organisation but if this proves to be the case, it goes without saying that stringent due diligence must be entered into, ensuring any new operating company has the funds, business expertise and a robust but pragmatic vision for the future where the vagaries of the alpine weather, which will never change, are never again allowed to dictate terms.