A lack of snow has always bedeviled Slovenia’s winter-sports arenas, never more so than in recent times. Coupled with the harsh economic realities that the country is now having to face down, such an unholy alliance has seen many high-profile financial casualties in recent times, ski resorts being amongst the most susceptible. Nevertheless it has come as somewhat of a shock to me that Slovenia’s highest ski area, Kanin above Bovec, has for several winters not been able to operate its slopes and accompanying infrastructure despite being the one region in the country with an altitude, whilst not guaranteeing snow, that stands the best chance of receiving it in sufficient amounts.
After a high-profile accident two years where several of its cable-car carriages fell to the ground, the remaining infrastructure has lain idle. The primary cause of the incident seems to have been the strength of wind but raises two points: did the lift operator of the time allow the cable-car to run in conditions that weren’t conducive to the elements and, was the cable-car in a fit state to be used in the first place by the public, high-winds or otherwise? Inevitably this has led to claims of poor management although, freak gusts of wind in the Alps are not unheard of; I would though expect a modern lift-system to be able to withstand an occasional gust of wind normally deemed stronger than the cableways optimum operating condition, even if it precipitated a temporary suspension of operations until the conditions had improved.
Bovec, as a town has inevitably suffered since Kanin ceased to receive winter-sports enthusiasts. Whilst the mountain itself forms a natural border with Italy, the Italian side continues to welcome guests to its Sella Nevea resort, a situation that has become frustrating and intolerable for Bovec’s residents, especially those reliant upon revenue from the tourism sector. The hotels still receive guests(in much smaller numbers) but here is the problem. Those guests wishing to ski whilst basing themselves in Bovec are bussed to Italy every morning, a journey lasting 40 minutes, enabling them to take advantage of Sella Nevea’s pistes and those in nearby Tarvisio. Revenue from overnight guests has inevitably plummeted, especially one assumes from those travelling over the frontier from Italy. There is little point travelling from Italy to Slovenia only to be bussed back into Italy every morning. Day-trippers from Italy and Austria, again, are not going to spend money in Bovec’s restaurants and bars if all the action takes place on the other side of Kanin. From the bustling all year round resort it once was, Bovec now resembles anything but a thriving winter-sports destination. It is taken as a given that the powers that be in Sella Nevea are extremely relaxed about Bovec’s predicament.
Have the local municipality sat on their hands for too long? Perhaps. The Parlous state of Slovenia’s finances, the country as a whole, needs though to be kept firmly in mind, with local authorities seeing their budgets slashed just as the nation seeks to offload the perceived burden of the fifteen state-owned companies earmarked for privatisation. A buyers market it might be but without tangible value or medium to long-term returns for their investment, few speculators will be keen to stake reputations or finances on something potentially resembling a financial black-hole.
While the high-profile victims of Bovec, Krvavec and Pohorje continue to face up to uncertain long-term futures, a greater emphasis is placed upon the potential folly of the Bohinj 2864 project. My thoughts on this can be read elsewhere in my blog but it is unsurprising to me that, at the time of writing, the progenitors of this scheme are still flailing around seeking the cash to quite literally get their enterprise off the ground. It could be a success but equally, Slovenia might have on its hands the biggest white elephant of its 24 year history. With the lack of snow in the area and country in general, a green elephant might be a more apposite epithet.
Returning to Bovec, it seems that the local municipality have had enough of the damage being done to the town and surrounding area by Kanin’s dormancy. Mindful of giving local taxpayers best value, stepping into rescuing the winter-sports infrastructure might at first glance not be the best way to achieve this. I would though have thought the fortunes of the town and Kanin are so inextricably linked that the decision-makers at the local Obcina cannot afford NOT to get involved, if only on an interim basis. What their involvement will encompass, if any at all, is very much at the ‘wait and see’ stage but the fact that the situation is again gaining oxygen in the media suggests some imminent movement. As with many ailing resorts and hotel portfolios in Slovenia, Russian money has been mooted as the catalyst to rebooting the cableway and associated infrastructure. This rumour has surfaced several times and whilst in times of hardship it is easy to turn a blind eye to the provenance of inward investment, Bovec’s municipality must be satisfied that any new owner is going to be a long-term benefit to the area with the credentials, track-record and hard-currency to back it up.
As with the long-term futures of Pohorje and Pokljuka, unfolding events in Bovec will be of great interest to all who hope this once thriving winter-resort can be revitalized into an attraction the equal to the sum of its considerable parts and potential.
Reporting on this subject can be viewed at: RTV Slovenia – Bovec and Kanin: an alliance that needs reunifying